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Saturday, May 18, 2024

UC Davis Lights Festival to shine light on AAPI and MENASA communities on Nov. 18

Hosted by the Cross Cultural Center, the festival will include an array of cultural performances, food and craft vendors and community booths 


By KAYA DO-KHANH — campus@theaggie.org


On Saturday, Nov. 18 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., the UC Davis Cross Cultural Center (CCC) will be hosting the first-ever UC Davis Lights Festival to shine light on the Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and the Middle Eastern North African South Asian (MENASA) communities.

The festival will take place on the quad, and admission is free and open to the public.

Previously, the CCC hosted an annual night market for the AAPI community, and the Light Festival is an evolution of that original event. The CCC hosts a culture day for each of the portfolios that they serve, but the MENASA community portfolio would hold an annual MENASA leadership retreat instead of a specific culture day.

After returning from the pandemic last year, there was no retreat and the CCC board discussed how to revamp their culture days. During that conversation, some of the student community coordinators advocated for a culture day that celebrated and connected both the MENASA and AAPI communities together, according to the Program Coordinator at the CCC, Lou Cha.

“Yes, we are celebrating both communities in one culture day, but also we wanted to showcase how large our diaspora is and that we are so different as much as we can be the same,” Cha said. “We are so similar as well, so we’re just hoping that everyone walks away feeling like they have a place they can belong and a place where they can feel seen.”

The name for the Lights Festival came from how large and different the diaspora was and how they wanted to shine light on the two communities.

“We also understand how [light] can be perceived differently,” Cha said. “That was the way that we could continue to be creative with the concept of light, how light can be presented and the symbolism of it.”

On the quad, there will be a stage set up for cultural performances as well as an array of food and craft vendors and community booths. The community booths include activities such as henna tattoos, origami, lantern decorating, ribbon lei making and diya painting. Student organizations will also be tabling to share their resources and connect with the community.

“There are a lot of communities I’ve never heard of, and I think that way it can kind of bring not only the AAPI and MENASA community closer together but also the community of UC Davis and the surrounding areas closer to each other because every culture is beautiful, [and] every culture has a story,” third-year environmental policy analysis and planning major and AAPI Community Coordinator for the CCC Melissa Segura said.

The planning committee for the festival is made up of students, staff, alumni and community members. They are in charge of creating the vendor and cultural performances list, ensuring that the chosen groups and businesses are local and connected to the AAPI and MENASA communities.

“I think it’s just really cool to get to work with the community,” Segura said. “To plan such a big event is that we can always say it’s for the AAPI and MENASA community by the AAPI and MENASA community, just because we have so many diverse voices. It kind of makes the light festival just a little bit brighter in that sense, because we have input from all different sorts of communities.”

Her biggest goal for the festival is to represent as many communities at the university as possible and to “make sure that they know we recognize them and that they shine in our eyes,” because not every community is always represented in campus events.

One thing she did to ensure as many ethnicities were represented as possible was include all communities in the design for a t-shirt for the Light Festival, which will be sold at the event. The event coordinators are encouraging attendees to come dressed in their cultural clothing to be entered into a raffle to win a free t-shirt at the festival.

“I think one part of being in a community where there’s a lot of diversity is appreciating other cultures,” third-year cognitive science major and AAPI Community Coordinator Ritu Goyal said. “A lot of times it’s very easy for us to have a certain perspective, but I think it’s so important to have cultural awareness and there being cultural intersectionality […] I think that’s like a huge part, an aspect of just understanding other people and knowing where they come from.”

According to Segura, the event gives people another way to see different cultures as the different vendors will allow attendees to experience the cultures through spirituality, art and food. Some of the food vendors the planning committee chose includes Dumpling House, Nox Barbeque, D’Groback Bay Area, Shah’s Halal Food Truck and Share Tea. Cultural performances include Coconut Dance, Davis Chinese Orchestra, Hmong Student Union Fashion Show and Indian Classical Dance.

Fourth-year political science major and MENASA Community Coordinator for the CCC Amaal Idoui said it would be like a “mosaic of cultures,” and that “all students can take away something and find something that hopefully fits their niche.”

“I’m just excited for an opportunity for our communities to come together and share the space,” Idoui said.

Written by: Kaya Do-Khanh — campus@theaggie.org


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