By Alfred Goodrich
Representatives from Oberlin College cultural organizations teamed up with the city of Oberlin on Saturday to host the fourth annual Culture Festival: a vibrant array of cultural traditions, food, dance, and festivities from across the world. Taiko drums thundered across Tappan’s pathways, food choices ranged from Vietnamese banh mi to Spanish gazpacho, and students and Oberlin residents bounced and volleyed a large blow-up model of the Earth across the grass.
Aside from providing delicious munchies to the throngs of people who came out, booth attendants happily shared information regarding their own group’s mission and their perspectives on cultural awareness in the town of Oberlin and at the College. Lena Papagiannis ‘12 tended the main festival table, handing out passport-raffles. She reminded us that, “Oberlin is generally seen as homogenous, but it’s not. There’s a dichotomy between the college and the community, but really we’re all community members.”
According to Professor of Hispanic Studies and Spanish In The Elementary Schools
(SITES) program director Kim Faber—who was the event’s primary organizer—this year definitely won biggest turnout in the four years the festival has been running. There were a total of forty booths staffed by one to six or more individuals.
“Talking [about cultural differences] breaks down stereotypes,” Faber said. One popular topic at the festival was the increased number of multicultural events and organizations in Oberlin. Besides the clear growth in turnout for the event, which Faber attributed to amplified publicity efforts, of large significance is the new K-12 International Baccalaureate program adopted by the Oberlin School District.
Barry Richard, school board member of Oberlin City School District, explained, “[International Baccalaureate] really changed the culture of the district in terms of interaction between grade levels and staff, like everyone’s operating from the same play book.”
The transfer to this system took five years, and was only completed this past year. Richard described IB’s intent as being three-fold: to increase collaboration between the staff and grade levels; to educate through community service (Oberlin grade-school students are now required to complete a certain number of community service hours at each grade level in order to graduate to the next); and finally to encourage an international perspective.
The Oberlin College organization TANWIR works to expand opportunities to study the Middle East at Oberlin. The group introduced to Oberlin the academic minor in Middle East and North African Studies (MENA) and plans to continue efforts in the future.
On the topic of exploring cultural awareness at Oberlin, junior Zach Freed, treasurer of TANWIR, stated that, “At the end of four years I’ll have a diploma, but I think the more tangible, lasting result of my college experience is that I will have lasting relationships with people of multiple cultures.”