Diversity Awareness Week kicked off on Monday in the Free Speech Area with the annual opening ceremony.
The Central Valley Cultural Heritage Institute (CVCHI) put the event together and Francine Oputa, the director of the CVCHI, said people shouldn’t be judged based on their outward appearances.
“I encourage you to appreciate all of the diversity around us,” Oputa said. “To not make assumptions because of how they dress or how they look.”
The theme of this year’s Diversity Awareness Week is “GOAL: Cross Cultural Interaction Increased on our Campus.”
The first of the performances was by the Aztec Dance Club. To the beat of a drum, the dancers jumped and spun to the music shaking rattles and spreading incense in traditional Aztec garb adorned with bright red and blue feathers and jaguar-patterned clothing.
Daniel Mejia, a senior majoring in art and a member of the Aztec Dance Club, said that he hopes students see their performance and want to get in touch with their roots.
“We hope that [students] are seeing that we are continuing the traditions now for 500 years,” he said. “For us, it’s a very spiritual ceremony. It’s a practice that isn’t followed very much in certain areas, especially if some families don’t choose to continue their traditions. We are hoping, by us being here, that it can be a bridge for individuals that didn’t grow up with its traditions, but are possibly looking to learn about them.”
After the Aztec Dance Club finished their performance, Oputa gave her opening remarks along with Paul Oliaro, the vice president of student affairs, who talked about how the campus can grow.
“We are about inclusion,” Oliaro said. “We are about appreciation. We are about growing as a campus. Being both domestic and international in our inclusion as we can be. You are very much a part of that.”
He said that diversity is more than what can be seen on the outside.
“Diversity takes on many forms,” he said. “It’s not just race or ethnicity. It’s not just different cultures, but it’s also different disabilities, sexual orientation, gender, age, personality, values.
“We’re all different in many different ways, and sometimes it takes a little bit of time and effort to understand those differences and to really appreciate those differences that we don’t like – things that are very different from us and we don’t like right away. How do we appreciate them and determine what we can learn from people who are very different from us?”
The American Sign Language (ASL) Club, founded in 1997, put on a presentation to the lyrics of “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepson. Members of the club signed along with the lyrics to show that even students with hearing disabilities can not only enjoy music, but also interpret and present lyrics just as well by manipulating signs.
Mix Trix: Dance Club is two years old and was formed to provide students a recreational outlet that will enable them to develop and improve their creativity. The members of the club combined modern, contemporary, jazz and hip-hop dance styles to adorn their song choice, “Moves Like Jagger,” by Maroon 5, for the opening ceremony.
Rosemary Diaz, a faculty member in the Deaf studies program, gave a speech using sign language that was then translated for the crowd. She spoke about being deaf since her birth in Egypt. When she immigrated to the United States, she learned sign language, and has been using ASL as her primary language ever since. She also signed along with a song, “We Are” by Keke Palmer.
Music and dance were not the only things on display at the event.
Lambda Theta Nu Sorority, Inc., a Latina sorority originally founded at California State University, Chico, had its members swinging machetes through the air, clanging them together as a way to symbolize strength and their direct cultural ties to their ancestors.
To close the ceremony, all of the performers began to dance together to symbolize the diversity of the school and that all cultures can live and work together.
“We know it would be a very boring world if we were all alike,” Oliaro said. “Fortunately, we aren’t. But our jobs throughout our life are to understand and appreciate those differences around us.
That is what this week is all about. Learning, understanding and appreciating all of the differences that make up Fresno State so that we can, when you leave here – when you graduate – appreciate those differences that you will experience throughout your life.”