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Gen Rep 1 Office’s Hub encourages conversation about culture

By Zach Hotis

Feb. 11, 2015 2:07 a.m.

The original version of this article contained multiple errors and has been changed. See the bottom of the article for more information.

A bright display of national flags, vibrant artwork and cultural artifacts transformed the once white walls of a room in the James West Alumni Center into a large painting, each section distinct from the next.

The display was part of a new, ongoing event series called the Hub, sponsored by the Undergraduate Students Association Council General Representative 1 Office. The Hub aims to give students a space to come together and gain a better understanding of diversity through conversation, food and performance on a monthly basis, said General Representative 1 Manjot Singh.

About 100 people attended the event’s inaugural night, which cost $687 to put on. The Assistant Vice Chancellor’s Student Activities Fund covered the cost of the event, Singh said.

Several student groups, including Samahang Pilipino, Union Salvadorena de Estudiantes Universitarios and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, sold food and drinks that they said represented their cultures. Some groups displayed national flags and artwork at the event.

Singh said he modeled the program after similar projects at other University of California schools, including UC Berkeley, that have designated spaces for multicultural mixers. He added that he thinks this is the first step in following through on his campaign platform of creating a permanent place for cultural exchange at UCLA.

“The Hub is the place I wish I had as a freshman,” Singh said. “In its simplest form, the Hub is here to help people make new friends.”

The UCLA student group Social Awareness Network for Activism through Art displayed nine different paintings depicting different scenarios of suffering and social inequality as part of its effort to merge multicultural art with critical thinking about social justice.

“The Hub is about expanding your bubble and expanding your consciousness,” said Amara Green, a third-year world arts and cultures student and SANAA member.

The smell of cinnamon filled the air around the table for MEChA, as students enjoyed cups of horchata and chatted with one another about how good the drink was. Members of the club said they enjoyed sharing their culture with the students who attended the event.

“The Hub provides a place for people to step back from their busy lives and share their food, their drink and their culture,” said Luis Lira, a fourth-year English and Chicana/o studies student and MEChA member.

The Hub also featured visual performances to facilitate conversation between students.

“What makes up your experience in college is conversations, and if you talk to the same people over and over you end up stuck in a circle,” said Jaimeson Cortez, a third-year political science student and a member of multiple USAC offices. “The Hub allows students to break that circle through multicultural exchange.”

Syed Bashir Hydari, first-year psychobiology student, danced freestyle in front of the crowd of 40 attendees, while the bass of a hip-hop beat reverberated around the room. He locked all parts of his body in perfect synchronization with the beat, energizing the crowd of students. Hydari smiled, gave the crowd a nod and headed back to his table, starting a conversation with one of the audience members.

“Urban freestyle culture is about intimately connecting mind, body and soul to the music,” Hydari said. “The body is an instrument.”

Future Hub events will focus on different diversity-related themes, said Jenifer Logia, a fourth-year international development studies student and one of the directors in charge of planning the event.

“Different themes such as activism and art will help students learn about their narratives and their struggles in different ways,” Logia said.

Singh said he hopes the Hub will be a place where students can come, feel comfortable and talk to others regardless of their differences.

Correction: Jaimeson Cortez’ first name was misspelled. About 100 people attended the event, not 40. The event was held at the James West Alumni Center, not the John Wooden Center.

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