Balfour Hood was filled with the sound of Bollywood music as community members ate fried plantain, Nigerian rice, general Tso’s chicken and drank mango lassi. This was the lively atmosphere at Wheaton’s first ever Multicultural Showcase, held on the evening of March 4. Marielle Thete ’16, with help from other student groups, organized the event that included a fashion showcase, food from around the world and musical performances by students.
Thete was inspired by a similar event put on by her mother, who has a non-profit organization that helps immigrant women gain vocational skills and integrate in the local community of Portland, Maine. Similarly, this event was intended to celebrate Women’s Day and showcase the diversity of cultures through their food and attire.
Wheaton’s multicultural showcase was well-attended and the fashion show included 17 female participants wearing traditional garments from 15 different countries. The participants ramp walks also included a narration of the garment they were wearing, which country and region it was from and how it was worn in their communities. Paraiso Dance Group, Keran Yang ’19 and Nesli Kohen ’17 showcased musical performances.
The fashion show was also open to those who had studied or traveled abroad. “They were immersed in the culture…we often talk about appropriation and we don’t want that either,” Thete said. “Culture is rich and when you get to experience it on that level and live there, I don’t think it would be fair if I negated or didn’t appreciate that experience in someone.”
Participant Dami Olubusi ’19, who is from Nigeria, said that this event allowed her to show off her culture and attire. On the importance of such an event she said, “It was like a moment of pride because there is a lot of negative thoughts about Nigeria and Africa as a whole. For instance, a lot of people that I’ve met think Africa is a country…or everybody assumes, even if there are different countries- everything is the same in Africa.”
Thete started planning this event in the beginning of February, drew up a proposal and and sought help from Dean Gretchen Young of the Global Education Center, Director Andrea Holden of SAIL and Coordinator for Intercultural Programs Tai Feaster. She then applied for funding through the World Fest fund, Marshall Center, and SGA Venture Fund for a total of $1,200.
In the future, Thete hopes that this event becomes an annual showcase. She would like to see the event opened to men, as many expressed interest in participating in the fashion showcase. She would also like to see a speaker who reflects a global take on multiculturalism. After she graduates, Thete hopes to to fund or donate something to future showcases.
Katy Hegarty ’16 said of the event, “Having people from diverse cultures be able to express themselves and their culture through their own garb was very powerful.” President Dennis Hanno said, “I think it’s a great visual representation of all of the diversity that exists here at Wheaton and it’s amazing to see it all come together so colorful and vibrant. To me, it really describes what the Wheaton community is.”