Spotlight: Events on Grounds

Black Culture Week 2014

Black Culture Week Flyer

Black Culture Week Flyer

by Kemi Layeni

Every year the Black Student Alliance (BSA) hosts an event called Black Culture Week, usually late into the fall semester. It’s a time for the black community at UVA as well as other students to be immersed and reinvigorated by black culture. When Black Culture Week began in the early 70s, BSA was then called Black Students for Freedom working to create a Black Studies program and increase black students and faculty. Then, Black Culture Week boasted of artists like Amiri Baraka. Just imagine, Amiri Baraka walking on grounds! Now, Black Culture Week has a variety of events from discussions on Barack Obama and Michael Brown, to a Gordon Parks photography exhibit and an African Diasporic food event.

One of the events that I attended during Black Culture Week was the Food Migration event at the start of the week.

Foods from the different organizations

Foods from the different organizations

The Food Migration event was amazing to say the least. It featured food from some of the African Diasporic student organizations on grounds like Ethiopian Student Union (ESU), Organization of African Students (OAS), Student Organization of Caribbean Awareness (SOCA) and Black Student Alliance (BSA). Each group had their own table at each corner of the room where they served staple foods like jollof rice at the OAS table and injera at the ESU table. At each table where people sat and dined, there were cards explaining the foods and their significance to their respective cultures.

OAS table serving jollof rice and spinach stew

OAS table serving jollof rice and spinach stew

SOCA's information card for their food

SOCA’s information card for their food

My family is from Nigeria so I’m used to eating some of the foods that were at the OAS table, but it was an amazing experience to try Ethiopian and Caribbean delicacies as well as staple soul food meals.

Ethiopian Food called injera

Ethiopian Food called injera

It was a great time of camaraderie and laughter as students of all years and all races came out to eat and be merry. Black Culture Week is one of my favorite times of the year and the Food Migration was definitely a strong start to the week. Black Culture Week promotes community, entertainment, learning and deep thought all centered on the black experience. Being a black student at UVA, it’s definitely a week where all people can pay attention to the black community and engage with us. It is definitely something I look forward to each year!


BSA Exec and the BSA soul food table

BSA Exec and the BSA soul food table


Fall Fling

Hello everyone! I’m Lauryn Washington, I’m a third year African American Studies Major here at UVA and recently I attended Fall Fling, a chance for perspective African American students to gain insight about the University. Fall Fling is an opportunity for students of any background to give advice, add their experience, and answer any questions for parents and students. Over lunch, I had a very interesting conversation with potential students and parents about pathways to UVA and the supportive community once you arrive. We talked about the Ridley scholarship, Access UVA, and many other scholarships that can alleviate the stress about the college admissions process. The parents and students asked me the golden question as to what drew me to UVA and my answer was the immense amount of diversity, the supportive communities, and the opportunity to find a passion and stick with it whether it be an organization or a major.

I explained that at UVA I have met people from many different backgrounds despite the fact that statistically minorities comprise a very small part of the population. Meeting people of different backgrounds whether it be in regards to ethnicity, religion, or economic status, etc. really depends on stepping out of your comfort zone. However whether or not you step out of your comfort zone, at some point during your career at the University of Virginia you will meet someone who is a polar opposite from you in almost every way and it definitely open up your mind to see the world from another person’s view.
The black community at UVA is very supportive as well, and I reassured the parents that even though we are small in numbers we are very open and welcoming towards anyone who wishes to join predominately black organizations. A supportive community at UVA is not hard to find though, whether it be a cultural organization, a sports team, or an academic organization here at UVA you will find your niche/niches and be supported, loved, and comforted when needed. Fall Fling was an amazing opportunity for potential students and parents to get a different view from the student perspective and I think many of them left satisfied knowing that their child could possibly find a new home here at the University.

Fall Blast 2014

By Nataly Luque

Fall Blast is an event the office of Dean of Students hosts every school year to welcome prospective High School Latino students to the University of Virginia for an afternoon of speakers and sessions.

My name is Nataly Luque and I’m the President of the Latino Student Alliance. I volunteered for the Lunch Buddies session and also gave a speech for the closing session on what my experience has been here at UVA. For Lunch Buddies, I sat with two families, Cristian and his father and Jennifer and her father. It was so exciting to meet potential UVA Latino students. But as I conversed more with the students, I tried to place myself in their shoes and I tried to gear my questions and answers based on their experiences. Answering questions about the Engineering school, financial aid, and the social life here were the center of our conversations. However, the conversation I enjoyed the most was when we talked about what it means to be “successful.” As I talked to the parents, I quickly learned the parents were extremely passionate about their kids going to college- a trait I admire in my mother and a good reason why I am where I am today. Following the lunch was the closing session in the Newcomb Theater, where I gave a small speech. I talked about my background, both being Mexican and coming from a low-income family and how hard the change to UVA was. In the end, I ended my speech explaining that all the struggles I’ve faced in my life have only made me a stronger student, leader, and person overall. Although I left my speech thinking it may have been too brutally honest, I was proud to truly explain what my experience has been here in hopes of inspiring everyone in the room. I think Fall Blast is a crucial event for the Latino community at UVA. I hope LSA becomes more involved with it next year. Although I am not the person to sugar-coat things, I am the person to offer my help and encouragement to students that are starting this new phase in their lives. Fall Blast gave me the great opportunity to do so.

