Cultural groups invite outsiders

Jessica Falcone, a first-year graduate student, said she began her obsession with Indian culture in high school. Since then, her obsession has earned her full-fledged addict status, she said.

I’m just a regular white person obsessed with Indian culture, Falcone said. My parents are extremely confused by me. And I cannot even put my finger on it.

But I love the dance, I love the people and anytime there is a class offered in Indian history, I am all about that, she said.

Falcone is not the only one stepping out of her own culture to learn about another culture. Some GW students have been joining and becoming an integral part of multicultural organizations that are different from their own background.

The alliances forged between campus multicultural organizations and members of the campus community have benefited the organizations, some group leaders and members said.

We have about four active members who are non-Arabs, said Maha Elsheikh, president of the Arab Student Association. They help us understand how people perceive us. They are our link to mainstream society.

Members who share different backgrounds than the majority of their student group said they feel comfortable as acknowledged outsiders.

When you have a bunch of white people sitting on an Arab group, it sends a message, said Bryan Hurley, a non-Arab member of the ASA. It is all about working toward an egalitarian society. It will only happen if we work together.

We basically offer a different point of view, said junior Ben Allin, a non-Arab ASA member. If they are going to be picking a name of an event, I might be able to offer a viewpoint on how non-Arabs may perceive what the event is going to be about depending on what the name is.

Vikram Bakhru, the president of the Indian Students Association, said non-Indian members help the ISA expand its visibility on campus.

Our goal was actually to increase non-Indian membership this year, Bakhru said. It gives us even more people to help us in promoting our heritage and the goals of our organization.

Bakhru said one of the goals is convincing the University to offer Hindu language classes.

A lot of other universities are offering those classes, and the more people our organization can get and involve in our culture, the more the University will listen to us, Bakhru said.

Eddie Lara, who was executive chair of Latinos for Progress last year and is an active member this year, said the primary goal of his organization is to educate the GW community on Latino issues and culture.

To (accomplish the goal), we had to actively seek the participation of non-Latinos, Lara said. By having a diverse student group we can create a healthy dialogue between multicultural members and dispel any stereotypes or myths that surround the Latino culture.

The leaders of these multicultural organizations agreed that a main goal of their collective organizations is to help the student body understand their respective cultures before they make assumptions.

It is really only through participation and education that ignorance of any particular culture can be dispelled, Lara said.

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