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Brywood Elementary School Celebrates Cultural Diversity

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Brywood Elementary School in Irvine held its annual BryWorld Multicultural Festival to celebrate the cultural and ethnic diversity of the community on May 12. 

The Multicultural Festival, held at the Brywood campus, started with the Parade of Nations, a procession featuring Brywood students of different cultural backgrounds dressed in traditional clothing.

 According to Christine Tully, chief organizer of the event, the festival activities represent an effort to treat all cultures equally and celebrate diversity. 

“We have made sure that we have a booth for every culture that wants a booth,” Tully stated. “I think every person here is very proud of their culture, and they show their love [to] our community. I think the motivation here is just to share your culture with all the kids [and for them to] experience all the cultures.”

The festival also featured live performances, including those of traditional song and dance by Brywood students on stage. The schedule had Indian dances, Filipino and traditional Chinese songs and Japanese martial arts. 

Hansori, a club team from UC Irvine, also provided a South Korean traditional drum show for the audience. Attendees enjoyed the performances and walked the festival with friends and family, trying out the various food options provided by booths around the performance ground. 

Surrounding the stage were over 20 booths, each representing a country or culture and selling their respective popular food and drinks. All booths were hosted by parents of Brywood students and featured homemade foods, according to Tully. 

Organizers at the Japanese booth, Noriko Leung and Ila Cho, aimed to provide attendees with a window into Japanese culture.

“[We are here] just to let people learn more about Japanese culture, [remind them] that we are not just about animation and sushi, but also have activities like Yo-Yo, Taiko and other fun things,” Leung stated. “This event is so nice, it lets kids listen to different cultures, become more accepting and build a better community when they grow up.”

To Cho, the event was also about connecting the community.

“We see that people come not only from this elementary school, but also from the community, alumni and their families and friends, creating a great channel of communication,” Cho stated.

The Chinese booth sold seven popular cultural snacks, including orange chicken, boba and pan-fried dumplings. The booth notably displayed flags of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Jane Zhang, organizer of the Chinese booth, emphasized the importance of the cultural link between the nations: “I think here everyone is living a simple life, and [China, Taiwan and Hong Kong] all share the same cultural background, so we will skip politics for this time, and become one family in this country.”

When asked about potential tensions between the three regions represented at the Chinese culture booth,  Zhang emphasized the strength of harmony and community.

“We have foods representing all the three regions. And the foods sold fast this year as always,” Zhang added. “In our boba-making team, we have mothers from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The recipe is a result of a discussion among all of us. That is why I believe we can always be happy together.” 

Attendees shared their experiences at the festival and spoke on the significance of the event.

“It’s been really fun,” said Rick Byoun, a Brywood alumni. “I visited my old classroom, and I met my classmates I haven’t met for about six years. This event gave us a chance to meet before we start moving out.”

Emir Uzun, a local high school student, attended the event with friends and family. 

“My dad’s friend has kids who go here, and they are running the Ethiopian boothing spot … My little brother is coming to this elementary school soon, and this is a great event to educate him with the school culture,” Uzun stated.

Mr. Saris, a father visiting the event with his family, commented on representation at the festival. 

 “[This event] is very, very valuable, but sadly my culture was not represented this time. I hope they can have my culture here for the next one,” Saris stated.

Festival organizers called the event a success, with a large turnout and booths sold out of their original and extra supply, according to Zhang. At the end of the festival, Tully expressed gratitude and relief seeing the festival’s result. 

“Coming out of the pandemic, we all miss each other, we didn’t get to see each other [for so long],” Tully stated. “It is just so nice to share this tradition that our school used to have for every year. We have such a diverse school population, and it is important for us to share it with each other.”

Deng Liu is a City News Intern for the spring 2023 quarter. He can be reached at dengnl@uci.edu.