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Davis, California

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Cross Cultural Center to host first Lights Festival on May 26

The event will include food vendors, crafts and activities and performances by various cultural groups 


By RACHEL GAUER— campus@theaggie.org


On Saturday, May 26, the UC Davis Cross Cultural Center (CCC) will host their first ever Lights Festival. The event, which will take place on the UC Davis quad from 4 to 9 p.m., aims to celebrate the diverse cultures of the Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities and Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian (MENASA) communities. To put on the event, the CCC has partnered with MENASA Student Resources, the Strategic Asian and Pacific Islander Retention Initiative (SAandPIRI) and two academic departments: the Department of Asian American Studies and Middle East/South Asia Studies. 

Lou Cha, the program coordinator at the CCC who serves the AAPI and MENASA communities and is leading the event, explained the initial ideas and planning process behind the festival. 

“We originally had the Asian Pacific Islander Night Market, which began in 2015 but stopped during COVID-19,” Cha said. “This year, we decided to change it up to the Lights Festival so that we could also include the MENASA community. We thought it would be beautiful to end the year together, and that’s how the Light Festival came about. It’s brand new, and it’s the first cultural day that includes such a large diaspora.”  

Claire Santos, a fourth-year political science major who also serves as an AandPI community coordinator at the CCC, was part of the planning committee for the Lights Festival. Santos commented on what the committee aimed to achieve with the event. 

“We planned this event to be as inclusive to as many communities as possible,” Santos said. “Everyone and anyone can come. When we were planning this event, we tried to not leave any culture or nationality behind in the Asian community, so we tried to incorporate as many aspects of different Asian cultures as possible.”  

The festival’s key difference from past events is this merging of different groups; Santos explained the challenge that they faced in successfully merging these cultures to accurately represent both groups. 

“One hurdle we faced was [attempting] to create an event that represented all of the communities,” Santos said. “I think working on that specific goal of inclusivity made the whole thing very meaningful. It prompted us to dive deeper; this is not just a festival, We aren’t just tabling and designing and advertising; it is more than that. It is giving students a community where they feel like they belong and where their cultures are being represented.” 

The teams began collaborating and brainstorming for the event during fall quarter. They formed a team of about 15 people for their planning committee and met weekly to plan details such as participating organizations, food vendors and crafts.

“We met once a week […] to plan out details and to check in with one another to make sure that members from different communities felt represented in everything we were doing,” Cha said. “I led the meetings and set up the logistics, but I have to give it to my planning committee because they are so detail oriented, so responsive, mindful and intentional about what they wanted to [incorporate] in this festival, so I really want to give it up for them.”   

Melissa Segura, a second-year environmental policy analysis and planning major who also serves as an AandPI community coordinator, commented on her work in the planning committee and the experience working toward a larger event.

“It’s been really cool to be a part of all of the logistics, from budgeting to marketing to designing,” Segura said. “I really liked planning an event and seeing the outcome of it.” 

The festival itself will include several food vendors including Share Tea, Dumpling House and Shah’s Halal Food. Additionally, there will be several performances from various cultural groups as well as hands-on activities such as henna, origami and kite-making. Cha also described the group’s goal for a special closing ceremony at the event. 

“During the nightfall, we want to gather the crowd together and take a moment to recognize our community and our unity while lighting up the night with our light sticks, which we are selling at the event,” Cha said. “We are hoping to have those last moments devoted to centering the community to recognize how we are so different yet so united.” 


Written by: Rachel Gauer — campus@theaggie.org