The crowd is silent as Yasmin Glinton bares a part of her soul through her words. Standing onstage and unable to see the eyes of her listeners, Glinton reads three poems with confidence and emotion, feeding off her own energy.
Seeing only the stage lights means Glinton doesn’t know how her audience is reacting to her words until it comes time for applause.
“It’s hard to tell if they like it or if they’re not liking it or if it’s going over their head,” Glinton said.
For Glinton, who’s studying education at St. Thomas University, standing on this stage and reading her poetry is about more than sharing her words.
It’s about sharing a piece of her culture and it’s something she has done on this stage every year for the last three or four years as part of the STU International Students Association’s multicultural fair.
“It’s always a great feeling to share a part of who I am because I take a lot of pride in who I am and where I come from,” said Glinton, who is originally from The Bahamas.
The multicultural fair takes over two levels of the SUB atrium every year and gives international students and community members, like Glinton, a chance to showcase a piece of who they are.
It’s the biggest event the tight-knit STUISA puts on every year and requires planning a month and ahead in advance.
A ticket gets you into the atrium, where you can look at eight displays from countries around the world, eat new and interesting food from 11 different countries and catch a show that includes singing, dancing and modeling, with clothing from 15 different countries.
This year, most of the chairs are filled with Canadian and international students as well as families from the greater community.
One reason why the multicultural fair has been successful because Canadian students and the community have been receptive to it, said STUISA president Devika Dadhe.
“They’ve been very welcoming to the idea,” Dadhe said.
“It’s because of them the event is so big now.”
Dadhe, now in her fourth year, has been involved with the fair since her first year. Originally from India, Dadhe has shared a Bollywood dance and modeled her country’s traditional clothing many times at the fair.
Being onstage and sharing your culture is an exhilarating feeling, Dadhe said.
“After we’re doing our performance and everyone applauds, you just feel like you’ve done the best thing because so many people now actually know what your culture is like, at least a part of it.
“They’re so encouraging and accepting that you always want to give back, you always want to do more.”
Before the show starts and long before Glinton’s words fill the atrium, Anthony Peter-Paul, Aaron Barlow and Ronnie Stevens bless the show by performing the Mi’kmaq honour song.
“To start off a gathering, we sing the honour song to bless a gathering and to ask the good spirits to come in to bless the whole ceremony,” Stevens said.
“It’s great to get a glimpse of our culture.”
The honour song, which lasts several minutes, entrances the audience. When it’s finished, one of the hosts, Ecuadorian student Lisette Arevalo, says she has never experienced anything like it before.
While the magic is happening onstage, volunteers are busy backstage lining up acts or preparing their talent.
Maite Loria, a first-year student from Costa Rica, is organizing the fashion show. She arrived at the SUB at 8 a.m. that morning and kept going until after the show.
When she first received her task, Loria wasn’t sure there would be enough clothing to model. But after sending a few emails to organizations in the greater Fredericton community, lots of people offered to donate traditional clothing for the event.
With more than enough clothes to model, Loria’s focus is now on making sure everybody knows when they’re supposed to be onstage and where they’re supposed to go.
Even though Loria is modelling clothing from Pakistan rather than her home country, she thinks it’s cool to share a piece of your culture with others.
“It’s important to show because this is where we come from. This is why we are the way we are and this is why we choose to be here.
“It’s important to know this stuff if you really want to know the person.”
In the past, the money raised from the fair has gone to fund emergency bursaries and to organizations like Friends of Kofi.
“Depending on the revenue this year, we are going to help as many charities as we can,” Dadhe said.
“It’s giving back to the community. You’ve shown us so much support, it’s the least we can do to help.”
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