CVCC raises cultural awareness

CVCC kicked off its first annual Day of International Understanding event Tuesday to celebrate community diversity.

The Day of International Understanding was a two-part event held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5-7 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Complex coordinated by the Multicultural Affairs Office. The event was open to the public and admission was free. The event started with the national anthem and then participants introduced themselves in their native languages.

Community participants were approached by Steve Hunt, executive director of the Multicultural Affairs Office, and asked if they would like to volunteer. Participants included natives of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kenya, Ghana, Peru, Dominican Republic, Laos, Chile, Bahamas, Native America and the United States. Event-goers were greeted at the door with a passport, which they took to every exhibit table and had stamped. A completed stamped passport granted participants admission into the café, where foods from every continent around the world were served by local restaurants.

“We live in a world with people from all over,” said Hunt. “It is important to me that CVCC represent this, and it is a part of our strategic plan to embrace diversity.”

Exhibit tables presented a variety of handmade goods from each country, such as jewelry, scarves, clothing, books, drums, mahogany sculptures and tapestries.

“It was pretty interesting to get the response that we got,” said Melanie Zimmermann, multi-cultural committee member.

Rahat Ahmed, manager of BB&T on Springs Road in Hickory and co-chair of the multi-cultural committee, decided to be involved in the event because she can participate two ways by representing BB&T, which is a multi-cultural branch, and encourage other cultures to come together at the event.

“Going back to represent my cultural roots is one of my duties,” Ahmed said.

Other exhibitors included Nanabenyin Moses, of Ghana, who displayed handmade beads, necklaces, clothing and mahogany sculptures. Moses explained that in Ghana culture nearly everything from names to clothing patterns has a specific meaning. For example, his name, Nanabenyin, means that he was named after his grandfather.

Other presenters included local business owner of a steel fabrication company and Mohawk Indian, Richard Tucker. Mohawk Indians are one of five tribes that are a part of the Iroquois Confederacy. Tucker said there are about 25,000 Mohawks, of which three to four thousand are tribal members. He displayed, such as moccasins, scarves and medicine bags from the Mohawk and Onani tribes.

“I think Native Americans are a part of multi-culture,” said Tucker. “I came to have the opportunity to show off Native Americans. I’m certainly proud of my heritage.”

In addition to exhibit tables, morning performers included Challenger Early College High School’s Raza Latina and Hmong dancers and Tai Chi performers from the Hickory YMCA. Lenoir-Rhyne’s Steel Drum Band provided the morning musical entertainment. Entertainment for the second portion of the event was local music group, The Rock Cline Trio and the Granite Falls ethnic fusion belly dance troupe, The Lost Jewels of the Ghawazee.

“It is important to show our traditions and learn the traditions of other cultures,” Katie Vang, senior at Challenger High and Hmong dancer.

Other Challenger students convinced teachers to bring them to the event to support their classmates.

“It’s nice to see other cultures from around the world and learn something from other than America,” said Shamoyi Meciber, freshman Challenger student.

This was the last in the Multicultural series, which included a Hmong New Year’s Celebration in December, a Black History Month Celebration in February and a Hispanic Heritage Celebration. The Day of International Understanding was sponsored by CVCC, United Arts Council, BB&T, CVCC Foundation Growing Opportunities, CVCC Rotaract Club, CVCC Student Government Association and Lenoir-Rhyne University.

Hunt said he plans to continue the event next year and hopes that it will be three times as big as this year's event. He said he wants CVCC to be a campus where people feel welcome and valued.

“I want the community to have the opportunity to socialize with people they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do so with,” said Hunt.

“I want CVCC to be that venue. (This event) lets the community know that we are serious about valuing all people. The more people we can learn about and embrace, the better this world can be.”