“In order for all of us as people, not even just as students, but just as human beings, we have to at least be aware of different cultures.” – Tayler Marsh
The Office of Multicultural Affairs and the William Allen White Library hosted the first ever Diversity Film Festival on Monday and Tuesday in order to raise awareness about diversity. Jason Brooks, director of multicultural affairs, pointed to Emporia’s public school district as an example and said that around 55 percent of students are Hispanic, 30 percent are Caucasian and 15 percent are African-American or other ethnicities. He said that Emporia State wants students to be well-rounded and able to work with minorities and other cultural groups.
“Diversity awareness is extremely important in the aspect of our society,” Brooks said.
Brooks said another goal of the film festival was to provide a major diversity event in the fall semester, since the International Food Festival is in March.
The first movie shown, “Pariah,” tells the story of a young African-American woman in the inner city coming to grips with her emerging sexuality. The film focuses on her becoming aware of that and trying to help her family understand.
The second movie, “The Last Train Home,” is a documentary chronicling an annual event in China – when workers from small provinces, who have migrated to large cities in order to find jobs, try to make it back home for the Chinese New Year, their only chance to see their family after a whole year. The film follows a family as they made their way home, their hard life working in clothing factories and the strain placed on them by this lifestyle.
“(‘The Last Train Home’) really made you think, really made you appreciate what you do have here and makes you think about what happens in other cultures or countries,” said Jonnie Stahl, sophomore music education major. “It’s just a wake-up call to how often you get to see your family and how you don’t have to work all the time when you do work for your family.”
The third movie, “The Only Good Indian,” tells how young Native Americans were forced by white men to enter boarding schools and become “civilized.” One teenager, angered by the attempts to eradicate his heritage, decides to leave and go home. The film follows him and the bounty hunter sent after him and the sheriff who desires to kill them both.
The fourth movie, “Sin Nombre,” focuses on South American workers illegally migrating to America. A former gang member helps a young woman cross the border, despite members of his gang following them to kill him.
“(‘Sin Nombre’) didn’t sugarcoat anything…very shocking how little I know about the immigration process and the trials people have to go through just to come to America,” said Allison Annaekin, senior music education major.
Tayler Marsh, junior elementary education major, said she enjoyed the films and the whole experience.
“(Diversity awareness) is more than necessary,” Marsh said. “All of us as people, not even just as students, but just as human beings, have to at least be aware of different cultures. The next step would be respecting that.”