DePaul cultural organizations continue building communities remotely

DePaul%27s+Office+of+Multicultural+Student+Success+is+hosting+virtual+meetings+to+provide+a+space+for+students.+

Courtesy of Office of Multicultural Student Success

DePaul’s Office of Multicultural Student Success is hosting virtual meetings to provide a space for students.

As members of cultural organizations at DePaul turn on Zoom, they are reunited with their peers who they found community with. Through virtual trivia, board meetings and arts festivals, students can partake in most of the activities as they would at DePaul, even though the experience may not be the same. 

Spring quarter is typically an exciting time for cultural organizations to wrap up the year with some of their major events. It’s also when students come together as the weather gets warmer, to explore the city in their cultural lens and celebrate holidays like Ramadan, Cinco De Mayo, among others. Yet, due to the pandemic, these gatherings had to be cancelled. 

However, this doesn’t stop members getting together. Clubs like TEPEYAC, DALE DePaul and the Asian Cultural Exchange (ACE) have still been running remotely. By holding routine meetings in a new light, students in these organizations are still engaged to partake in cultural activities and see how their community will develop stronger as different measures are being taken. 

“So far, we are doing much better at connecting and engaging with each other virtually,” said Kelly Garcia, the co-President of TEPEYAC. 

TEPEYAC is an organization that serves the Latinx community at DePaul by means of service, faith and culture. Garcia explained that it initially took a while for members to adjust to online gatherings, but as of this week, members have made an adjustment to partake in the activities online. 

Yet, Garcia also explained how TEPEYAC will be hosting more events than they usually would in person. Even though they will be maintaining their weekly Cafecito con Tepeyac every Wednesday on Zoom, they will also be incorporating other social events. As of last week, they held their first bingo night and are planning on hosting a trivia night with other organizations as well. 

However, this also means that significant events that would typically take place in person will also have to move online. Garcia explained how TEPEYAC’s Latinx artist festival SOMOS — which they collaborate with the  Latinx Cultural Center, the IRL Lab and the DePaul Art Museum — will hopefully be taking place virtually. This is so they can still value the artists in their community. 

“Unfortunately we will have to wait til next year to see that come to life,” Garcia said. 

In spite of this setback, TEPEYAC is still getting a full turnout to their meetings. 

Yet, like TEPEYAC, other organizations are still adjusting to these circumstances and seeing how their members are affected by this pandemic. DALE (DePaul’s Alliance for Latinx Empowerment) is a Latinx organization on campus which focuses on leadership in their community. To start, they have been predominantly active on their social media accounts, and hosted their first General Body webinar on Zoom on April 20. However, due to midterms, weekly meetings will kick off on May 4 at 5 p.m. 

“We have stayed very active and attentive to our community,” said Camila Mariana Barrientos, president of DALE. 

Aside from weekly meetings, Barrientos said that DALE has taken other measures as well to have the entire DePaul community stay engaged. They teamed up with the Black Student Union to host a trivia night as well as connecting with other cultural organizations on campus. DALE also connected with Chicago Area Peace Action DePaul for their Action Week and will be cosponsoring the Call for Immigrants Right day. 

They will partake in a Multicultural Townhall to be a part of SGA elections and be able to address questions, comments and concerns amongst other plans that are still developing. Even though they are hosting all these events, Barrientos said members in her organization are more likely to be struggling than those in others. This is due to how the Latinx community is being affected by Covid-19.

“Our friends and families tend to be the ‘essential workers,’ the ones without healthcare, the over 30 million filing for unemployment, the ones who do not have stable or any internet access or electronic devices, the ones living on the margins of society trying their hardest to make ends meet during these trying time,” Barrientos said.

However, because of these issues, DALE has been providing resources for their members to cope with the difficulties of the outbreak. They have been providing weekly newsletters as well as well as maintaining conversation among their members. Yet, a silver lining that arose was that now newcomers can join their meetings who couldn’t have otherwise in person. 

On the other hand, spring quarter was a time for DALE and other organizations to come together. Barrientos explained that her club would typically host Latinx retreats along with picnics on the beach. She also said that this was a time where DALE and other Latinx groups would gather and plan events. In light of Cinco De Mayo coming up, there is definitely a sense of nostalgia. 

“It’s hard to mold organizations onto zoom, especially culturally based communities like ours because we do have barriers and obstacles in the way that prevent smooth sailing of remote settings,” Barrientos said. 

The Asian Cultural Exchange has also seen this problem arise as it has shifted online. Like DALE, ACE did not start holding meetings until the second half of the quarter, with the focus mainly being on new board elections. 

“We didn’t want to do anything too serious because we knew our members had a lot going on, especially at home. We just wanted to keep a fun and lighthearted atmosphere but also making sure that our members know that they can come to us as [a] resource,” said Christy Villez, vice president of ACE. 

However, Villez explained how members have been coming together in smaller groups to put on weekly movie showings and other nonchalant gatherings. Some members had put on their old prom dresses for fun in a virtual get together last week. 

Yet, their annual banquet was supposed to take place on May 22. This is an event where ACE brings all the Asian college communities in Chicago together. This allows for other organizations at DePaul such as Japan Table and Pokemon to interact as well as Asian communities at Loyola University. However, Villez also explained that it also is a send off for seniors. 

“The event also doubles as our way to celebrate our graduating seniors, giving them speeches and thanking them for their contributions to our club. So that was the main event that we’d all been looking forward to all year,” Villez said.

Through these remote events, students can try to find communities they once sought on campus. By providing a variety of activities, members and non-members of these organizations can see what’s provided at their fingertips.