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Festival celebrates diversity

November 2, 2006

To teach people about cultures different from their own, live music, a fashion show and a play all revolving around cultures are being presented by the Asian American Student Association (AASA) in the form of the Cultural Fest.

The annual festival observing UW-River Falls’ Asian Awareness Month will be different this year than in years past. The event is scheduled for Nov. 9 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the River Room of Rodli Commons.

When AASA was in the preparation phase for Cultural Fest earlier this semester, the goals of the event were discussed.

AASA Co-president Xou Thao said the organization’s leaders asked,  “What is culture?”
In the past the event centered primarily around Asian cultures, but the concept is now changing. For the festival to be true to its name, Thao said there shouldn’t be just one culture represented.

“This year we wanted to spread out the focus,” Thao said, “as well as make people aware that we are here.”

One of the main goals of Cultural Fest is to educate the campus community about the diversity that exists at UWRF. Highlighting the Asian cultures is part of that goal.
AASA Public Relations Director Cha Lee said there is now not enough representation of diversity on campus, yet there are more students coming in each year making the University a more diverse place.

“We want to educate people,” she said. “And to show them what other cultures are like.”
It is also important to Lee to invite all students to join in not only the festivities hosted by diversity organizations, such as AASA, but to join the organizations themselves and become members.

“I want [students] to understand it’s OK for them to come and join us,” she said. “It’s for anyone.”

Thao not only wanted to highlight non-Asian cultures, but also show the contrasts between individual Asian cultures.

“We want to get everyone to notice the Asian cultures,” Thao said.  “To teach them about the differences from each other is important.”

Another goal, Thao said, is to try to help the community.

“We want to help out any way, shape or form that we can,” he said.

Aiding in the education process will be the Community Action Theater Troupe (CATTS) through a play the group will perform at the Cultural Fest.

CATTS President Carol Xiong said the 12-person production reenacts a popular Hmong folklore.

“The skit by CATTS will be a traditional Hmong story titled ‘Nkauj Zuag Paj Thaib Niam Nkauj Kuab Kaws,’” according to an Oct. 30 press release. “Which translated to ‘Flower Maiden and Lady Toad.’”

The comedic play is about a half-hour long.

“It’s a popular legend,” Xiong said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a few non-Asian students knew the story.”

CATTS chose the Hmong storyline “because of Asian month,” Xiong said.

In addition to the play, AASA will also host a fashion show at Cultural Fest.

The fashion show is one of the main opportunities AASA created for the other diversity organizations to be integrated into Cultural Fest.

Thao said AASA asked the Latino Student Organization, Black Student Union and Native American Council to participate in the fashion show.

He said the fashion show will showcase “traditional clothing” of both males and females for each diversity group.

Thao said a popular Asian band, Watching Leona, is scheduled to perform at the gathering. Hmong dances will also be presented.

In addition to commemorating Asian Awareness Month with Cultural Fest, AASA will have a display in the library with respectable Asian figures of the past and present.