Student Groups Take Center Stage at Cultural Rhythms

Mariachi Véritas De Harvard at Cultural Rhythms 2016
Mariachi Véritas De Harvard perform Saturday evening in Sanders Theatre as part of the 2016 Cultural Rhythms show.
The 31st annual Cultural Rhythms Festival brought students and faculty together in Sanders Theater to watch student groups take to the stage and to celebrate the accomplishments of 2016 Artist of the Year, actress Lucy Liu.

Organized by the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations and its team of student interns, Saturday’s show featured 12 performance groups.

This was the first year in which Cultural Rhythms programming expanded beyond the show and in which the Undergraduate Council sponsored the traditional food festival following Saturday’s showcase. This year’s event also featured a dialogue series, which included discussions on free speech, performance and identity, and faculty diversity.

Joanne E. Crandall ’17, an attendee of the Cultural Rhythms show, applauded the expanded programming.

“One thing I’m really excited about is how it was integrated into the whole week,” she said.

The additional events come after recent student race-related discussions and activism on campus. The week culminated in a town hall forum with Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana to discuss diversity on campus.

Interns and co-directors of Cultural Rhythms Avni Nahar ’17 and Jonathan A. Sands ’17 opened Saturday’s showcase and emphasized the role of the show in promoting cultural diversity on campus and bringing attention to student cultural groups.

Lucy Liu at Kirkland
Lucy Liu speaks during a tribute held in her honor at Kirkland Junior Common Room on Saturday morning. Liu was named the 2016 Artist of the Year award from the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations at the annual Cultural Rhythms show later in the day.
“Cultural Rhythms was originally created to give cultural performance groups the ability to perform here on Sander’s stage, Harvard’s largest stage,” Sands said.

The co-directors’ introduction of actress, artist, and activist Liu as the 2016 Artist of the Year was met with loud support from the audience. Liu presided over the performances and interviewed members of each group following their acts.

Foundation director S. Allen Counter, alongside Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67, presented Liu with the Artist of the Year award, praising her contributions to film while recognizing her artistic and humanitarian work. Since 2004, Liu has worked as an ambassador for UNICEF and has focused on bringing attention to child-trafficking in countries across the world.

In her acceptance speech, Liu talked about the responsibility of minority groups to embrace and celebrate their cultural heritage.

“It’s our jobs to present who we are and what we believe in,” she said.

The student performances spanned both geography and genre, including acts by the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College, Expressions Dance Company, Harvard Taekwondo, and the Asian American Dance Troupe. Among the groups was Omo Naija, a Nigerian dance group founded this year by freshmen.

In addition to those who gathered at the show to support their friends and family, many Harvard administrators, including Khurana and Dean of Freshman and interim Dean of Student Life Thomas A. Dingman '67, attended.

“It’s one of my favorite events of the year. I’m particularly impressed with the Class of 2019’s dance,” Dingman said during the show’s intermission, referencing Omo Naija.

Attendees of the event praised the diversity and energy of the performances. “ I’ve been here all four years. It’s a great set of performances and show of cultural diversity,” Aaron M. Mukerjee ’16 said.


—Staff writer Brittany N. Ellis can be reached at brittany.ellis@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @britt_ellis10.

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