Event seeks to increase cultural awareness, tolerance at Northern



Photo courtesy of Samanthia Johnson: Pictured above is the poster for the International Culturama event that will take place on campus Friday near Melted. The event was inspired by a student who seeks to promote more cultural awareness and tolerance.

Jackie Jahfetson

An NMU student is paving the way to help provide the opportunity for people to experience and learn culture from diverse areas around the globe with the International Culturama, an event that has never been offered before on campus.

Represented by international students, a variety of different countries, such as the Russian Federation, Germany, Jamaica and Kenya, will share their culture with other students. The event will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 20 right outside of the Hedgcock Atrium. The participants are asked to assemble a pamphlet in which they focus in on certain aspects or little facts that make their cultures unique.

Hosting the event for the third consecutive year will be senior and zoology major Samanthia Johnson. As a jump start leader working at the Multicultural Education and Resource Center (MERC), Johnson created this event three years ago as a way for people interested in culture to learn firsthand from someone who knows more about it.

“I love talking about where I’m from, so I figured it would be a cool opportunity,”
Johnson said.

People who live in the Upper Peninsula generally are not aware of other countries outside of the United States. Those who attend the event will have much to take away, Johnson said.

“It’s a learning experience for everybody,” she added.

Sometimes people are misguided by certain stereotypes produced by the media that they misjudge a culture for who they really are, Johnson said.

“I’m from Jamaica, so everybody thinks we all live in hemlocks under palm trees and smoke weed,” she added, addressing Jamaican stereotypes. “When you get a firsthand explanation from someone who’s been there or is from there, it helps to send out the right message.” 

Some people tend to misinterpret others because they’re not seeing the complete picture and know little about other cultures. The goal is to set the record straight and teach others the importance of tolerance, she said. 

“It helps us become more diverse and to gain knowledge. And in gaining that knowledge, we’re able to understand and show empathy to others,” she said.

In today’s world, people lose that real human interaction living in a dominated technological world, she said.

“Google can only do so much but this is a face-to-face contact with somebody who’s physically from there,” she added.

Many participants such as international exchange student and English major Getuno Kelvin are looking forward to talking about their homelands with others.

“I love my country. [Kenya]has a wide and rich culture, and I’d love to share that with people,” Kelvin said.

Hostile feelings towards one another may be caused by a lack of understanding someone from their point of view, Kelvin said. But hearing the other side of the story from someone who knows more allows for growth in tolerance.

“The moment people share cultures, you get to understand people from their perspective,” Kelvin said.

Many of the participants like Kelvin hope to encourage others to visit these countries and experience what each culture has to offer. People tend to focus too much on the negative parts about Africa and miss out on the beautiful aspects, Kelvin said.

“I’d like to see more students come and see these wonderful places,” Kelvin said, adding, “[People] will probably come back with a different story to tell.”

Everyone is welcome to attend the event free of charge and free refreshments will be provided.