MSJ held its first ever virtual Multicultural (MC) Week from April 12-16. From cultural days to airband performances and club fundraisers, Leadership 2’s (L2) Homecoming Multicultural Committee (HCMC) and Videography Committee spent hours organizing and putting together the events and performances. Each day of the week highlighted different cultural aspects including food, celebrations and traditions, fables and mythology, languages, and clothing, from Monday to Friday respectively.
“When we pieced all of these [days] together, we formed an engaging image of all these different backgrounds that make our community what it is. While these 5 things are far from the only ones that define any culture, I believe that we effectively were able to create something fun and informative for everyone to rejoice in,” HCMC Head Senior Alexandra Yakimova said.
For each day’s themes, MSJ students posted pictures and captions on their Instagram stories to celebrate their culture. “Having the event online, we were able to put together something that actually gave us glimpses into each other’s cultures instead of just pulling out a different colored shirt out of the closet each morning, [as we did during past MC weeks],” Yakimova said.
Additionally, HCMC was able to replace the signature fundraising aspect of MC week with a COVID-19-friendly alternative, providing clubs an opportunity to raise funds for a return to in-person school. Each MSJ club that participated partnered with a local restaurant on a first-come first-serve basis, created a flyer, and held their fundraiser on one of the six days in the week.
Cultural Food Day
MSJ successfully kicked off MC Week with Cultural Food Day, encouraging students to share the many types of cultural food that are enjoyed in their communities. Students shared pictures as well as short recipes of many different kinds of traditional dishes. Frequently enjoyed dishes included delicacies such as dumplings, naan and butter chicken, biryani, and boba. Food is an integral part of culture, as it is one of the crucial links uniting friends and family during gatherings over the dinner table. “Baklava is a pastry dessert that originated from Turkey. It’s really special to me because it’s a dish that my family makes during special occasions,” Junior Azra Tasneem said.
Cultural Celebrations/Traditions Day
Tuesday was a day to highlight the celebrations and traditions of each culture represented by the student body. Many students enjoyed well known holidays such as Chinese New Year, where elders give children red envelopes, or Diwali, the festival of lights, but others shared their experiences with lesser known celebrations such as Pongal and Ganesh Chaturthi. “It [Cultural Celebrations/Traditions Day] gave us the chance to go beyond simple explanations and really explore what some of these traditions mean to individuals from that culture,” Yakimova said.
Cultural Fables/Myths Day
On the third day of MC Week, MSJ students were able to discuss their culture’s fables and mythology. Students explained their favorite traditional Chinese and Hindu folktales on how certain traditions and superstitions came to be, preserving their rich history and connection to their ancestors. Students were able to share stories from all different cultures, however. “Jinns are mythical creatures in Islam. They’re made of fire and can take the shape of humans and objects. Evil jinns are associated with black magic in Islam. I like learning about interesting jinn stories from my grandparents,” Junior Fathima Gafoor said. The day was educational and enriching for all students to learn a little more about each other. “This was an absolutely incredible activity because it allowed us to see some of the morals and values that were important in each culture,” Yakimova said.
Cultural Languages Day
The fourth day of MC week celebrated the different languages MSJ students speak. Many of them posted on their Instagram stories using a template which included various phrases in their language such as ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. Popular languages included Mandarin, Hindi, Telugu, and Tamil, and some rarer ones such as Tagalog and Malayalam. Thursday’s prompt gave students the chance to share the languages they speak with others and celebrate their differences. “I speak Mandarin at home and to me, speaking Mandarin allows me to honor my Chinese ancestors and introduce a new culture to the people around me. I am able to communicate with a wider variety of individuals, celebrate Chinese festivals, and build my identity, morals, and values,” Junior Tiffany Li said.
Cultural Clothing Day
On Friday, the most anticipated day of MC Week, students could be seen highlighting pictures of their traditional cultural clothing, whether it was Cheongsams, which are Chinese silk dresses, or Salwar, Indian pajama-like trousers. Showcasing their cultural clothing gave students the opportunity to connect and revisit their culture’s roots since it’s not every day students get to don their culture’s traditional clothing. “When I was little I used to wear cultural clothing a lot and it’s called Qipao [alternative for Cheongsam], and I think in addition to it just being really beautifully made, silk clothing it just makes me feel more connected to Chinese culture … since we speak in English all day and stuff but when wearing it it makes me realize my identity is more than just American,” Junior Megan Pau said.
Senior Mahika Valluri, Traditional Indian Clothing.
Having already successfully converted Homecoming airband performances to a virtual format, Videography capitalized on their experience and put together an enjoyable assembly for Multicultural Week. The 44-minute assembly began livestreaming on MSJ’s YouTube channel at 5:00 p.m. on April 16. The high-spirited assembly featured 11 dynamic performances from returning airbands such as Ballet, Raas, Diabolo, Bollywood, Chinese Classical, Bollywood Singing, and K-pop and included new airbands such as Live Band, Indian Classical, and Traditional C-pop.
“Since Homecoming was our first time editing online airbands, we definitely [learned to emphasize] the importance of making sure everyone submits horizontal videos, uploads to Google Drive for quality, etc,” Videography Committee member Junior Alicia Wang said. To enhance the airband performances virtually, some airband leaders provided the Videography Committee with scripts that described their vision for the formations and transitions throughout the dance.
Additionally, Wang said that documenting MC week through a virtual format gives students the opportunity to look back on the event in the future, unlike typical years where the event is not documented in detail.
Although the airband planning process was similar to that of Homecoming, L2 encountered new challenges in the process of preparing for MC week. While editing videos for MC week, Videography ran into various copyright issues because YouTube would censor songs and prohibit videos from being uploaded. They were forced to resort to a backup version of the assembly for the premiere and had to reupload the official final version immediately afterward because issues could not be resolved in time for the premier.
Cover image by Graphics Editor Anya Agarwal