Culture | November 27th, 2023

Embracing Diversity: A Friendsgiving Across the Tracks

By: Tianna Fannell
Embracing Diversity: A Friendsgiving Across the Tracks

At Florida A&M University, pride in Black culture and unity as a family are significant values. This year presented a unique opportunity when a friend extended an invitation to a gathering across the tracks at Florida State University.

Despite unfamiliarity with the attendees, the goal was to engage and connect with new people actively. The event aimed to promote unity by sharing diverse cultural dishes and highlighting an array of backgrounds and faces present at the gathering.

Cultural Fusion Through Culinary Diversity

The culinary spread showcased a vibrant spectrum: Mexican empanadas, Colombian Chicharron Colombiano, Jamaican jerk chicken pasta and more. The beauty of culinary exploration lies in the opportunity to experience someone’s childhood on a plate. It’s a gateway to worldwide understanding and appreciating diverse traditions, flavors, and techniques.

The Friendsgiving atmosphere buzzed with anticipation as people from different backgrounds gathered to share their unique cuisines. 

As a Jamaican American, it is known that the flavors and spices associated with one’s culture have always been a central part of their life. However, it became apparent that others had yet to experience the richness of Jamaican cuisine.

Andrea Lopez-Taylor, a charming hostess with Mexican heritage, had the pleasure of encountering Jamaican food. Her infectious enthusiasm for trying it was evident, and a palpable excitement filled the air as she savored her first bite.

“I thought it would be extra spicy, but it’s absolutely delicious! I can handle the heat,” said Lopez-Taylor. “I loved the red peppers in it. I’ve never had pasta with red peppers; I’ve had various types of Latina pasta, but this was the best pasta I’ve had, and the jerk chicken with it made it even better. It seemed like a simple dish but has many different flavors.”

Witnessing another person’s reaction to something that has been a part of one’s culture brings a certain level of joy that cannot be explained. It’s as if a sparkle in their eyes makes it worth trying.

According to the article “Understanding Culture: Food as a Means of Communication” by Nevana Stajcic, food is an intimate way of sharing one’s culture. The same excitement experienced when Andrea Lopez took her first bite could be seen in everyone’s eyes as they watched someone indulge in the food they brought. There was a shared feeling of embracing each other’s culture.

Bonds Beyond Borders: Beyond the Table

Beyond the culinary indulgence, the gathering ignited connections through dominos, board games, and an animated karaoke session. Conversations delved deeper, transcending cultural boundaries, weaving shared childhood narratives, and navigating the complexities of growing up in culturally diverse milieus.

Most of us shared a similar experience when we came to America—a phenomenon known as culture shock. For those who grew up here, many never considered culture shock as they were already assimilated into American culture alongside their own. Culture shock refers to the disorientation or discomfort one may experience when encountering a different culture, often due to unfamiliar customs, behaviors, social norms, and ways of life.

According to “The Psychology of Culture Shock,” interacting with culturally different individuals or navigating unfamiliar settings is inherently stressful, ranging from mild discomfort to severe anxiety.

Moving to America was a pivotal moment in our lives. For most of us, immense anxiety accompanied the feeling of being stripped away from what we knew and forced to adapt to the unknown. However, this adjustment phase eventually opened doors to a greater understanding of different cultures, fostering a sense of empathy and appreciation for diverse perspectives.

Akira Harty moved to America from Antigua and Barbuda at the age of 10. Despite the distance, her family cherished their homeland by keeping its traditions alive in their new home. Through stories, food, and celebrations, they preserved the essence of Antigua and Barbuda. This connection remained strong, making her feel that her homeland was an integral part of her daily life, thriving through family bonds and tradition.

“Moving away was so hard for me, but my family wanted us to have more opportunities,” said Akira Harty. “I can never forget the first time I came to America. The only thing I had that reminded me of home was my parents and the memories I brought. Food was comfort because it reminded me of where I came from.”

Unraveling the Tapestry: Embracing Diversity

As the Friendsgiving event unfolded, the bonds formed went beyond the initial unease of unfamiliar cultural terrains. The gathering became a testament to the resilience and adaptability of individuals in embracing diversity.

Through shared stories of cultural integration and transformation, it became evident that cultural shocks, although challenging, led to personal growth and an expanded worldview. Expanding on this understanding, each person at the gathering contributed to the tapestry of cultural diversity. It was a mosaic woven with threads of varying experiences, each adding depth and vibrancy to the shared narrative of the evening.

The Dallas Morning News underscores the importance of understanding different cultural backgrounds, emphasizing how this expands horizons and enables richer interpersonal dialogues. Nurturing relationships through the appreciation of diverse narratives offers unparalleled experiences, fostering a community that thrives on inclusivity and understanding.

In the end, as the Friendsgiving gathering concluded, it left an indelible mark on everyone present. It was not merely about sharing meals but about sharing stories, connecting hearts, and building bridges that transcended boundaries.

This Friendsgiving across the tracks gave a perspective like no other; it illustrated how food brings people together. It was a passage to engage with new faces, embrace varied cultures, and transform Friendsgiving into a narrative weaving understanding, appreciation, and meaningful cultural exchange.