Jackson: Prioritize attending multicultural student group performances, events

Cassidy Jackson, Op-Ed Contributor

About two weeks ago, I went with a friend to SASA’s Spring Concert, naively expecting a student dance production similar to SASA’s “21 Devon Street” performance. I quickly realized that it was, just as it was labeled, a concert. It featured Mickey Singh and DJ Twinbeatz, two artists who were not previously in my music library.

Down $10, I sat in my seat and looked around to see only South Asian students. Being a minority myself, I’m used to looking around a room and only identifying a few people of color. This was different, though; South Asian students filled Ryan Auditorium, which was only lightly sprinkled (and I mean lightly) with people of other racial backgrounds. When the lights dimmed and the night’s headliners took the stage, the audience rushed toward the performers with their glow sticks in hand. It seriously felt like a Jonas Brothers concert.

It took 15 minutes for my friend and me to realize that the event was simply a concert — there would be no SASA dance performances to come. After the initial frustration at my own stupidity wore off, I began to really take note of what I saw. I counted a handful of people of non-Asian descent there, including my friend and me. I’m not a social media person, but I immediately whipped out my phone to tweet about it, even though that’s never been my immediate reaction to anything.

I typed a thread of three tweets, the last of which was, “Where’s the support?” I felt slightly hypocritical typing that, knowing I would have probably passed on the event if I had known what it actually was. Yet, my sentiments were real. Art created by minorities is often seen as second-tier. It rarely enters pop culture, instead remaining on the outskirts in subculture categories. If it does hit the pop culture scene, it fades away after 15 minutes unless it gets successfully appropriated into the mainstream. It’s frustrating, but as I sat in the crowd, I quickly realized I was witnessing something special.

Right in front of my eyes, I was experiencing something breathtaking: a glimpse into a culture that wasn’t my own. Granted, it was a tiny piece of a much larger and deeper culture, but I immediately made the decision to soak up the magic. There were so many pieces of the puzzle that stuck out. There were three girls passionately singing along in the row in front of me. Every time the DJ changed the track, they would shake each other exuberantly, their faces lighting up with both recognition and pure excitement. I thought to myself, “There are artists that make me feel that way too, and it’s beautiful to see these artists doing that for them.”

Although popular American songs were thrown into rotation, the majority of the songs were in a language I, of course, didn’t recognize. I had no idea what was being said, but I enjoyed the show despite the fact that I might not have been the intended audience.

With the independence and free time college brings, having experiences that expose us to cultures not represented in the media should be a must. As I stood in line to file into Ryan Auditorium, the line was packed mostly with South Asian parents and students, and I felt out of place. I’m not South Asian, I thought to myself. Was I supposed to be there? But it’s 2018 — it was time to let go of the excuse of discomfort and embrace the opportunity to learn.

Cassidy Jackson is a Medill freshman. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.