From Durham to a Dorm Room: My First Year at the University

by Bianca Decatur

Hi everyone! My name is Bianca and I’m a first year from North Carolina. The time since move-in day has flown by, and adjusting has been fun and crazy all at once. The biggest impact on my college experience thus far has been the people I’ve met, especially my roommate.

After I officially accepted Virginia’s offer of admission, I spent a lot of time trying to search for the perfect roommate. I read roommate profiles, social media pages, and messaged girls for what seemed like an eternity. In the end, I got tired of the roommate search and went random. Enter Kerstin (pronounced care-stin), an Ohio native who now lives with me. Basically, we filled out a survey about ourselves, and the school used our respective surveys to match us with each other. If choosing a roommate through Facebook or Roomsurf isn’t appealing, I’d definitely recommend the University’s random match program.

So far, things have been working out really well. Every day is a new experience in getting to know each other. Of course, living with a complete stranger was a little awkward at first, but things worked themselves out. Now that we’ve settled in, the two of us hang out all the time. Like true college students, we’re always on the hunt for two things: Free food and free t-shirts. However, we do sometimes splurge and go out with friends for dinner on the Corner or shopping on the Downtown Mall.

During the first couple weeks of school, our RA required us to fill out roommate contracts that basically set boundaries for each other. Kerstin and I had two main rules: Don’t be a jerk, and don’t be passive aggressive. Basically, we strive to respect each other and have open communication with each other. Each one of us tries to act with the other person in mind. If something is wrong, we mention it. Talking things out before they can escalate is a great way to keep small problems from turning into bigger issues later on.

There is always something to do here, whether it’s a sporting event, hall mixer, or even just a quick trip downtown to get dinner. The University and surrounding area is bursting at the seams with options for entertainment. Charlottesville has tons of restaurants, and there is always something going on. Overall, I’ve enjoyed my time here at UVA. Although I’m several hours away from home, I’ve managed to make a home of my own in my University community.



By Ravynn Stringfield

The most exhilarating and yet most terrifying thing about college is the connections you will form with people. The people I’m surrounding myself with today might be bridesmaids at my wedding and their children might call me “Aunt Ravynn.” And while a lot of these connections might happen organically or even by chance, the best relationships are the ones that are fostered by communities.

We do not lack communities at UVa. You will find somewhere that you fit. Some are automatic and determined by a box you check. If you self identify as black, the Black Community will welcome you here. There are some that spring up based on a need to help our Black students succeed. Our Peer Advisor Program offers that to incoming first year students. Often the bonds last even after the first year of advising is over; I still help my advisee from last year in French. But some of the best are the communities that spring up as if God Himself knew that these people needed each other.

I refuse to call what my seven or so “first years” have a simple friendship. They’re bonded by more than scholarship groups and labels. What bonds them is mutual respect, intellectual pursuits and a common understanding. They support each other. They help each other. They eat together. They pray together at church on Sundays.

I’m always in awe of them and of the home they’ve created. I feel like a big sister to them but in true UVa 3rd year style, I can’t always be around. I worry about them and pray for them, because, let’s face it: first year is hard. What gives me peace of mind is that they have a community and a home amongst each other. They will look out for one another, including me. There hasn’t been a night I’ve hung out with them yet that they didn’t leave me until they saw I was safely on the bus home.

I’m not the only one who feels the family vibe. When confronted with the choice of studying chemistry for an upcoming exam or supporting one of his crew at one of her first collegiate dramatic performances, he said, “I gotta support the fam.”

So, parents, worry not. Prospectives, don’t fret.

We are big on communities here. Our Black community at UVA loves our Black students.

They will be supported. They will be loved. They will prosper.

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Hispanic Heritage Month

By Claudia Castaneda and Andrea Perez

Hola! This is Claudia and Andrea, we are Hispanic students here at UVa. This month we celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month. We make up about 5% of the student body here and use this month to represent our culture. A multitude of events, ranging from the traditional Latinos on the lawn to the blowout Latino Student Alliance (LSA) and Peer Mentoring Program (PMP) Carnival at the end, will take place this month. It’s a culmination of educational events and fiestas that celebrate food and dance.

Both LSA and PMP are two of the most recognized Latino/Hispanic student organizations on grounds. If you don’t know what these organizations are, LSA’s website states, “In order to have a more autonomous voice regarding how to respond to issues faced by Latino students, and to escape from the limitations brought forth by having a faculty-led program, participants in La Alianza decided to form their own, student-led organization to serve as the representative body for Latinos in the University” ( PMP is dedicated to helping ease the transition into college for first years and transfer students in the Hispanic/Latino community by providing an upperclassman mentor who will function as their companion and advisor.

This year it’s been different than in past years due to a couple road bumps with rescheduling; however, the Carnival is sure to make up for the events we lost. The Carnival, which is normally run by LSA, will be co-sponsored by PMP this year. Other organizations will set up booths and have fun games. There will be performances by several a cappella groups like the Virginia Belles, CHOOSE and more. There will also be dance groups like Fuego, which is the Latino dance group on grounds. There’s also going to be soccer and other activities. And, of course, there will be LOTS of Latino food to eat and a photo booth to document it all.

5% is just a number. We still are able to celebrate our culture and community on grounds. You will find some of your closest friends and they will become your familia.