AHS Students feel as though American does not properly celebrate cultures through the time-constrained International Week.
American’s annual International Week did a complete 180 this year. The typical food stands and cardboard trifolds of cultural information were replaced with a website created by senior Veda Periwal full of virtual carnival games, online recipes, traditional dances, music, and videos showcasing other parts of international culture. Several different cultural and noncultural clubs took part in representing a variety of countries all over the world in these activities. In light of recent racially relevant news (the Black Lives Matter movement, the Asian Pacific Islander community coming under attack, Afghanistan, Armenia, and Yemen’s crises), many were worried that International Week did not do enough to educate students and people on these issues. As the ASB Clubs Committee and the cultural clubs of our school were organizing this year’s International Week, they had to take these issues into account.
Nicole Lai, the Clubs Committee head, had a lot to consider with her committee with how to approach this year’s International Week, both because of the recent, sensitive events and because this was the first ever virtual International Week that American had organized.
“This educational stance on International Week has brought up the question of representation and being a moment of highlighting our student body. This year, we wanted to ensure equality in the countries being presented so we had a quota of countries for each continent, eliminating the imbalance between continental representation. However, does it really represent us and our student body well? Each student is much more than just their ethnicity or race, and even if we managed to give a great description of every single country that every single student at AHS has hailed from, we would not capture all the other unique details and identities that are evident in our school.” explained Lai (12).
Aside from the ASB heads, the club heads also had a lot to think about in regards to what they wanted to show from their countries to American this year. Luke Maverick Fauni (12), head of the Filipino Student Association Club liked the educational aspect that was continued into this year, but felt it was not enough to properly represent students internationally.
“Each club had a “carnival game” to end the week that was engaging and also educational. For me, it’s very important that we try to represent all ethnicities regardless of it being online or in-person . . . [but] personally . . . I don’t think one week is enough to represent all of the different ethnicities in our school and the world in general, [especially] since after that week people kind of forget about it.” said Fauni (12).
Kristina Reyes (12), an active participant of International Week for the past four years has also shared the same sentiment as Fauni, believing that one week is not enough to celebrate all of the diverse cultures of the world.
“It’s international week. So I feel like there’s just more than just [a country’s] specific culture [to celebrate]. We only have like a week to like explain each and individual country. Of course, there can be more that can be done obviously, [but] given the timestamp that we have, I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job at representing each country.” she says.
The question remains for many students on how to approach the increasingly sensitive subject of cultural representation. To many, International week seems too short of an event in order to properly represent and celebrate the diverse world the students of American live in, but for now the tradition is set to continue and discussion about how to approach the subject will be up to the organizers of the event.