Under the big tent of Memorial Hall today, students can hear African poetry readings, see performances of Asian and Native American dance, and sample food from 17 cultures.
In its second year, Cultural Rhythms is a celebration of Harvard students' rich cultural backgrounds.
The festival is the "one single event that unites the entire university around [its] cultural and ethnic diversity," said Associate Professor of Neuroscience S. Allen Counter, director of The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, the event's sponsor.
About 25 student cultural groups will sponsor performances and prepare food for the afternoon festival. Marilyn McCoo, of television's "Solid Gold" will host the celebration.
Student directors of international organizations said they appreciate the chance to expose a broad student audience to the richness and variety of their cultures.
"It's the type of event which helps people in one night to see that things are not as simple or uniform as they think," said African Students Association President Papa-Madiaw Ndiaye '88.
While stressing cultural pluralism, student groups will display subtle, individual points of their cultures that many students may not be aware of. Ndiaye, who is from Senegal, said that many students picture romanticized images of Africans with drums and grass or imagine that Africa is one country.
"There are interesting common points [between African cultures], yet each individual culture has things that can be developed on their own," said Ndiaye.
While individual organizations sponsor events and festivals of their own, such as La Raza's Cinco de Mayo festival and the Asian American Association's recent Chinese New Year celebration, Cultural Rhythms is the only cooperative event between student cultural groups.
"It's kind of a big explosion all at once but we had to start somewhere. Sometimes you really need a shocker," said Executive Producer Lisa M. Guerra '87. The Winthrop House Student Committee is cosponsoring the event.
The performances in Sanders Theater will run from 2:00 to 4:30 p.m. the buffet of international foods will follow in Memorial Hall. Proceeds from the admission fees will go to student-run charities for the homeless, including the Center of Hospitality for the Homeless, organizers said. Last year, the event raised $5000.
Tickets are available at Holyoke Center Ticket Office or at the door. Admission is $3 for the performances, and food tickets are $1 each.