CUDA Celebrates Diversity

Drums at the Cultural Unity Day of Awareness beat rhythmically Thursday despite the downpour outdoors.

The event, co-sponsored by the Cross Cultural Center, the Women’s Center, the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender Resource Office and Student Legal Services, took place in the Price Center Ballroom, instead of in the Plaza as planned, due to bad weather.

Emelyn DelaPeua, a program director at the Women’s Center and one of two main coordinators of CUDA, initially expressed concern about the turnout at the event.

“”We were hoping to get at least 100, but because it’s raining we don’t know how many people are going to come,”” DelaPeua said.

The event, which according to DelaPeua has occurred annually for a decade, has evolved extensively from its beginnings. It was originally intended as an act of protest. Most organizations of minority students would attend and plan a march on the chancellor’s office protesting the lack of diversity at UCSD.

The event was initially held on Columbus Day. According to DelaPeua, who was a student at the time the event was first held, students marched around campus with coffins on their shoulders to symbolize the oppression of the holiday.

The basis of the event shifted over the years, according to the second main coordinator, Laura Barraclough.

“”For the last three years, as long as I’ve been working on it, it’s been a celebration that there are organizations working to increase diversity,”” said Barraclough, the acting assistant of the Cross Cultural Center.

CUDA is now used to start off the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Ballroom was set up with participating organizations’ tables on the side walls and a circle of chairs in the middle. The LGBTRO, the program of Graduate Studies, the Hawaiian Club, the Asian-Pacific Student Association, the African-American Student Union, the Cross Cultural Center and the Women’s Club all had information tables.

The celebration featured a drum circle led by drummers from World Beat. World Beat leaders Nana Yaw Asiedu and Brana Matejic arrived with their percussion instruments. The instruments were placed around the circle of chairs.

DelaPeua welcomed spectators to CUDA, invited them to the drum circle, and read a message from Chancellor Robert Dynes. Dynes thanked the organizations for participating in the awareness program and challenged everyone to a second “”Chancellor’s Challenge,”” this one having the goal of cultural unity.

The event was then turned over to Asiedu, who greeted everyone in the Guinea West African language of Malinke. He stressed the importance of knowing how to count in drumming and gave a quick lesson.

Each different type of drum or bell had a different part, and he showed everyone their parts in turn. Together, the beats formed a song called Ferakodaba, or “”Rites of Passage”” in Malinke. Students drifted in to watch when they heard the drumming. Some joined the circle.

The second performance was by Eric and Erisa Johnson, who are in the fourth and 10th grades. Erisa played the piano while Eric, dressed in a bright red suit, recited Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “”I Have a Dream”” speech.

The siblings have been performing this act for nearly five years.

According to Eric, the speech took only three days to memorize.

Erisa has been playing the piano since she was three years old.

Next, members of the UCSD Gospel Choir, directed by Ken Anderson, took the stage. The performance took place the day after the choir’s first practice of the year, and despite this, the musicians managed to get the audience to respond.

“”Get close to someone else so you don’t feel like you’re singing alone,”” Anderson said to the crowd as the choir rang out with “”This Little Light of Mine.””

CUDA concluded with a second drum circle led by Asiedu. Choir members and the Johnson family picked up instruments to join the rhythm.

“”I think it went well even thought it got rained out and not many people came,”” DelaPeua said. “”The people who were here were great, they had energy. I thought the drum circle was a wonderful way to bring people together. We had just enough people to have a good circle.””

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