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University’s diversity recognized with weeklong event

Fresno State is recognizing diversity on campus by holding the second annual Cross Cultural Celebration Week, a weeklong event celebrating different cultures that make up the campus community.

Geraldine Panelo Elizondo, assistant director for student involvement at Fresno State, along with other faculty members and students of culturally diverse student organizations, organized the event to showcase the diverse population on campus and to promote a place where everyone can feel valued and have a sense of belonging.

“[The event] is to recognize a multicultural community, but also celebrate it too,” Elizondo said. “Fresno State is known to be one of the most multicultural campuses around, but what do we do with that? How do we promote positive interaction? How can we learn from each other?”

One way of doing that is by having a Cross Cultural Celebration Parade and Kick Off, which took place on Monday in front of the Joyal Administration Building and ended at the Free Speech Speakers Platform.

Throughout the parade, students, faculty and staff celebrated more than a dozen culturally oriented student organizations by wearing attire that best represented the fashion of their cultures and waved flags of their native countries.

On Tuesday, international students highlighted the history, economy, culture and the current situation in Colombia as part of the International Coffee Hour presentations. Tuesday also featured was the highly interactive and engaging theatrical program “Strange Like Me,” which explored racism, sexism and homophobia.

Students get another chance to show others some important aspects of their culture Wednesday at the Taste of Culture Festival. The festival is geared toward getting students from all cultures to interact and get to know one another through their culture’s food, music, and a fashion show.

Mutsumi Ogaki, a junior at Fresno State and the coordinator for the fashion show, said there will be about 15 different cultures present at the festival and each student will be in traditional attire which best represents their culture.

“The message is that diversity is beautiful,” said Ogaki. “Our targets are students who have never been involved with any of the cultural events here at the campus.”

Ogaki said she loves that the celebration includes cultures instead of countries because cultures like Hmong and others which don’t necessarily have a country have a chance to be recognized and acknowledged for their contributions to the world.

Above all, Ogaki wants people to become more interested in the event and all it has to offer.

“I enjoy promoting diversity on the Fresno State campus and I think a lot of students actually don’t know that Fresno State is pretty diverse, so I just want them to realize the diversity that we have,” Ogaki said.

The event is from at 7 p.m. to  9 p.m. at the Memorial Gardens in front of the Kennel Bookstore.

On Thursday, the theme is disability and will focus on a number of different members of the Hispanic and Latino communities that have learned to deal with it and how others in the community view it.

The title of the panel discussion is “Definido por mis habilidades,” which means defined by my abilities. It will take place in the Henry Madden Library in Room 2206 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

California Native American Heritage Day, along with a CineCulture Film Screening of  “Leviathan,” are both scheduled on Friday to conclude the cultural celebration. The former will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Maple Mall, which is in front of the Joyal Administration Building, and the latter will begin at 5 p.m. at the Tower Theater.

Francine Oputa, the director of the cross cultural and gender center at Fresno State, helped coordinate the celebration and said she loves how it has turned out.

“I think what I like the most about it is that it is diverse in so many ways where people from different countries, different genders and different sexual identities are truly reflected in the richness of the cultural diversity here at Fresno State,” Oputa said.

The celebration helps get others involved and also informs them about other similar events happening on campus, said Oputa.

“I would just say that there are a wide range of other events that are going to be happening not only this week, but throughout the next 30 days because it is also Hispanic Heritage Month,”  said Oputa. “It is a great opportunity for individuals to get involved and to experience cultures maybe other than their own or to experience the richness of their own culture.”

Elizondo said she hopes the event showcases the Fresno State community and lets others know that the campus is a positive environment and a safe space for having meaningful conversations to further learning and understanding.

“Whether it is participating or whether it is just seeing a presentation, I think it is just a way to connect with Fresno State and connect with either another student, connect with a staff member, connect with a faculty member or something that you wouldn’t normally see in a classroom,” Elizondo said.

Among all the great things the celebration does for the Fresno State community, Elizondo said her favorite thing is how it combines learning and interaction among students of all walks of life.

“What I really like is just the intentional way that we want to recognize the different students and their backgrounds.” Elizondo said. “At the end of the day, it is all showcasing the students.”