The University Program Board’s spirit and traditions committee is set to host its biggest event of the year: the second-annual JMUnited, a cultural festival aimed at educating JMU students about minority organizations and cultures on campus.
On Saturday, from 9-11 p.m., informational tables will be set up in the Madison Union Ballroom for each cultural organization, where members will guide festival-goers through interactive activities and performances.
Laura Modica, spirit and traditions director of UPB and a senior media arts and design major, wants JMUnited to be the link between UPB’s usual audience for its small monthly events like Late Night Breakfasts and the cultural organizations that the Center for Multicultural Student Services represents. With the increased exposure to other cultures that JMUnited provides, UPB and CMSS hope that more JMU students will be educated about minority cultures.
“Last year it was a festival, but it was more centered around performances, so this year I wanted to do something that was more of a teaching tool, but is also really interactive and fun,” Modica said. “We just want a room where everybody can see each other and interact with each other.”
UPB organized this event with CMSS organizations and cultural groups, including the African Student Organization, Asian Student Union, Chinese Student Association, Hermandad de Sigma lota Alpha and Italian Americans of Madison.
Hannah Creighton, president of the JMU chapter of Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, explained that her organization’s table will display the flags of Latin American countries and have attendees make their own pennants to symbolize their heritages.
“It’s important for every person who goes to JMU, regardless of their major, just because you will be interacting with people of different backgrounds in your life,” Creighton said. “And it’s important to be culturally aware.”
The Chinese Student Association will give students the opportunity to write their names or other words in Chinese calligraphy, an activity that was popular during the first JMUnited event.
“I feel like the student body wouldn’t really go out and see other orgs, like the Chinese Student Association, or even any of the other Asian orgs, if they weren’t exposed to them through other, bigger platforms like UPB,” Wendy Mu, president of the Chinese Student Association and a junior kinesiology major, said. “During our events, it’s just mainly more of our smaller groups and our members. JMUnited gives us a platform to put ourselves out there.”
Some organizations will have giveaways for attendees, and UPB will provide bags to carry objects from the festival. Food will be served from local Harrisonburg restaurants that the organizations have approved as authentic to cultural cuisine. Organizers hope that roughly 400 people will attend JMUnited, as last year the event drew between 200 and 300.
Two UPB members thought of the concept of JMUnited, namely Briana Oyler, a senior communication studies major, and Zeba Farha, a JMU alumna (‘18). When searching for an idea for their committee’s yearly event, Oyler and Farha wanted an activity that was both meaningful and entertaining.
“We were thinking about how UPB has such a big platform, and we don’t really utilize it as much as we can to reach diverse audiences and to include minority communities on campus,” Oyler said.
Oyler wanted to make sure that organizations under the CMSS umbrella had the chance to showcase what they want others to see about their cultures. JMUnited lets each organization take control of how its culture is portrayed.
“Even if you don’t identify with any of these cultures, we really encourage you to come out and learn something new and hear about things you’ve never heard of before,” Oyler said. “If you do feel uncomfortable, it’s fine. It’s a learning experience, and everyone is there because they want to share something with you.”
Contact Jamie McEachin at email@example.com. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.