MADE by more than just culture

After a year of difficult con­versations regarding racial, ethnic and cultural identity at Wheaton College, the MADE events this week have brought back a vital el­ement to the discussion: celebra­tion. Each event, from the Arena Theater workshop on Monday to the multicultural food tast­ing and communal art in lower Beamer Center leading up to the MADE finale performance on Friday evening, has been de­signed to share student narratives.
Although MADE is officially a College Union event, CU col­laborated with a wide spectrum of the student offices on campus. Ten students from Arena Theater, World Christian Fellowship, Of­fice of Multicultural Develop­ment, Office of Christian Out­reach and the Student Activities Office banded together to form the first MADE committee. The idea for MADE, however, originated long before the spring semester when the committee formed, and even before the extended discus­sions of race, culture and diver­sity began on campus this year.
At the beginning of the school year, CU Events Coordinator se­nior Irving Ruiz made one of his initiatives for the year to create a new CU event focused on the multicultural makeup of Whea­ton College. The vision came from an idea he had at the end of the previous school year, before he joined CU. “I thought it would be really powerful for CU to do it,” he said. “I know when we talk about diversity on campus we tend to think about racial diversity a lot. For this event we wanted to really focus on the diversity within dif­ferent experiences that we have on campus. I think a lot of times we focus on racial diversity, and what people look like, and not really fo­cus on the inside of what certain experiences make certain people.”
At the start of the spring se­mester, Ruiz’ initiative started to come to fruition when he teamed up with Charlotte Hallstrom, ju­nior and CU Concerts Manager. Hallstrom was seeking to create a concert that would push the mu­sical boundaries of Wheaton Col­lege. “We tend to be homogeneous in our musical styles,” Hallstrom explained, “And I was purposeful­ly looking for musical groups that would kind of break the mold.”
Although both Ruiz and Hall­strom are on College Union, nei­ther wanted MADE to be exclu­sively a CU event. “We have been very purposeful in making it a partnership with other organiza­tions on campus as CU is not the only one to whom cultural issues are important to. But we thought, with the platform and the resourc­es that we have, we would take ad­vantage of that,” Hallstrom said.
Neither Hallstrom nor Ruiz anticipated the things that un­folded on campus, or the heated discussions that arose from them. However, Hallstrom said that she didn’t believe it was a mistake that this was the year MADE broke ground. Ruiz said, “I think with just everything that’s been go­ing on, I think our campus just really needed a time to celebrate each other, and not fight with one another about what we be­lieve in, what we think is right, why we should feel a certain way. We wanted to give the cam­pus an atmosphere to celebrate.”
After the MADE commit­tee was formed and its tasks and vision established, Arena Theater took the first serve by introducing a month of story circles, CPO notes and inter­views prior to the MADE week.
Junior Sukyung Park from Arena Theater explained the val­ue of theater techniques like story circles in relation to reconciling narratives of pain with celebra­tion. “With many people there are a lot of frustrations, question­ing and hard experiences that haven’t been acknowledged yet. It may hard to ask people to cel­ebrate without their stories and questions at least be heard. We re­served the story circles for people to question and share their stories.”
Park continued to give her thoughts on students who are less comfortable with multicultural, racial conversations. She said, “I think story circles were meant to create an equal platform for peo­ple who feel like they have a place in this conversation and people who feel like they don’t. What­ever stories people have, whether you’re a person of color or not, the stories can speak for them­selves, and they have impact.”
The upcoming MADE finale on Friday operates under the same principle. Hallstrom and sophomore Prisca Tuyishime have collected a number of talents that are not all traditional to their culture. “Sometimes the who and what is not necessarily represent­ed by the color of your skin or the heritage that your family holds near. We have been made in the environments that we have been made for a purpose, cultures that we have been brought up in for a purpose, and we want to celebrate those things together, collectively, and not our own — what makes me unique — but what makes us an image of the body of Christ,” Hallstrom said. This is MADE’s first year, but Ruiz says he hopes that it will continue as a bi-annual event — once during the fall se­mester and once in the spring.
The underlying theme of shar­ing stories in MADE is very similar to the biblical mandate to share testimonies. Hallstrom pointed out, “It’s a testimonial event, but it may look a little more different than what we’re used to.”

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