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ASUCI Global Eaters Attempts Diversity Through Food

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Global Eaters, an event meant to raise cultural awareness through food, was hosted by ASUCI last Tuesday on Ring Road. Hosted by the Office of Academic Affairs as well as Legislative Council, the event drew attention to UCI’s campus diversity by showcasing a variety of ethnic foods from different cultures on campus.

The clubs that participated were Tomo no Kai, Hmong Student Association, MEChA de UCI, Kababayan, Fusion, UCI Project RISHI and SASA. The International Center and the Cross Cultural Center were also at booths giving informational flyers about their centers. The Cross-Cultural Center held a game where students could spin a wheel and answer a question about the center in order to receive a $2 voucher that they could then use at any club booth for food.

Janani Venkateswaran, a volunteer, explained that they were collaborating with the International Center to “get students to come out and learn about different food and learn about different clubs — the different kinds of food that each culture is able to give to you.”

Matt Tsai, a second-year intern in the Office of Academic Affairs and a member of the Legislative Council, organized the event in order to introduce students to various clubs via their particular ethnic foods.

Tsai’s objective was to “shift campus perception of different cultures, not as these strange different cultures, but as being unique, being deserving of respect.”

He explained that part of this had to do with a learning experience he had in the Humanities Core Course with writing director Larisa Castillo as well as his involvement in ASUCI.

On our campus, Tsai hears many defend their words as not racist because they don’t intend it to be racist.

“Many people think [being racist] is a state of being,” said Tsai. “But the fact is that if you say something and it offends someone then it’s still racist.”

The event was funded by the Legislative Council, which provided 100 vouchers that students exchanged at booths for free food.

Tomo no Kai sold spam musubi, with the intention of combining Western and Eastern cultures.

“We’re selling spam musubi here. It’s sort of based off the idea of sushi, which is first of all Japanese, and spam is not really Japanese, so that’s where that sort of mix comes in and that’s what we’re all about,” said Chris Seiki, the president of Tomo no Kai.

Filipino-American organization Kababaya sold turon, a Filipino dessert that is filled with banana and jam fruit, and fried with a brown sugar glaze. According to their president John Salazar, Kababaya is known for its Filipino-American Cultural Night (PACN).

Seiki explained that for the club members, the PACN “is [symbolic] of all the hard work and practice that goes into the work that we do learning about our culture, but also learning the dance that we do, and it leading up to this one night.”

Seiki explained that the funds generated were going into Kababayan’s conference.

At the moment, Kababaya is also largely focusing on obtaining justice for a teenage transgender victim. Jennifer Laude is a transgender individual who was murdered by a 19-year-old marine.

“What a lot of people are saying is that she was murdered because she’s transgender,” said Seiki. “He was found innocent because he was a white US marine and a lot of us are trying to find justice for Jennifer Laude because of the fact that this is something that’s not right with what’s happening in the community right now.”

UCI’s chapter of Project RISHI, a national nonprofit organization, sold samosas, a traditional Indian snack. The snack is a fried pastry filled with potato that the club got from a local restaurant.

Pooja Selvan, the club’s secretary, said that the club adopts a village in India in order to enact changes in water purification and access to electricity. For Project RISHI, the funds will go towards further developing other current projects as well, including the construction of a health clinic.

The event overall was a success, with clubs selling out of their food. All funds went directly back to the clubs. The vouchers were exchanged for cash, which also went back to the clubs.

“I think that it might be at least a small step in the right direction,” said Tsai of the event, in terms of what it could do for raising cultural awareness on campus.