Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Student organizations host affinity formals to find, foster community

Illustration by Kelley Lu
Students enjoy an evening of dress-up and dancing with members of their affinity groups.

The final stretch of Spring Quarter brings a myriad of events, including formals hosted by student affinity groups. 

Hundreds of students travel around Chicagoland each year for an evening of fun to celebrate their communities and cultures at events like Middle Eastern North African Student Association Formal, Chinese Students Association Formal and Queer Prom.

Weinberg junior and Black Formal Co-President Ashley Brobbey said the organization aims to relieve stress, gather students from all grades and operate independent of specific affinity-association to bring “joy in the Black community.”  

Brobbey said Black Formal formed after the results from a previous Black Student Experience Report called for “a need for a specific formal for black identified students at Northwestern.” 

“In the past, we’ve seen formals for lots of different social groups, and the formals that were hosted for the Black community were often Greek-related,” Brobbey said. “So we wanted to just have one that was separate and inclusive of everyone and happening annually.”

For smaller communities on campus, SESP sophomore and Vietnamese Student Association Co-President Anna Truong said formals bring students of diverse backgrounds together. VSA joins the Indonesian Students’ Association, Thai Student Association, Singaporean student group The Red Dot and Philippine-American student group Kaibigan to form the Southeast Asian Alliance. 

Because these five Southeast Asian organizations operate independently of one another, this year’s SEA Formal — “SEAcret Garden” — looks to celebrate culture and traditions with affinity members among the groups, Truong said. 

“There’s not a huge (Southeast Asian) population here,” Truong said. “So it’s a chance for them to celebrate their culture and be with those who understand their culture and their traditions and really have this sense of community on campus.”

SEA Formal will be hosted at a pho restaurant to support a local Southeast Asian business and enjoy its cuisine, Truong said.

South Asian Students Alliance Formal, held on May 3, provided attendees with traditional Indian food and music and offered the opportunity to dress in South Asian attire. 

Weinberg sophomore Anitej Siluveru, SASA’s Co-Director of Social Affairs, said many members in the group are children of first or second-generation Americans, making it difficult for them to connect with their culture. 

“We thought it would be a fun experience to create this space where people would be able to have an opportunity to dress up,” Siluveru said. “At the same time, if you are a foreign student studying here from a South Asian country, you maybe don’t have many opportunities to express that area of your culture.”

Though the formals are attended mainly by members of the groups to celebrate community and culture, some were also open to non-members. 

Silveru said many SASA members invited friends to attend their formal to enjoy the evening. 

“We’re trying to create a big event that is able to celebrate South Asian culture on campus in a way that it was celebrating our culture and also just bringing people together,” Silveru said. 

Brobbey said she joined the organizing committee for Black Formal to host an event for students to look forward to at the end of the school year and “see physical joy on people’s faces.” 

Because the venue-finding process can be tedious due to contract negotiations with the University, Brobbey said organizers of Black Formal begin planning the following year’s formal immediately following the event’s conclusion.

“I just wanted to help people and make sure that the Black students could find joy in something, because it’s already a rough experience at Northwestern,” Brobbey said. “This year was pretty successful, and we’re excited to do it again for next year.” 

Email: [email protected] 

X: @kelleylu_

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