UI’s annual Multicultural Block Party brings together cultural group

Both students and various cultural groups attended the Block Party, which occurred outside on Tuesday.


Lillie Hawker

A block party-goer grabs a plate of egg rolls at the Homecoming Multicultural Block Party on Tuesday, October 25, 2022.

Kufre Ituk, News Reporter

The University of Iowa held its annual Multicultural Block Party on Tuesday, an event aimed at bringing together the community’s different cultural groups.

Hosted by the UI Homecoming Executive Council and Office of Multicultural and International Student Support and Engagement, the block party was held outside several of the university’s cultural centers like the Afro-American Cultural Center, the Latino Native American Cultural Center, and the Pride Alliance Center.

Jasmine Lee and Gustavo Orellana Santos, two UI second-year students, served as co-directors for the Multicultural Block Party. The Multicultural Block Party happens every year as part of the UI’s Homecoming week celebration and highlights diversity within the university.

“We wanted to elevate and give an outlet,” Lee said. “Its intent is to give marginalized students a voice in Homecoming at a predominantly white institution where voices have been erased in the past.”

Santos also thanked one of the sponsors of the event, MISSE, for helping coordinate the block party by inviting vendors and student groups.

Multiple types of groups attended the event, including student organizations, sororities, and fraternities.

Gilberto Ruiz, a UI second-year student and member of the Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity, attended the festival work at his fraternity’s booth. Sigma Lambda Beta is a fraternity that focuses on uplifting Latin men and other men in the UI community.

“We’re open to anyone, and we provide space to speak up about themselves,” Ruiz said. “We provide help with academics and provide people with mental health struggles with support.”

Fraternities like Sigma Lambda Beta are part of the university’s Multicultural Greek Council, which includes sororities like Lambda Theta Nu Sorority, Inc. and Gamma Rho Lambda.

Jennifer Cano, a UI fourth-year student, attended the festival to represent Lambda Theta Nu Sorority, Inc. The sorority, which is predominately for Latinas, helps foster a feeling of community on campus for Cano.

“Our mission is to empower young women in our community and to help them achieve professional development,” Cano said. “We want to bring a home away from home.”

Abinadi Rivera-Aguirre, a third-year UI student and member of Lambda Theta Nu Sorority, Inc., said the sorority gives Latina, Black, and Brown women on campus a place for themselves.

“I think here on campus, we go to a predominantly white university, and it’s kind of hard to find community and to be seen and to be heard,” Rivera-Aguirre said. “We have to make a name for ourselves and show that marginalized communities are here, that Black and Brown folk are here. We’re empowered and very proud to be ourselves.”

RELATED: Photos: University of Iowa Homecoming Multicultural Block Party

For Mairen Thompson, a UI third-year student and a Gamma Rho Lambda member, said she went to the festival to represent the sorority, which advocates as a space for queer people on campus.

“[We want] to bring more awareness that there are LGBTQ+ here at the University of Iowa,” Thompson said. “We definitely do have a presence on campus. Even though we are smaller than some of the sororities and fraternities on campus, we are still a part of the sorority and fraternity groups at the University of Iowa.”

Student organizations that participated in the block party focused on outreach to students who attended, advertising safe spaces to students of all backgrounds and encouraging them to consider joining the groups.

Rachel Li, a UI fourth-year student, attended the block party to represent the Organization for the Active Support of International Students.

The group aims to bridge the gap between international and domestic populations on campus, to allow domestic students to have a broader cultural understanding of the world, and to help international students better acclimate to American society, Li said.

“We do a lot of cultural-based events, and we bring those to a local level for students to understand what’s going on in the world,” Li said. “We’re here [at the festival] to show our support for culture at Iowa and to bring recognition to organizations that students aren’t as familiar with at Iowa.”

Precious Maryah Pate, a UI third-year student, attended the block party to represent SistaSpeak, a student group that promotes positive physical, mental, and emotional health for Black and African American women.

“We support Black women here on campus. It’s open to anyone; it’s for us to bond and to have a safe space,” Pate said. “I hope to spread the word. Most people don’t know about it.”

James McCurtis, a UI first-year student, represented the Black Student Union at the event and emphasized that the group is for anyone who wants to be involved.

“Anyone can join, even if you’re not Black. It’s a great place to learn about the culture,” he said.

Rabiah Na’Allah, a third-year UI student, attended the block party for the first time and enjoyed learning about different cultural groups.

“I’ve never been to this area on campus, so it’s a cool way for me to get exposed,” Na’Allah said. “I’m running into old friends, and I love when I see different cultural organizations, and I love to see them all come together and do an event to celebrate people of color.”

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