The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) hosted its semi-annual Cultural Block Party last Friday, Apr. 13, engaging student cultural organizations for an afternoon of food, festivity, and, adhering to OMA's general credo, the cultural edification of the broader university community.
"It's a celebration of the various cultures of the world that we see at Hopkins," Dr. Irene Ferguson, the director of OMA, said.
Despite the cloudy weather, crowds of Hopkins affiliates and Charles Village residents flocked to the celebration, held adjacent to the Multicultural Affairs Student Center
Rows of tables lined the sidewalk beneath the center, occupied by student organizations, arts and crafts merchants and, for the first time in the block party's decade-long history, food vendors - part of OMA's efforts to better encompass the Baltimore community. The crux of the event, however, corresponded with OMA's fundamental purpose: to foster a sense of multiculturalism among the Hopkins student body.
Involved parties spanned the global and cultural gamut: the African Student Student Association, the Black Graduate Student Association, the Black Student Union, the Caribbean Student Union, the Chinese Student Association, the Filipino Student Association, the Hong Kong Student Association, the Inter-Asian Council, the Iranian Cultural Society, Japanese Student International, Students Empowering and Education for Diversity (SEED) and the Taiwanese American Student Association (TASA) comprised the list of Hopkins student groups under the blanket of OMA that occupied tables lining 31st Street, each offering edibles, crafts and exhibits pertinent to their respective heritages.
"There were fewer student groups involved this year, but the turnout - and more importantly, the engagement - of the crowd balanced it out," Ferguson said.
She cited a sense of interest among attendees to partake in the event's element of cultural enrichment - not simply to "eat the food."
"The location meant people would show up, but we were especially surprised to see that people were sticking around long after 7 [p.m.]. It was a real community gathering, and a successful one," she said.
She attributed the success of the event largely to the efforts of its foremost organizer, Joseph Colon, OMA's Assistant Director of Student Transition and Leadership Programs. Colon could not be reached for comment.
In its ten years, the block party has seen developments in prosperity and format, growing from a marginally-attended event in the Mattin Center a decade ago to a lively event along Charles Village's busiest thoroughfare.
"There were literally people dancing in the street this year," Ferguson said. "Little kids, college students - everyone."
Beyond frivolity, the festival's umbrella of inclusion expanded this year to include campus service and faith-based organizations, as well as purveyors of snacks and other fare from various corners of the globe.
"We look to keep growing this, to keep incorporating the broader community into our celebration," Ferguson said.
Her comment reflects the larger role of OMA, which sits at the front line of Hopkins's efforts for diversity and equity among its student body.
"Our mission is to support the academic success of students from underrepresented populations and to collaborate with others on campus and in the Baltimore community to enhance diversity awareness," Ferguson said. "The festival certainly does a good job of helping our cause."