After a performance, the rest of the group stormed the stage, and began a chant: “FASA is … FAMILY! FASA is … FAMILY!” The group embraced their star performers, while the crowd continued to cheer.
This scene of camaraderie by the Filipino-American Student Association epitomized the vibe of the second annual Pangea Cultural Showcase, which took place on Friday, Sept. 8 on the Commons north lawn.
Fifteen student organizations, including the Caribbean Student Council, Vietnamese Student Association, Arab Student Union and many more, tabled at the event. Representatives from each organization spoke to interested students and offered them information, giveaways, and cultural cuisine.
This was the second annual Pangea showcase. The first event occurred after nearly a year of planning and building interest. Inspired by a similar event at his high school called Cultural Coalescence, senior mechanical engineering major Aakash Bajpai proposed the idea in 2015 to the diversity team at Strive, a bi-annual leadership retreat sponsored by Student Life.
“When I came to UMBC I was surprised to not see an event here like a multicultural showcase, so I thought we should get one started,” he said.
The group of students that organized the event, now called the Cultural Events Board, attended meetings of cultural and ethnic student organizations and established contacts in the hope that they would participate in the event.
This type of event had never been done before, and it took persistence to get it off the ground. As the planning became more complicated, several organizers left the group.
“We all thought about leaving at some point,” said Bajpai. “But we kept thinking about the goal. … We want to introduce the diversity that we have here, because some people don’t come from very diverse backgrounds, so we want to introduce that diversity and build tolerance in our communities.”
In addition to tabling, several cultural and ethnic groups put on a diverse array of performances on the temporary stage. The Persian Student Association performed a Kordi dance, which refers to a region of Iran. FASA performed a skipping dance with large poles called tinikling and sayaw sa bangko (bench dance).
These dances were quite popular with the hundreds of students in attendance, who sat on blankets in the grass and crowded around the stage to watch.
“It’s really cool to see the cultural dances, because you don’t see much of that in daily life,” said Laura Huang, a junior sociology major.
The performances were not limited to dances. The Ethiopian-Eritrean Student Association did a fashion show, highlighting men and women’s traditional clothing as well as modern clothing with the countries’ colors and flags.
“My mom wore traditional [Ethiopian] clothing for my high school graduation,” said junior public health major Eyerusalem Gebremeskel.
All the showcased garments came from members’ personal collections, whose families wear such clothing for special occasions like birthdays, weddings, graduations, and New Year’s celebrations.
“Our hope is that students will connect with different communities and groups and learn something new,” said Janae Cruz, the Student Life Coordinator for Student Engagement. “We want every student who attends to see that UMBC is made up of so many incredible people from all around the world and that is what makes this place amazing.”