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Grupo Fuego, a Philadelphia Latin dance group, performs at the Unity Week kickoff event Friday night at the Hall of Flags in Houston Hall. [Allyson Mariani/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

This week, Penn's various minority groups will come together to celebrate their identities, raise awareness about issues they face and foster a greater sense of community through forums, discussions and lectures.

The series of events, called Unity Week, is sponsored by the United Minorities Council. However, the events -- which kicked off Friday evening -- are also the products of collaboration between many student groups from across the campus.

"Not only is it a chance for us to learn about each other's backgrounds, but also for the entire Penn community to learn about different minority groups," said UMC Political Chairman Shaun Gonzales, a College senior.

UMC Programming Chairwoman Tazeen Siddiqui echoed Gonzales' sentiments. She said she hopes the intergroup cooperation will foster a deeper sense of community.

At the same time, Siddiqui said she hopes that the Unity Week events will help raise awareness about minority populations and issues that they deal with across the University.

Highlights of the week range from food-tasting events to featured speakers and panel discussions.

Tonight, a panel discussion entitled "The International Perspective on Race Relations in the United States" will address racial issues surrounding international students. The event will take place at 5 p.m. in Irvine Auditorium.

Keynote Speaker Evelyn Hu-DeHart will deliver a lecture entitled "Redefining America: Race Relations in Our Time" tomorrow night. Hu-DeHart is a History professor and the Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Brown University. The event will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Houston Hall.

On Wednesday night, a screening of The Wedding Banquet will take place in the lobby of the Arch building, located at 36th Street and Locust Walk, at 5:30 p.m. The movie and subsequent discussion will address issues of sexual identity in the Asian student community.

The event is being co-sponsored by ALLIES, the Asian Pacific Student Coalition and the Pan-Asian American Community House.

College senior and APSC Chairwoman Eugena Oh said that the event will be very informal, so students can feel free to attend any part of the movie or discussion.

"We're hoping to attract a broad range of students" Oh said. "This is open to everyone."

The UMC and the Greenfield Intercultural Center have planned an event for Thursday to draw attention to Penn's Native American community. They will hold a screening of Smoke Signals in the Greenfield Intercultural Center lounge at 6:30 p.m.

Penn's Native American student group, called Six Directions, has disbanded, and that has led many to call for an increased focus on the under-represented population.

"Obviously, the fact that Six Directions is in defunct status speaks to the issue of the serious lack of Native American students at Penn," Siddiqui said.

She added that she hopes this event will revive the group and awareness of Native American issues on campus.

Unity Week will wrap up Friday night with "Hip-Hop Across Cultures" in Houston Hall. The event is being co-sponsored by the Black Student League and the Korean Students Association.

The evening, which will commence at 7:30 p.m., will include discussions and performances of hip-hop music from a variety of cultures.

Students who helped organize Unity Week emphasized the importance of student participation in all of the events.

"It is so important that all students at Penn are aware of and take part in events such as Unity Week throughout their experience at Penn and beyond," Siddiqui said.

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