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Events this week celebrating cultural divesity will include a vigil and a fashion show. About 50 students kicked off Unity Week last night with a coffeehouse at the Veranda showcasing cultural diversity and featuring performances by dance troupe Strictly Funk, the Penn Filipino Association, poetry quartet Assada and other individuals who illustrated various cultures represented in the Penn community. The goal of the week-long series of events is to raise awareness of ethnic issues and to help bridge the cultural gaps on campus. "We do these events to bring people together and educate people [about the fact that] we've all been through similar struggles, even though we may look different from each other," said College senior Chaz Howard, chairperson of the United Minorities Council. "We need to come together and unify to get past [our problems]." UMC programming Tri-Chairperson Archana Jayaram, a College junior, echoed Howard's sentiments. "We're trying to make it an integrating kind of thing," Jayaram said. "We want to get people out of their comfort zone to meet people not of their background." In an effort to achieve this goal, many of the week's events are co-sponsored by various groups, including the Undergraduate Assembly, the Social Planning and Events Committee, Connaissance, the Tangible Change Committee, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center and Alliance and Understanding. Other events this week include speakers such as Sayantani Dasgupta, a physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and poet Piri Thomas; a fashion show; a town meeting against hate crimes; and a candlelight vigil. The week's keynote speaker will be Ernest Green, one of the "Little Rock Nine," the group of students who initiated integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., following the Supreme Court's 1954 decision to bar school segregation. Green, who is currently the managing director of public finance for Lehman Brothers' Washington, D.C., office, served as assistant secretary of labor for employment and training during the Carter administration and was appointed chairperson of the African Development Foundation by President Clinton. The week's coordinators said they were very pleased with both the turnout and performances at yesterday's coffeehouse and hope it will serve as an indicator of future success this week. "We're trying to make people aware Unity Week is beginning," said College junior Huria Nabiwala, programming tri-chairperson for the UMC. "Most of the acts embodied the theme of the week and were definitely diverse." Last night's event was held in conjunction with Poverty Awareness Week, and the proceeds will go to a local West Philadelphia charity which is yet to be chosen.

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