October 11, 2022
Bright colorful lights darted across the William C. Powers Student Activity Center ballroom as rhythmic, upbeat pop music blasted from speakers and rang out in the space. Students from various cultural organizations across campus came together, sitting around tables, eating, laughing, talking and enjoying one another’s presence.
Students gathered in the ballroom Thursday at UT’s Campus Events and Entertainment Mexican American Culture, Asian American Culture and African American Culture committees’ Try Culture event. Students shared stories and dishes with students from other backgrounds at the event, which showcased lively music and a buffet of cuisines from various cultures.
“I like seeing all the different perspectives here, acknowledging the other cultures on campus and seeing how they’re represented,” said Kandice Cantu, a chemistry and Mexican American and Latino/a studies junior.
Representative Annie Wong of the Asian American Culture Committee said the organization invites headliners of Southeast Asian, East Asian and Pacific Islander descent that are successful in their industries to speak at and attend different functions hosted by the organization.
“There’s so much diversity within the Asian community,” biochemistry sophomore Wong said. “(Try Culture) encourages more awareness of these cultures and (encourages) people to get involved.”
Jeter Ocampo said he particularly enjoyed the event’s ability to represent both cuisines from his own heritage, as well as other racial backgrounds. He said this event provided a safe space for students of color to come together and learn about one another, in addition to exposing students to the various student-led cultural organizations on campus.
“My friends say they’re interested in joining organizations they identify with, what they want to experience and are passionate about,” said Ocampo, electrical and computer engineering sophomore. “I hope to spread awareness about organizations that help other people of color.”
The African American Culture Committee hosts events for Black students on campus, including talent shows, distinguished speakers events and game nights, said logistics officer Kylan Duncan. They also organize and host UT’s annual talent show for Black students — Culture Shock — an event in which Black students across campus can show off their unique skills and abilities such as singing, painting, dancing and more. Last year, the African American Culture Committee hosted a distinguished speaker event where actress and TV host Vivica A. Fox spoke to students about the entertainment industry.
“We’re dedicated to uplifting the Black community on campus,” computer science sophomore Duncan said. “Last semester, we had a Burnt Orange Table Talk and highlighted issues around the community.”
While Try Culture offered more games and performances in past years, Cantu said she hopes to only grow from here with more interactive events in the future. She said she hopes that more organizations will partake in the festivities and create a safe space for students to celebrate their cultural background on campus.
“It means a lot for me to come (to) a predominantly white institution and have a place where I feel at home with my sisters,” Cantu said. “I really just hope we can create a safe environment for people to share.”
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