Penn’s United Minorities Council brings back Unity Week festivities.
To mark its 45th anniversary, the United Minorities Council (UMC) hosted a Unity Week celebration from November 13 to 17.
Held annually before the pandemic, Unity Week is an opportunity to celebrate cultural differences and similarities—with events that include showcasing rice from all over the world; highlighting various student art, dance, and singing groups; and revisiting the history of the UMC, which is a coalition of Penn’s minority student organizations.
Since the pandemic, UMC has been trying to restore annual events like Unity Week to foster intercultural dialogue and celebrate the diversity of roughly 30 student groups that belong to the umbrella organization.
“One thing that we’ve really been focused on is revitalizing what UMC’s core mission is,” said Oumy Diasse C’24, the UMC’s current chair. Diasse noted that the core mission is to “ensure that people have spaces where they can see people of similar cultures as them—but also see people with different cultures and see that at the core we have a lot of similarities.”
Valerie de Cruz, the director of the Greenfield Intercultural Center, where the UMC is headquartered, called the UMC a “structure that can bring students together across differences to celebrate their rich heritage and to share and learn from each other”—which in turn will “help to enrich the campus community.”
The UMC holds biweekly constituency meetings to discuss issues such as funding and programming. A series called “Minorities In,” which brings in Penn alumni to speak about their work, is one of the council’s initiatives.
Amidst tensions on campus, the UMC leaders hope to provide a safe, non-political space where students can come together, be themselves, and learn about others. One of the most popular events during Unity Week was a rice tasting in which students tried rice dishes from a panoply of Asian, Latin American, Caribbean, and African cuisines. More than 100 students attended, mingling to talk with peers instead of grabbing their food and leaving. “So many people use rice as a staple around the world,” said UMC vice chair Fiona Wu EAS’25, adding that the chance to “come together and just eat the rice and maybe meet people that you’ve never met before” is what the event was all about.
Looking ahead to the spring semester, Diasse and Wu hope to ramp up UMC’s presence on campus and expand opportunities for alumni to support their programming.
Kia Lor, the Greenfield Intercultural Center’s associate director who advises the UMC, believes the coalition “is in a really unique position right now to say, ‘How do we heal? How do we do it through cross-cultural dialogue? … How do we do it through deep listening?’I think that’s my hope for the United Minorities’ Council.”
—Hannah Chang C’27