Diversity Shines at Jamboree
By Sonum Dixit '13, News Section Editor
The second annual Jamboree organized by the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) kicked off on Saturday, April 10 at 6 p.m. with a long line that extended from outside the Friedmann Room to Schwemm’s coffee house.

“We made the serving of food more organized, which was a large complaint we had last year,” said Victoria Fang ’11, Affinity Liaison Community Engagement Leader of the Center of Community Engagement and one of the main organizers of Jamboree.

“I really need to thank the volunteers who stepped up that night to set up and help with serving the food. Things would have been a disaster without them,” she said.

In addition to providing dinner catered from Baku’s, Paradise of India, Amherst Chinese and Fresh Side, Jamboree also raised $477 for Vive Haiti and the Amherst Survival Center. “[There was] a total food cost of over $1,200 — but I’m happy to say that no one went away hungry,” said Andrew Tew, Coordinator of the MRC. “The total cost of the event was about a couple thousand dollars, [but] it was paid for out of the MRC budget, with some assistance from Student Activities and the Office of Residential Life.”

The Friedmann room filled up for the event, and some audience members had to stand up to be able to see the performances. “In August and September we [considered] using other, larger spaces around campus like Kirby Theater, Arms Music Center and Lewis-Sebring, but they were booked for other events and performances,” said Tew.

Planning the event was stressful but “with experience from last year, it was easier to know what to look out for,” said Fang. “The entire Planning Committee was wonderful in pitching in ideas and helping with planning.”

The Planning Committee members were Maggie Huang ’13, Hannah Costel ’12, Eunice Bii ’12, Michelle Johnstone ’12 and Mary-Ann Juma ’12.

“Jamboree was a project I came up with while talking to Jaclyn Berkley and Peter Shih. I wanted to organize an event that brings the campus community together to recognize and appreciate all that we have here.” said Fang. “It seemed critical to work closely with the MRC to make the event a success, so I reached out to last year’s co-directors of the MRC, Chris MacMillan and Raquel Cardona, who were absolutely wonderful in last year’s planning.”

With Shanika Audige ’12 as emcee, Jamboree consisted of, among others, a story told by former Dean Onawumi Jean Moss, a South African song performed by Glee Club, a soulful song by Director of Residential Life Torin Moore and a cheery folk duet by Ryan Milov ’10 and Dan Freije ’11. The Bamidele West African Dancers and Drummers, led by Smith College dance professor Marilyn Sylla, wore brightly colored outfits and asked the entire audience to dance in sync with them.

“The hard part [of learning the song] was that when Mal (Director of the Choral Music Program Mallorie Chernin) showed us the original videos from South Africa, all moves seemed less contrived and very natural,” said Glee Club member Ivane Gamkrelidze ’13. “Mal told us that the key to the performance was spontaneity.”

Other highlights included a fashion show highlighting clothes from different cultures and Latin American and Indian classical dance performances.

“We did not have a lot of time to practice. Paula [Escobar ’13] organized pretty much everything,” said Danielle Ramos ’13, who took part in the Latin American dance. “We practiced two hours on Saturday and one and a half on Sunday.”

“It was not difficult to recruit performers for the event. I had people approach me asking to perform this year, which was a welcome change,” said Fang.

“We recruited performers by inviting members of the Amherst and Five College community in an open email from the MRC,” said Tew, “[Also], during a couple committee meetings, we took turns throwing out names of groups and performers around campus we thought would add to the Jamboree, [and] then contacted them individually.”

The Keefe atrium and the Friedmann Room were decorated with various national flags that were put up by MRC volunteers and Center of Community Engagement (CCE) staff. The volunteers also set up curtains, chairs, food tables and sound.

“Physical Plant delivered the extra tables and chairs and Valentine catering provided the beverages and eco-friendly silverware (forks, plates, napkins, etc),” said Tew.

Although Jamboree was more organized this year, it still fell short in some ways. “The original purpose was to get more collaboration between campus affinity groups and to celebrate culture at Amherst,” said Fang. “The first part did not materialize as much as I had hoped, but I feel that the second goal has definitely been achieved.”

The Identity magazine was also distributed at the show for the first time ever, with anonymous submissions from students, faculty members and alumni about issues ranging from racism to homophobia. “I think this year, there was a larger focus on trying to change the campus culture,” said Fang. “We need to keep doing the work that will make Amherst more inclusive of everyone.”

The performances started around 7:15 p.m. and didn’t end until after 9 p.m.. “We tried to ask for specific times for the set of each performer, but when show night [rolled] around, I suppose it was just hard to stick to those times,” said Fang. “The transitions were quick, but perhaps next year we will just cut the number of performances, and be stricter about how much time each act has.”

Despite the time constraints, students enjoyed the acts. “The storyteller [Moss] was my favorite. I liked her sound effects,” said Mizuho Ota ’13.

Tew and Fang hope to improve the event even further in the future. “Next year we’re looking to recruit about the same amount of performers, though we hope to cut the show’s length from two hours to an hour and a half,” said Tew. “Our community embodies so many traditions, cultures and ways of knowing, it’s important for us to actively and consciously engage with each other,” said Tew. “Anyone who is interested in participating next year should feel free to contact the MRC from now until next April!”

Issue 22, Submitted 2010-04-14 03:51:21