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From Cultural Rhythms Festival: Cultural Food Festival, a Celebration of Diversity

The Cultural Rhythms Food Festival provided a welcoming opportunity for the Harvard community to connect with cultures.
The Cultural Rhythms Food Festival provided a welcoming opportunity for the Harvard community to connect with cultures. By Angela Dela Cruz
By Michael F. Bido, Contributing Writer

The Cultural Food Festival, held on Friday in Grays Courtyard in Harvard Yard, featured a diverse array of student organizations eager to share their culturally significant dishes. With more than 20 groups present at the event, participants were able to choose from a wide selection of pastries, meats, fruits, and other food items. The festival provided a welcoming opportunity for the Harvard community to connect with their own cultures, try something new, or enjoy the company of other students.

Participants of the festival were able to try a wide variety of different foods, from Baklawa, a Lebanese baklava, to Chapati, a traditional Indian flatbread. Due to the diverse array of options, students with different dietary needs were still able to enjoy the event and participate freely.

“I’ve gone around, gotten samosas, got some yuca fries, and some Nepalese soup dumplings,” E. Elson Bankoff ’27 said. “And I’m vegan, so it’s very inclusive to everything.”

The Cultural Rhythms Festival also served as an opportunity to support students of different backgrounds and connect students with similar cultures, serving as a point of both discovery and connection.

“I grew up in a place with a very strong Mexican community, so Mexican food was just food and what I saw all the time. So coming to campus, there was definitely a lack of that,” Anapaula Barba ’24 said.

Aside from simply sharing food, the Cultural Food Festival gave many student organizations the opportunity to share a part of their heritage with fellow members of their community who could use a reminder of home.

When asked why Harvard-Radcliffe Raza decided to table, Barba said her goal was to be “able to provide some Mexican food for other people. Either if it’s the first time trying tres leches or for people who it reminds them of home.”

Kulani B. Temesgen ’26, a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee, said it was important for the group to represent Palestinian culture and bring “joy,” despite months of heightened scrutiny on Palestinian culture amid the war between Israel and Gaza.

“We felt like it was a necessity for us to be here and to represent Palestinian culture and to show that it’s still persevering and still exists despite everything that’s happening around the world,” Temesgen said.

Some organizations saw the festival as a chance to grow their influence and awareness on campus.
Some organizations saw the festival as a chance to grow their influence and awareness on campus. By Wonjae Suh

“Around the world indigenous peoples are typically on the smaller side, especially certain tribes,” Mia Linson ’26 said as a representative of Natives at Harvard College. “So being able to be represented here at Harvard is first of all amazing.”

Additionally, some organizations saw the festival as a chance to grow their influence and awareness on campus. Many groups have difficulty attracting and retaining students to their clubs but often find success when food is involved.

Jada Pieree ’25, a student revamping the Cuban American Undergraduate Students Association, said that she wants people to “try everything” and attend their events.

“We are a very welcoming community, small, but we have a big heart,” Pieree said.

The Food Festival provided an opportunity for cultural student groups to share part of their culture with others.
The Food Festival provided an opportunity for cultural student groups to share part of their culture with others. By Wonjae Suh

Due to Covid-19 pandemic precautions and shutdowns, many long-standing events took a pause and are just now starting to come back to the Harvard community. Two-time Co-Director Kyla N. Golding ’24 helped facilitate and plan the festival.

“Post Covid, we lost a lot of institutional memory so there was once upon a time a couple of years ago where cultural rhythms was just the show,” Golding said. “We wanted to bring back the full-scale festival, and the first way to start was with one of our favorite legs which is the food festival.”

One of many events during the annual Cultural Rhythms Festival, the Food Festival provided an opportunity for cultural student groups to share part of their culture with others. A yearly anticipated and well-appreciated event, the Harvard Foundation’s Cultural Rhythms Festival continues to connect students of all backgrounds and foster a celebration of diversity.

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