By Nicole Siena
There are 110 different cultures on campus; speaking different languages and representing a variety of cultures and religions across the globe. Now Ryerson will be able to celebrate all of them.
The new Cultural Awareness Committee (CAC) is dedicating its time to helping student groups on campus get together and celebrate their unique holidays throughout the year.
“The key for me here is in discovering and learning about other nations, cultures, faith, creed and traditions celebrated by the true spectrum of our vast Ryerson community,” said Jeff Perera, the Ryerson White Ribbon Campaign co-chairperson and member of the CAC.
Perera said that when we see Christmas traditions celebrated every year, we further a notion of a normal and central Canadian traditon, and make other celebrations in Ryerson’s communities feel “othered.”
It’s “as if they’re outsiders and not an equally celebrated part of our campus and community,” he said.
The idea for the CAC came from a 2009 event when the Iranian Students’ Association of Ryerson University (ISARU) held the first ever Norouz celebration at Ryerson. Norouz, the Iranian new year, was celebrated on the second floor of the Hub in Jorgenson hall with a variety of food, music, activities, and a welcoming atmosphere for people of other cultures .
“Given that Ryerson is a diverse school, we need to acknowledge the diversity and differences in the school,” said Azar Masoumi, a member of CAC, and a fourth-year sociology student. “We should treat them all as something that needs to be celebrated.”
CAC wants to make events more interactive than they have been in the past.
“This isn’t about eating their food and seeing the different ‘costumes’ worn. It’s about hearing the voices of people, the stories told by them, their tradition and their way of living,” said Perera.
Darrel Bowden, the educational equity advisor for Ryerson, said it would be ideal if “students, staff and faculty worked together on a celebration.”
“It’s a personal experience with the culture. We want someone from another culture to be a guest and make them comfortable,” said Masoumi. “It’s about exposing them to everyday experiences and people.”
Masoumi also said that the celebrations raise a discussion of citizenship.
“You don’t want the land you’re living in to be foreign,” said Masoumi. “You don’t want to be a traveller. It may be different from your motherland, but here, you have ownership, rights and responsibilities.”
But it would have to start with the individual student groups expressing interest in getting help from the CAC.
“We need to get student groups together and put them in the decision making positions,” said Masoumi. ‘We can help them do it because we have the resources.”
“To learn and understand is to embrace and create a space where people truly feel included and are able to be who they are, and flourish and contribute to the larger community,”said Perera.
“Even if people aren’t engaged in groups but want to see their cultures celebrated, then they should contact us,” said Masoumi. “Even individuals can do it.”