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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Culture X forum for intercultural artistic expressions

Published: April 24, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

Let’s be honest. The past month hasn’t been good for intercultural relations at Brandeis.

The challenge to the Racial Minority Union Senate position went to the Union Judiciary, and it’s put the questions, “What consitutes discrimination?” and “Does racism exist at Brandeis?” on everyone’s mind. The proposed elimination of the African and African-American Studies Department is making us reassess what the Ford Hall takeover 40 years ago really means and if we have forgotten the lessons it taught us. Regardless of where you stand on these issues, it’s obvious that diversity issues are getting more attention than they have in a while. And while this isn’t a bad thing by itself, too much of the dialogue has been destructive rather than constructive.

But I hope people don’t forget the many success stories in light of these debates. The reason why we heard so little about intercultural interactions until the recent controversies is that so many different groups had been focusing more on creating connections, and while positive dialogue doesn’t get people talking the way arguments do, it does create a healthier campus environment. In February, the Brandeis Orthodox Organization and the Brandeis Black Student Organization held a very successful identity discussion. Several weeks ago, Brandeis Hillel and the Brandeis Muslim Student Association collaborated on the interfaith JAM Session. And on April 4th, the entire Brandeis community gathered for Intercultural Center’s flagship event and one of the most popular shows at Brandeis: Culture X.

Make no mistake about it, Culture X was massively successful yet again. Not only was the entire Levin Ballroom packed as tightly as it could be, but the organizers had to announce that all tickets were gone a full three days before the event. As usual, almost all of the ICC clubs participated, along with seemingly unrelated groups like the Brandeis Swingers that nonetheless add to the incredible diversity of the show. Most importantly, Culture X was again an entertaining, enjoyable spectacle infused with the obvious hard work and passion that every group brought to its performance.

People wouldn’t put in this effort or turn out in these numbers if there wasn’t a genuine desire for intercultural involvement on this campus. This is the energy we need to harness to build on the steps towards community building that have already been taken.

Rise Up! That was the theme of this year’s show. As the organizers explained via Facebook, “By working together, while celebrating and embracing the diverse identities that make-up the world, there is hope that we can rise above the odds and overcome any barriers that have been imposed on us. Through our talents and passions, we need to come together as one and rise up in an effort to create a new found hope!”. And they made this call much more than just empty sloganeering. By partnering with Live Campus 2009, a nationwide poverty-reduction program led by the Millenium Campus Network, Culture X became a mechansim for fundraising and positive social action as well as a show.

As for the show itself, I definitely had my favorite moments, but if I listed them, I’m sure I would forget something deserving. It never ceases to amaze me how many talented people we have at Brandeis in so many different performing arts. The organization was great for such an involved event, and there were no major technical difficulties. Yeah, the show was on the long side, and yeah, Levin was a few degrees warmer then everyone’s comfort level, but to fix those problems, you’d have to limit participants and audience members. It would clash with the message of togetherness; it’s better just to dismiss the temperature and the length as part of the show’s charm.

Overall, Culture X is a pretty good model for the perfect campus event. It brings the Brandeis community together over important campus issues, it spreads awareness and calls for action in a greater social context, and it lets everyone have a damn fun time while doing it. If we can keep the Culture X, Rise Up spirit in all of our intercultural dialogue, our community will be better off for it.