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Saturday February 4th

Cultures unite at the Cultural Block Party

<p><em>(Photo courtesy of Rachel Lea / Correspondent).</em></p><p><br/><br/></p>

(Photo courtesy of Rachel Lea / Correspondent).



By Rachel Lea
Correspondent

To end the month of recognizing cultural inclusion, the College hosted its first Cultural Block Party on Friday, Sept. 30 in the Trenton State College Park. A coming together of cultures on such a scale, however, is not something new for the College.

September has been a month of cultural inclusion. Diversity Day invited Tina McNair, author of From Equity Talk to Equity Walk, to discuss how educational institutions can better prepare students of all backgrounds for the workforce, and Unity Week featured the 1855 Room serving culture-themed lunches.

“I’m only relatively new to [the College], but I’ve heard that there were involvement fairs that were specifically catered to the cultural and identity-based organizations,” said Jordan Shyi, the director of intercultural affairs and organizer of the party. “It predates me by a significant amount, and obviously Covid-19 disrupted a lot of traditions. So, bringing this back feels new, but it’s not entirely unfamiliar.”

Jordan Shyi, the Director of Intercultural Affairs and organizer of the party, giving opening remarks (Photo courtesy of Rachel Lea / Correspondent).





Nevertheless, the block party format was entirely Shyi’s idea.

“I’ve always loved the vibe and energy within a block party,” Shyi said. “I’ve watched a lot of documentaries, specifically around activism. The block party is kind of a common image and symbol. That was a way neighbors bonded. They got to contribute to a giant event and got to just celebrate with each other. So, that’s kind of what I wanted to be able to recreate: a similar idea of ‘let’s just hang and be in space with one another.’”

The party functioned similarly to the Involvement Fair in early September. About 20 cultural and identity-based student organizations set up tables containing information about them around Trenton State College Park. They also had activities to teach students about the culture they represented.

“They got you involved very well,” Brandon Garcia, a freshman in mechanical engineering said. “I liked that. Some of them had you paint, some of them had you draw some stuff. So, it was pretty good.”

A stage was also made for organizations to further showcase their respective cultures. Though some performed various art forms, ranging from poetry to a demonstration of aikido, a modern Japanese martial art, most took the stage to advertise themselves further.

“[They gave] everyone a chance to show off their club and [gave] everyone a stepping stone,” sophomore political science major Shania Rivas said. 

Rivas is also the co-founder and co-president of Cultures United, a new student organization that wishes to provide a space for students of all cultures to come together, especially those with multiple backgrounds. 

“This is a huge foundation for us and a big opportunity,” Rivas said.“We have a lot of people joining our GroupMe that we wouldn’t have gotten without the cultural block party.”

The Cultures United E-Board (from left to right), freshman kinesiology major Eitan Halevi, sophomore political science major Ton’Yea Mason, sophomore political science major Shania Rivas, and freshman political science major Annmarie Ekladious, posing in front of their information board (Photo courtesy of Shania Rivas).





Hungry students who did not want to leave the party for food were encouraged to step inside Roscoe West Hall, where a buffet was set up. There were typical treats, such as cupcakes, but also traditional food from around the world, such as empanadas.

“We wanted to kind of create a mix,” Shyi said. “We bought cultural snacks from Costco and other local grocery stores, but we also [ordered] from several restaurants.”

Shyi is hoping to make the block party an annual event, though that depends on the student organizations.

“We [members of Intercultural Affairs] are considering ourselves more like facilitators that are creating space and opportunity,” Shyi said. “If the organizations [had] a good experience with it, then I’m certainly happy to continue to organize and create this opportunity every year. I think it would be a fun tradition to look forward to.”

Considering the large turnout, many of these organizations are now eager to make this happen, and other students support it.

“I really liked it,” said Ton’Yea Mason, a sophomore in political science and co-founder and co-president of Cultures United. “They [had] it set up so nicely. They did really well with showcasing people and giving them a chance to speak.”

For those who couldn’t attend the block party this year, rest assured that this may be the start of a new tradition that everyone can anticipate every fall.

“It [was] like a nice little safe space, where you could meet other people,” Garcia said. “A bunch of minorities, and hey! That’s me!”




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