Culture Fest 2018
The inspiration for Culture Fest started in, of all places, the Sim Lab. Fasiha Jafri, a second-year dental student, couldn’t help but hear a conversation just over her shoulder.
“I overheard a couple of our classmates speaking in Farsi. Soon after, another conversation in Spanish overlapped the first, and I marveled at how lucky we were to be able to attend the No. 1 most diverse school in the entire nation,” says Jafri.
First came the T-shirts. Created by the Muslim Student Dental Association, the shirts were imprinted with a tooth-shaped design representing the more than 50 languages spoken by Texas A&M College of Dentistry students.
“The shirts were a hit. That simple picture represented so much about our identity as a dental student who attended Texas A&M College of Dentistry,” says Jafri. “This ignited the spark that would lead to us organizing Culture Fest.
“When we started counting how many languages were spoken in our D2 class alone, we ran out of breath. There were too many to count, and this set up the foundation to get everyone involved to contribute what they believed their culture to be in the form of clothes, food, items and more. Several people said to me, ‘But I don’t really have a culture.’ I replied to them, ‘If you’re a human being with thoughts, ideas, aspirations and language, you have a culture.’ Others were worried that people already knew about their culture. My reply to that was, ‘Culture Fest is not about spreading cultural awareness, it’s about celebrating every culture!’”
While MSDA members organized and hosted the April 25 event, dental students from multiple classes and organizations volunteered to host their respective booths, complete with posters, regional attire and, of course, food. What resulted was a sixth floor lobby packed with students, faculty and staff sharing traditions, music and local fare for their entire lunch hour. In the center of all the activity was Jafri, staffing the henna tattoo station.
Among those in line to have their forearms decorated with the intricate designs: Susan Jackson, executive director of advancement, communications and alumni relations.
“There was such a warm, loving, festive feeling in the room,” says Jackson. “I have worked here for 24 years, and it was one of the best events I’ve ever attended at the college. I felt so proud of our college and the diversity of our students.
“And I think my henna tattoo is beautiful. I’ve been treating it gingerly because I don’t want it to fade too quickly. It is a reminder of how special that day was and how amazing our students are.”
From ladoo, a Pakistani sweet, and Canadian maple syrup to spiced jicama at the Mexico display, there was no shortage of flavors, conversation or the opportunity to learn from one another.
“There was excitement in the air because everyone was finally able to share their cultural traditions,” says Husnain Shahid, D3 and MSDA past president. “It was amazing to see all the different cultures that were present. I was surprised by a lot of my classmates and friends; I was unaware of how diverse we all are.”
Plans already are in the works for next year, and with it, ideas for dance demonstrations and even more involvement from every class. Faculty and staff want to join in as well.
“What was wonderful about this event was that it was not a one-man show; it truly would not have been possible without the contribution of every single person who helped by contributing something and those who avidly came up to the sixth floor to enjoy the event,” says Jafri. “We have high hopes that Culture Fest 2018 will set a precedent for coming years and become a time-honored tradition.”
Dozens of students had a role in making Culture Fest a reality, but there are a select few, all MSDA student officers, who coordinated the majority of the event details.