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University groups celebrate Chanukkah and Kwanzaa

Nov 30, 2015
by Blake Hoarty | The Daily Tar Heel

Surrounded by menorahs and kinaras, students ended a Chanukkah and Kwanzaa celebration with a game of dreidel. 

The multicultural affairs and diversity outreach committee of student government, Black Student Movement and UNC Hillel hosted the event at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History on Monday.

Spencer Goodson, student programming and outreach chairperson for student government, attended the event, but she said she doesn't celebrate either of the holidays.

“I learned so much,” Goodson said. “For this being an incredibly diverse campus, I don’t feel like I really have background or knowledge of either one of these holidays, so it was really just an educational opportunity as to why they’re celebrated."

Goodson said it’s important to establish a transparent and culturally educated campus.

Several other people who attended the event celebrated one of the holidays, but wanted to be culturally informed about the other.

Lauren Fine, student leadership coordinator at UNC Hillel, said she celebrates Chanukkah, but she wanted to learn more about Kwanzaa. 

“I already knew some about Kwanzaa, but it’s really important to be refreshed on things,” Fine said. “You can only learn so much about someone else’s cultures, you will never fully know what it’s like to experience it, so the more I learn, the more I can feel connected to others.”

Joy McDowell, the deputy chairperson of the multicultural affairs and diversity outreach committee, said student government wants to bring awareness to different diversity organizations on campus.

“We’re a predominantly white institution,” McDowell said. “A lot of people come from the same background, so we want to showcase parts of people’s culture that are not necessarily looked at a lot.”

McDowell said students should be informed about other religious beliefs.

“It’s important to bring awareness to other aspects of people’s cultures to increase interrelations between people of different faiths and religions, races and backgrounds,” McDowell said. “It’s better when you understand where everyone is coming from.”

Averyl Edwards, board member of Hillel, said she thought student government organized this to recognize other religious celebrations that are not necessarily included in mainstream culture. 

“It’s all the minorities,” Edwards said. “I think they are smaller holidays that do not receive as much attention. I think there’s a lot to be said for solidarity between black people and Jewish people as minority groups that can come together and learn from each other’s experiences.”

Edwards said it’s important to address the diversity on campus.

“I think student government wants to acknowledge that there are other cultural traditions that happen around the holiday season besides Christmas, so this is to highlight other traditions,” Edwards said.

Edwards said inclusion is also key for these minority traditions.

“Every student should be able to see themselves reflected in what the University is supporting,” Edwards said.

North Carolina Hillel Foundation
210 West Cameron Avenue
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
(919) 942-4057

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