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Multicultural Show and Festivities Celebrate BHS Diversity

Photograph by Lena Ostroy Harp

The city of Berkeley is characterized as being fairly culturally diverse, and this is reflected through the student body of Berkeley High School (BHS). To help showcase and educate about the various cultures  in our community, the BHS Multicultural Student Association (MCSA) hosted the multicultural fair and show. These gatherings showcased the cultures of many of the students at BHS. By highlighting different cultures, BHS leadership is trying to create a more informed and accepting environment.

Vanessa Rasmussen, a senior at BHS and the leader of the MCSA said, “I think it’s important because we have a really diverse campus and there’s not always opportunities for people to express their culture and giving a platform for this is important.” She hopes that students gain knowledge about their peers’ cultures and create a tighter bond between themselves by visiting the fair and show.

Rasmussen, along with many other club leaders, was present at the club fair. While a fairly modest affair, the fair offered many opportunities to become informed about different cultures.

Many clubs took the opportunity to share foods from their culture, including Bissli and Bamba from Israel, which was a way for the Jewish Student Association to present information about Judaism. Nomi Beary, a member of the Jewish Student Association and an BHS senior, hoped that by informing people about Judaism, people wouldn’t automatically assume that being Jewish means endorsing Israel’s actions as a country. “When we say we’re from Israel, we want people to think more about the culture, rather than just the politics,” said Beary. Ella Amzel, another member of the club, echoed Beary’s statement. Amzel said, “We want people to know about the traditions and culture and that is really the aim of this club.”

Not only were there clubs representing different cultures, but there was also a textbook drive for people to donate old textbooks for standardized tests in order to give to someone who might not have the resources to get it themselves.

Abigail Sanchez, a Berkeley International High School (BIHS) junior said, “As a part of the BIHS Academic Support Team, we came out here to open all these standardized tests up to minorities that don’t have the chance.” She talked about how on average, minorities have far lower scores on tests like the SAT and ACT because they don’t have the economic resources to take a prep class or hire a tutor. Even prep books can be $40 or more. Sanchez hopes that by giving out free prep books, they can help to end the disparity of test scores.

“Historically, we have been a very divided campus, and the fair is a great way to have communities come together, which is very important,” said Sanchez.

Then, the following day, all of this celebration culminated in the Multicultural Show. Students from many different cultures and regions prepared performances for a huge audience of BHS students in the Berkeley Community Theater.

Miles Bishop, a BHS junior, and one of the performers in the show, said that, “it was great to see all the different cultures being displayed and accepted.”

One highlight was the performance done by the BHS Mandarin III class. They sung a song in Mandarin that really seemed to unify the audience. Many audience members swung their phones back and forth with the flash on, emulating the environment of a real concert. BHS sophomore Risalah Obaid read a poem about the stereotypes placed on her because of her hijab, which was one of the most moving parts of the show.

Though no one really seemed to understand what culture the “Thriller” dance was representing, it proved to be a crowd-pleaser. The dance elicited lots of audience participation.

The final performance of the show involved all of the performers heading on stage and waving the flags,  representing their cultures to K’naan’s “Wavin’ Flag.” The song includes the lyric, “Now wave your flag/And everyone will be singing it,” which was a fitting sentiment to end a show designed to bridge cultural gaps.