On a mellow Saturday evening at the University of Richmond, students ventured to the first floor of Tyler Haynes Commons. Aside from the usual aroma of Tyler’s Grill, a new conglomerate of scents occupied The Pier, capturing the attention — and appetites — of those walking by.
In the Alice Haynes Room of the Commons, students were piling their paper plates and styrofoam boxes full with food.
At “A Taste of the World: A Night of Cultural Exchange,” which took place from 6-8 p.m. on April 16, several cultural student organizations came together to share food and beverages with the UR community.
The Solidarity Organization for Latinx Students organized the event and its members plan to hold it annually, according to their Instagram post.
Participating groups included the Asian American Student Union, Ngoma African Dance Company, Ritmo Latino, African Students Alliance, West Indian Lynk, Bollywood Jhatkas and the South Asian Student Alliance. Each organization, all of which were featured on the event flier, presented foods representing their respective cultures.
Senior Brianna Silva, president of SOLS, wrote in an email to The Collegian that the idea for an event like this was inspired by her interest in holding a big event with a variety of multicultural organizations on campus.
“The goal was to have an opportunity for cultural exchange and interaction between our members and the greater University community,” Silva wrote. “Moreover, I felt that it continued part of SOLS's efforts to give back to the community as we are fortunate to have generous funding to pull off elaborate events.”
Each table had various foods on display for community members to try. Junior Javier Cruz said he enjoyed the horchata at the SOLS table, along with the socializing aspect of the event, where Ritmo Latino and Bollywood Jhatkas performed.
“I was a little bit emotional just because I know that for some of the seniors that are executives of the organization, this was their last event since their semester is coming to an end,” Cruz said.
The SOLS table also featured empanadas, yuca frita, yellow rice and more. At the AASU table, four large pans of vegetarian and pork dumplings sat at the ready.
“Those [pork dumplings] were really good,” sophomore Makena Gitobu said after the event.
Other tables offered an even larger array of choices: West Indian Lynk presented rice and peas, jerk chicken and crispy fried plantains. SASA had juicy chicken and chickpeas. ASA had jollof rice, jerk chicken, red stew with fish and fried plantains as well.
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Gitobu said she had enjoyed having a large number of students come together to experience each other's cultures.
“I would love it if there were more clubs involved in the following years,” she said. “There are some cultural clubs on campus that I know about and didn’t see there — and if any more come about, I’d love to see them there.”
Events like “A Taste of the World” are important to the UR community because they offer a chance to hold social events specifically catered to multicultural students, Silva wrote.
“It has often been the case that multicultural organizations bear the burden of being the main support system for multicultural students,” she wrote. “Only recently have I seen investments in multicultural students on campus.”
Cruz said he remembered talking to students that had wished UR would host multicultural events — not just the student organizations. Cruz was a part of SOLS’ executive team as a first-year when they held a similar event in collaboration with West Indian Lynk called “Flavors del Caribbean” in February 2020, with both educational and social aspects, he said.
“I feel like emphasizing the cultures is important so that we can all learn about different cultures and bring people together,” he said.
Silva said hoped to see more active collaboration between multicultural organizations on campus. Outside of events, attending a predominantly white institution can be mentally and physically challenging for many of our members' well-being, Silva wrote.
“As student leaders, we need to invest in creating solidarity between our members,” she wrote. “I believe an event such as 'A Taste of the World' was a creative avenue to begin that work.”
The interactions between cultures at the event could not have happened without the food. The yuca, Silva added, was also her go-to.
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