When talking about Whitman College, it’s hard to avoid the resounding stereotype that the school has little cultural diversity. However, sophomore Phuong Le, co-president of the Beyond Borders Club, is hoping to change that misconception with the third annual InterNation Celebration, which will be held on Saturday, Feb. 8 in the Reid Ballroom from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Throughout the rest of the year, the club holds other events like documentary screenings and lectures, but Le believes the InterNation Celebration is the largest and most important. This year, the club wants the celebration to be bigger than ever, with more performers, more planning and more cultures represented.
“Not as many people knew about the InterNation Celebration last year, but more than 100 people still came to the event,” said Le, hoping the increased effort and awareness put into this year’s event will lead to even higher attendance.
The event schedule includes several five-minute-long performances based on cultures around the world, ranging from various dances to musical performances to poems in various languages.
First-years Hallie Barker and Wenjun Gao are performing a musical number.
“Wenjun Gao and I will be playing Pachelbel’s Canon, but rather than the traditional violins, Wenjun will be playing it on the Chinese erhu and I will be accompanying her on the guitar,” said Barker.
Another musical performer will be junior Catherine Callahan, who will sing four songs of Irish and Scottish origins.
“I am excited to share my love of singing as well as a part of Irish and Irish-American culture with the community,” said Callahan.
First-year Haley Forrester will appear twice. First, she will perform a sword dance, or “Raks al Sayf” in Arabic, which involves manipulating and balancing a sword while dancing. Then she will perform with first-year Delaney Hanon, this time in the style of the “Bhangra” Indian folk dance used in Bollywood performances.
“I am so glad that the Beyond Borders Club is hosting this opportunity for students to come together to share their talents and passions from around the globe,” said Forrester.
In addition to the many individual and duo performances, the celebration will feature a fashion show where students display the traditional clothing of cultures around the world.
“All the performances are my favorite this year!” said Le.
The event will be preceded by an international feast in Prentiss Dining Hall from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. with food from Rwanda, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Germany, Poland and Russia.
Even more so than in previous years, the InterNation Celebration will serve as an important event for a school marred by allegations of racism and cultural insensitivity last semester. After the initial Whitman Encounters controversy broke, the Beyond Borders Club met to discuss what they could do to remedy the situation, and Le hopes that the InterNation Celebration will be an important milestone.
“I hope that the InterNation Celebration will be a positive way to have a discussion, to recognize the cultures on campus instead of having a big argument or one side forcing their views on the other,” said Le. “Whitman Encounters should not be the only place where people can vent their frustration.”
The InterNation Celebration represents a unification and recognition of all cultures. The event is meant for every student to appreciate and enjoy, whether they identify as a member of the school’s cultural majority or are the sole student from a certain country.
“You’re not tied to a certain stereotype,” said Le. “People can learn from other people and perform in a really respectful way.”
Editors’ note Feb. 9, 2014, 3:36 p.m.: This article has been updated to reflect that the Beyond Borders Club has co-presidents.