Homecoming kicks off with UI’s first Multicultural Block Party

UI Homecoming Week emphasizes diversity with its first Multicultural Block Party.

Members+of+the+National+Pan-Hellenic+Council+perform+a+dance+at+the+African-American+Cultural+House+on+Monday%2C+Oct.+2%2C+2017.+Members+of+the+community+could+attend+the+event+for+free+as+a+part+of+the+University%27s+Homecoming+Week.+%28Ben+Smith%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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Homecoming kicks off with UI’s first Multicultural Block Party

Members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council perform a dance at the African-American Cultural House on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. Members of the community could attend the event for free as a part of the University's Homecoming Week. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council perform a dance at the African-American Cultural House on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. Members of the community could attend the event for free as a part of the University's Homecoming Week. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photo by Ben Sm

Members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council perform a dance at the African-American Cultural House on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. Members of the community could attend the event for free as a part of the University's Homecoming Week. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photo by Ben Sm

The Daily Iowan; Photo by Ben Sm

Members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council perform a dance at the African-American Cultural House on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. Members of the community could attend the event for free as a part of the University's Homecoming Week. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

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Monday evening, Melrose Avenue buzzed with activity for the University of Iowa’s first Multicultural Block Party.

The UI Homecoming Council teamed up with the university’s multicultural centers to put on the block party as a signal boost for their services and place on campus.

The block party is part of an initiative to bring diversity to Homecoming Week. According to its web page, this year is about “coming together as a community in black and gold and celebrating being a Hawkeye.”

“We saw a lack of diversity last year,” said Kierra Lewis, an assistant multicultural director for the Homecoming Council. “We needed to do better.”

The theme for this year’s Homecoming is “Celebrating Iowa — Celebrating as One.”

“At the end of the day, everyone in the community can come together as Hawkeyes,” said Devin Francis, the multicultural initiatives director for the Homecoming Council. “That’s the vibe we’re trying to create.”

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The block party featured attractions at four of the multicultural houses. While the event was missing a couple attractions because of cancellations, Lewis said, there was still enough to retain a crowd.

The UI Afro-American House featured a food vendor serving elotes and sandwiches, as well as three different performances and a DJ to accompany. The first act was from break-dancing group Iowa Breakers, which performed to old-school hip-hop.

The next act was from the UI National Pan-Hellenic Council, which put on choreographed dances to a selection of songs. Capping off the Afro-American House shows was Iowa Andhi, which performed a blend of South Asian dances with a “Western modern twist.”

The UI Latino Native American Cultural Center featured a handful of carnival games to play, including basketball and high striker.

A Jamaican food truck sat by the Asian Pacific American Center, along with a photo booth and a bubble tea vendor. The scent of the food could be detected from yards away.

The culture houses were created at different points during UI history; the Afro-American Cultural Center was established in 1968, the Latino Native American Cultural Center in 1971, the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center in 2003, and the LGBTQ Resource Center in 2006.

The music could be heard all down Melrose, as well as students celebrating each other on a warm Monday night.

“We chose the block party layout to have people visit the different centers,” Francis said. “We feel like the houses aren’t utilized or promoted well enough.”

This initiative for unity and diversity among Hawkeyes for Homecoming will not stop at just the block party, Francis said, citing the Dear World photo shoot on Monday and Tuesday night as another showcase of the UI’s diverse community. In addition, she recognized the positive result of more student groups joining in Iowa Shout than last year.

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