By Olivia Rizzo
With national flags from all across the globe draped from the ceiling, lively dance performances and over 20 cultural organizations featured, “TCNJ EPCOT: A Celebration of Diversity” transformed the Brower Student Center into a festival of cultural exploration on Thursday, March 26.
Hosted by Student Government and the Committee of Equity and Diversity, “TCNJ EPCOT” aimed to expand the campus’ understanding of various cultures and promote diversity.
Payal Ved, a junior philosophy major, spoke on how the idea to showcase the various cultures at the College came about.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of things in the news that are anti-Islamic or anti-Semitic or very negative about other cultures,” Ved said. “This event is a way to start a conversation about cultural differences and moving toward acceptance.”
Ved stressed the importance of trying to counteract the negativity that surrounds different cultures that the media often presents. A social media campaign titled #askmeaboutmyculture was created to continue the discussions happening throughout the night.
Booths from over 20 cultural organizations on campus dominated both floors of the Student Center. Organizations provided information, food and crafts related to their cultural background. As students toured the various displays, they became educated on just how many different cultures are present on the College’s campus.
“We’ve heard that we have a lack in culture,” Ved said. “The point of the event is to learn about other people’s cultures through food, activities and performances.”
Not only was it a vehicle to start a deeper conversation about culture across the College’s campus, “EPCOT” proved to be a night of rousing entertainment.
The completion of a passport scavenger hunt activity, molded after the Walt Disney World EPCOT Park experience, won participants a free T-shirt which promoted the event’s social media campaign.
For those who enjoy thrills and spills, a ride on a mechanical bull or a sumo wrestler duel satisfied their needs. For those with a culinary appetite, a free buffet was offered featuring foods from across the globe. Participants could also document their experience with a memento at the green screen photo booth.
In addition to the food and fanfare, an exhibition of cultural talents were displayed at the event’s main stage in the Lions Den. Dynamic performances by Black Out Step Team, TCNJ Kokikai Aikido, TCNJ Barkada, Sigma Lambda Beta and the Chinese Student Association Dragon Flies Dance Team all showcased their talents on stage. The audience, in turn, was captivated by their intricate routines.
“I’m surprised by how many people have shown up,” Ved commented as she looked around the crowded Student Center. “This is a great turn out for a first-year event.”
There is no doubt the “TCNJ EPCOT” experience, was an absolute success in its first year. Student Government has plans to make it a legacy event and have it featured each spring. After all, the best way to learn is through experience.