Last week, Andover Chinese Students Association (ACSA) and Chinese Language Club advertised and sold tickets for an event celebrating the Lunar New Year. In theory, students did not need to have direct connections to East Asia to participate, leaving the door open for students of all cultures to attend, but as I sat in Paresky Commons waiting to sell tickets, I quickly noticed that most of the students who approached my table were East Asian. Worse, I realized that even I had only reached out to and marketed the event to other East Asian students. Though this celebration does naturally appeal most to Chinese, Korean and Japanese students, I worry that the student and faculty leaders like me behind cultural celebrations like the Lunar New Year do not adequately invite students of other cultures to celebrate them.
This fall, when a friend invited me to a Diwali dinner, I swiftly declined, citing the fact that I have no connection to Indian culture as the reason for my refusal. Of the few times that I have attended cultural celebrations of cultures other than my own, I attended in pursuit of the promised free food or in compliance with a requirement for a language class. Many of the cultural celebrations that occur on campus, I have seen, are not as diverse in attendance as they could be – and when they are, it is because those events have offered material benefits or are mandated.
I applaud Andover and its students for holding many cultural events such as this year’s Lunar New Year celebration. Our school has a large number of cultural, ethnic and racial affinity groups that often host a variety of events. We must, however, dedicate ourselves to using these events to share our own cultural celebrations with students of diverse cultural backgrounds, not just the ones that have historically celebrated them. I am not criticizing the desire of others to share cultural traditions among those who also celebrate such traditions. As an international student, I’m grateful for the sense of community that affinity groups provide. However, we must also recognize the greater need to introduce our unique cultures to community members whose cultures are different from our own.
I would like to extend an invitation to all Andover community members to participate in the diverse celebrations of tradition that are held all over campus, even if you are not culturally connected to them. CAMD club leaders must take the initiative to actively reach out to a diverse group of students so that more members of our community can truly appreciate and learn from the great diversity of Andover. And each of us, as students, must take the initiative to attend the events hosted by our classmates and peers of different cultural backgrounds, even if there’s no promise of food.