The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Food (and more) for thought

By Lily Alexander & Samantha Baker

“There’s no other place like it on campus,” Adinah Zilton ’14 said, referring to the colorful building on the corner of Macalester and Grand. The Cultural House, known by students as the C-House, is a unique space with an abundance of free food, cultural events and activities and open student conversation. The C-House serves as Macalester’s very own Harry Potter “Room of Requirement,” Alina Wong, Assistant Director of the Lealtad-Suzuki Center and coordinator for the C-House staff, said. “It becomes whatever people need or want it to be!” Wong said. This versatility is what makes the C-House so unique—it is both an on-campus living space, currently housing seven residents, and a branch of the Department of Multicultural Life (DML) that is open for use by students and cultural organizations. Cultural House manager Alexia Malaga ‘14 said she is still surprised each time she hears someone say they are unaware of the C-House because it has been such a huge part of her life ever since she was a prospective student at a sampler. “The C-House has a reputation already of being somewhere you can go and talk about things that you are very passionate about or things that you are very emotional about, and it’s not weird,” Malaga said. Zilton, DML C-House Program Assistant and a resident, echoes the uniqueness of the space. “It’s just a different vibe than all of the other dorms I’ve been in.” The house itself is set up to welcome visitors and stimulate conversation with its spacious dining room and kitchen, as well as its more intimate nooks such as the resident lounge and cultural organization offices. Wong said that the C-House functions as a community center for the Mac community, serving as a space for students, staff and outside groups to plan events. C-House celebrations Jocelyne Cardona ’14, C-House resident and co-chair of the Lealtad-Suzuki Center SPEAK series, said that the design of the space and its centrality on campus is what makes the C-House events so successful. In addition to the weekly cultural organization meetings held in the house—from Adelante to Asian Student Alliance (ASA)—the C-House staff also puts on three annual events: the Lavender Reception, Block Party and Poetry Slam. The Lavender Reception and Block Party both occur early in the year to bring students and staff together in the last days of the gorgeous summer weather to celebrate being back on campus. The C-House staff also leads tours of the house to make first-years aware of the space, and she said they sometimes have up to 150 people pass through the house.

While the Block Party has all the traditional summertime trappings, Wong said the purpose of the Lavender Reception is to welcome LGBTI students and allies. The third yearly event put on by the C-House is the poetry slam. This year the C-House staff held their eighteenth annual poetry slam, transforming the space into a black box theater by lining the walls with black tablecloths and renting a spotlight. Cardona said that the intimacy of the space is what often makes these poetry slams such a hit. The poetry slams are always packed with students, and Wong said that some students even stand in the hallway to hear the poets, even if they cannot see them, in order to participate in voting for the top poets. But Wong said the purpose of the slams goes beyond mere entertainment.

“The poetry slams are a way of honoring the oral traditions in a lot of communities of color and honor spoken word as a tool for political action,” she said. In addition, the C-House staff also puts on Fresh Fridays and Holla’ Back Café at different points throughout the semester. Fresh Fridays tend to be more “chill,” according to Wong, and are planned to fit with the larger year-long DML themes. This year’s theme was global sustainability and food access. The most recent Fresh Friday consisted of a screening of Wall-E and a discussion afterward about sustainability and environmentalism. “It was really cool because they set up the living room with a projector and free food,” Cardona said. “There’s always free food at C-House events,” Cardona added with a smile.

The Holla’ Back Café events are usually more discussion-oriented. Last semester the Holla’ Back Café event was called “Joyeconomics” and brought students together to discuss holidays, giving and consumerism. This semester’s event was called “Here and Home,” which focused on the way in which the Somali and Hmong communities bring culture and food to their new homes and communities.

Wong acknowledged that the events are works in progress and that student turnout is often the hardest part. A residential space In addition to the myriad events put on at the C-House every year, the house also serves as a home for DML student workers and other interested students. The DML student staff usually ranges from 18 to 22 students in a given year. These students work in one of three programs under the DML umbrella—the Emerging Scholars Program, a first year mentoring program in collaboration with the MAX Center, the Lealtad-Suzuki Center, or the C-House staff. The DML student staff typically begins planning for events two months beforehand, and they have regular group meetings every week in addition to their one-on-one meetings with Alina Wong. Wong said the C-House events, in addition to bringing the Macalester community together, also are important learning and growing experiences for the staff itself. “I think it’s important for the C-House staff to think about it as a living, learning space,” Wong said. “It isn’t just about having an event, but also what do the residents learn about living together and engaging and embracing their differences.”
Olivia Nichols ‘13 decided to live in the C-House after being a part of the DML’s Emerging Scholars Program (ESP) and eventually becoming a mentor herself. After this mentoring experience, she fell in love with the communal, safe space and began living there after returning from study abroad.

Nichols said the C-House residents are a cohesive and tight-knit community. “We all get along really well, and we’re all really conscientious women who know how to be a part of a community.” The house, which usually houses four to seven students each year, is not full to its capacity of 11 residents, and this year is especially different from years past in that not all of the residents are DML employees and not all of the C-House employees live in the C-House. Three of the residents in the house are DML staff, one volunteers there, and the other three are not affiliated. All residents attend C-House weekly meetings and monthly dinners. But even though Cardona is not part of the C-House staff directly, she feels like the C-House environment is incredibly inclusive. “It’s awesome because I walk in and they give me hugs and kisses. It’s this really familial place,” she said. As Malaga explained, the broader history of house is one of being very open, incorporating meaningful programing focused on issues like social justice, equality and fighting -isms to reflect the mission statement of the DML. “Last year when I would come to events at the C-House, I would always feel really refreshed and enlightened just because generally on campus you don’t have a space to talk about important issues,” Malaga said. Residents see the house as a special space on campus, Zilton said. “It’s a very vulnerable space, but we all take that into consideration – that vulnerability is appreciated here,” Malaga said. Before applying to be a C-House resident and employee, Malaga said, “I thought I would never be an RA, ever. But I love being a manager of the C-House because I know that whoever chooses to live here in the first place and second gets accepted to live here, are all good kids.” Malaga said that one bonus to living in the C-House is the beautiful kitchen and the abundant quantities of food. “There’s always something to eat at the C-Hou
se,” Nichols said, including baking supplies, tea and leftovers from events. Although Cardona says it can become overwhelming living a house that serves as a space for so many events and meetings, she said strategic planning makes it easy to share the space and get her alone time as well. Cardona said she loves it when students who don’t traditionally use the space recognize how great it is after attending an event or just dropping by to hang out. Other residents of the house echo this sentiment and say they want the student body to know that students can come to the C-House whenever they need to as it is a safe space. All they need is a D-Key to get in. For students considering living the C-House in the future, Nichols said, “Just go for it!” refresh –>

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