The aroma of international sauces, meats, cheeses and breads filled the air as students and guests walked into the Archie Griffin Grand Ballroom of the Ohio Union on Friday. Below the ballroom in the main area of the Union, children were propped up on parents’ shoulders smiling and cheering on family members performing traditional dance routines on stage.
More than 30 diverse student organizations came together to eat, perform and cherish one another’s culture and diversity, creating the melting pot that was the 19th annual Taste of OSU event.
For some, like first-year in business Lauren Horwood, Taste of OSU was a chance to engage in a more diverse experience from the one she came from at home.
“I come from a super small town (Conneaut, Ohio) where we have a really small population and there’s not as much culture, so I’m really looking forward to seeing all the performances,” Horwood said. “There’s a chance to have all of these different kinds of foods here, so why not?”
For many of the performers, the four-hour event on Friday night was more than a buffet of international delicacies or a showcase of events. It was a stage to express their stances on global issues, or represent their hopes for the future.
Such was the case for members of the Committee for Justice in Palestine and the Ethiopian and Eritrean Student Organization.
Jana Al-Akhras, a first-year law student at the Moritz College of Law and member of Committee for Justice in Palestine, used Taste of OSU as a platform to express a united front in times of international unrest and discrepancies in her country.
“Arabs are more unified that we are divided,” Al-Akhras said of her performance. “We just wanted to show that we all share a common culture, a common language, and we got to express that tonight.”
The group expressed this sentiment through a traditional dance called “dabke,” a dance Al-Akhras said was popular in countries including Kurdistan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine.
“It was awesome coming here to perform a second year in a row. The energy of the crowd is great and it was incredible that we could all come together and represent more than one country on that stage,” Al-Akhras said.
Jamal Ali, president of the Somali Students’ Association, shared a similar sentiment after performing the traditional Somali dhaanto dance. He hopes students will take what they see at Taste of OSU and explore more of their culture on their own.
“We can’t describe in words how we feel right now,” Ali said. “It was just so amazing. I hope now that people who saw us will just go on YouTube to see the story of what we just performed. I hope they’ll get a different perspective of our culture.”
While many ethnic organizations performed traditional routines, modern dance groups like Dance Coalition incorporated various styles of dance into their performance.
President of Dance Coalition Leah Knecht, a third-year in English, said her organization’s goal is to combine different styles in an effort to embrace diversity.
“Dance Coalition just tried to get together as many cultural influences as possible. We’ll take Bollywood and mix it to a hip-hop song, for example, or take a lyrical routine and add belly dancing,” Knecht said. “I really enjoy it because you get to show all the cool parts of what your group does and what all the different cultural groups bring together.”