The courtyard is lined with tables, with cries of “T-shirts!” and “Come support our club!” drifting through the air. A closer examination makes it clear that although there’s only a few tables — 5 at most — each one has plenty to share. The Cultural Club Fair, which took place on Thursday, November 14, is an annual Berkeley High School (BHS) event and, although it is one that is rather underrepresented in terms of turnout and publicity, it demonstrates a beautiful array of cultures and student groups. The Queer People of Color club (QPOC), the Multicultural Students Association (MCSA), and the National Society of Black Engineers are just a few of the clubs represented at the fair. Each table provided their own unique activities, from selling T-shirts to giving away fried chicken.
Miumi Shipon, a sophomore in Academic Choice (AC) who is a part of the QPOC, explained the importance of her club, especially in relation to the school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), which also had a table at the fair. “We started it as, I guess, an extension of GSA, where we wanted a place for queer teens to meet, that was also friendly to teens of color, because we know that sometimes LGBTQ+ spaces can be exclusive towards people of color and their experiences,” Shipon said.
As a new club, the QPOC is relatively small, but it’s amazing how adeptly this group of students has managed to address an issue that is still not even being discussed in most adult LGBTQ+ spaces today.
The QPOC’s table was more informational than some others, structured to simply raise awareness for what they were doing and advertise the space to others. Shipon said that she thought the Cultural Club fair was an important space to create, because it “gives a platform to clubs that specifically focus on non-mainstream cultures to shine. Clubs that wouldn’t normally be highlighted are given a place to be seen, and that’s important when it comes to cultures that are not represented all the time.” The QPOC meets on Thursdays at lunch in C-310, and representatives of the club welcome interested students to stop by for a meeting or even just to say hello.Rusma Kharel is a junior in Communication, Arts, and Sciences (CAS) who was at the culture fair with the GSA. She described the goals and origins of the GSA, saying it was started to “create a community at Berkeley High, and just, be gay.” Kharel elaborated on this point, sharing how the GSA is an important space for LGBTQ+ students. “[It’s important] to have a space in high school to be able to express who you are, especially since most curriculum in Berkeley High does not cover the LGBTQ experience,” said Kharel. “Support is really important in such a big school like this,” she added.
[The Cultural Club Fair] “gives a platform to clubs that specifically focus on non-mainstream cultures to shine. Clubs that wouldn’t normally be highlighted are given a place to be seen.”
member of the QPOC club
She discussed how the Cultural Club Fair is an important tradition, as it “helped students to learn about BHS and Berkeley as a whole. Berkeley High is a very diverse community, and a really big community, so having a culture fair helps students to be more awake and aware of the people and cultures around them.” However, she wishes that the culture fair was advertised better in order to reach a larger audience.
One of the other tables featured the MCSA, Berkeley International High School (BIHS) senior Alani Nhul discussed the club. According to Nhul, MCSA was created to provide a safe space at BHS for multicultural students.
“It’s a club for everyone, but mainly for students with a biracial background like myself, who might not fit in at specific clubs at Berkeley High,” Nhul said. “We share about other cultures to be more culturally aware, and we’re just a chill place for everyone,” she added. Their table was full of different types of food, from Indian, to Japanese, to German.
Nhul also mentioned the importance of the culture fair, commending it for “bringing out a whole bunch of students … and bringing more awareness [to] some of the culture fairs we have on campus.”
Overall, the BHS Cultural Club Fair was overwhelmingly demonstrative of how diverse and outspoken our student body is. At each new table, it became increasingly apparent and impressive how many safe spaces are being created at a school so large, and how students have managed to find their people in the midst of the confusion of adolescence and high school.
However, the number of people at the fair — both in terms of club representatives and interested students — was rather small, and attendance could have been much larger given the size of our student body.
Representatives from all the clubs featured at the Cultural Club Fair highly encourage everyone to come and support next year, and learn about new cultures while you’re there!