This weekend is Caribana in Toronto. Two full weeks of events culminate in a big parade on Saturday. Over a million people are expected to attend and it is near impossible to find a hotel room in the city.
Caribana is a caribbean festival that is intended to mimic the carnivals held annually in many West Indian islands. The festival features a Calypso King and Queen competition, a competition to determine the best costumes and a selection of the road march song, the song that will be played the most often along the parade route.
The Carnival is a source of pride for many Torontonians. For City Hall and local businesses, the parade and its associated events bring in millions of dollars worth of revenue. West Indians are glad for the opportunity to "jump up in de band" and to mingle with friends and fellow expatriots. Others are drawn to the cultural atmosphere of Caribana and enjoy learning in an atmosphere of fun. Caribana is successful in Toronto because it appeals to a well established West Indian immigrant population and a city that embraces culture.
Toronto is unique because of the way in which this city celebrates its multiculturalism. This city is made up of many different immigrant communities, many of whom arrived since the 1960's when Canada opened its doors. Within the city are many communities that are rich in culture.
Caribana is one of many cultural activities that Toronto celebrates each summer. There is also the Taste of the Danforth, when greek restaurants on the city's Danforth Avenue offer samples of their cuisine at affordable rates. The Pride Parade drew approximately three-quarters of a million people this year and was televised on local networks. The Beaches Jazz Festival continues to draw near record crowds each year.
What makes Toronto work is the oneness and accepting nature of all who live here. We remain strong and proud of our culture but receptive to others, as well. This is what makes us Canadian and defines our character.
When I decided to come to Penn, I hoped to find an environment that was in some ways similar to Toronto. I hoped to be educated in an environment where people from different cultural backgrounds interacted regularly in a common social setting. On paper, Penn is a diverse institution that boasts of a student body that is more than 40 percent people of color. One would never know that as a student.
There are more than 70 organizations that are dedicated to serving the needs of minority students on our campus. Groups like African Rhythms, the Inspirations and Penn Masala express some of our histories through cultural expression. In a different vein, groups like Dessalines Haitian Student Association and Penn Philippines Association bring together students who have an interest in the communities that they represent. They hold shows, sell food and cosponsor study breaks with other cultural groups so that we may experience some of their cultures.
However, it seems that Penn students are not receptive to the culture that is offered. Cultural events are usually only attended by the ethnic group that hosts them. Every year the South Asia Society hosts two shows, one each semester. As a regular attendee, I can vouch for the quality entertainment that I enjoy for under 1$0. I can also vouch for being one of maybe 25 non-South Asians in attendance in the sold out audience.
Similarly, Dessalines Haitian Student Association, the Caribbean American Student Association and Penn African Student Association hold a semi-formal annually. For ten dollars, those in attendance enjoy a meal of foods from Africa and the Caribbean, a show and dancing. It is a good bargain, but no one outside of the black community at Penn seems to think so. I could continue my argument by talking about Festival Latina or Heritage Week hosted by APSC, but I think that I have made my point: we at Penn do not take advantage of the cultural events offered to us.
To me, a university education goes beyond what is learned in the classroom. In fact, I believe that my classroom education is a small part but significant part of why I chose to go to college in Philadelphia.
Like Toronto, Penn offers a unique opportunity for cultural interaction and exchange. Students and administrators need to take a more active role in our education by supporting our cultural events.Comments powered by Disqus
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