Kent State celebrates first annual DiversiFEST

Cameron Gorman

Kent State’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion kicked off their first ever DiversiFEST at the Williamson House Saturday morning as part of the university’s Homecoming activities.

“We have our own department — (DEI) — so I think it’s super exciting to let people know we’re here,” said Stephanie Orwick, a Support Services coordinator and event volunteer. “Everybody can be involved, and we really wanted it to be a welcoming environment … (so that) everybody has a safe space.”

The festival, which ran from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., aimed to promote the diversity of Kent State’s cultural climate. It saw support from many of the university’s communities.

“I’m actually here with some people from the LGBTQ Student Center.” said Andy Martinez, a graduate cultural anthropology student. “We have a lot of very diverse experiences here, and you know, it really helps people to understand each other a bit better. I’m also studying anthropology, so you really see the value in that.”

Attendance was free with a reservation, and open to everyone — from students to families. Positioned alongside the homecoming parade route, the festival offered a free lunch of catered foods, balloon animals, activities, music, basketball and more for those who stopped by.

“Well, it’s the first year for DiversiFEST, so we came out to see what it was about, and have fun with people,” said Alexus Huntley, a senior human development and family studies major.

The spirited atmosphere was bolstered by activities and games such as cornhole, as well as a dance performance by Asé Xpressions — a Kent State group that celebrates and performs African dance.

“African dance culture isn’t really noticed much on Kent’s campus, and we wanted to just bring awareness to African culture and African dance,” said Marquita Williams, a dancer and sophomore finance major.

Students, parents, children, university employees and even the university’s homecoming court itself were welcomed into the white tents that housed the buffet during the afternoon.

DiversiFEST is to become an annual event in the coming years — an inclusive part of Kent State’s homecoming entertainment, that will be, according to Orwick, “bigger and better every year.”

“We want everybody to feel safe and welcome,” Orwick said, “and I think, you know, if we have this big event, and we celebrate it … if you build it, they will come.”

Cameron Gorman is a diversity reporter, contact her at [email protected]