Most Outstanding Cultural Program Nomination: Virginia Commonwealth University
On April 7, 2018, VSA@VCU held our annual culture show titled, “Heart of Jade” which saw the attendance of around 300 individuals including MAUVSA members, parents, friends, and fellow VCU students. The purpose of the program was to put on a show that showcased Vietnamese culture through a variety of acts including skit, dance, and fashion. We wanted to put an emphasis on the importance of family, an aspect that is highly recognized in not just Vietnamese but most Asian cultures.
It follows the story of siblings, Thuy and Hai, who also happen to be demigods. The siblings embark on a journey to find their mother who is actually a goddess, but in order to see her, they must undergo various trials that will test their love for each other, but also their inner struggles as individuals. Culture shows have always been a collaborative event that includes anyone who is interested – whether they are a VSA member or not. The students of VCU made up the talented cast, amazing dancers and models, and of course, an amazing cover of a Vietnamese song was sang by one of VSA’s now-alumni members. We also could not have made the show possible without those who took on the roles of backstage, preparing props, the choreographers who spent endless days creating and teaching fantastic dances, and the committee leaders who dedicated so much of their time and effort into ensuring that everything was perfect for the day of.
Leading up to the show, VSA@VCU held a multitude of fundraising opportunities to raise money to pay for the show including sponsorships, in-house fundraisers, as well as collaborations with nearby restaurants. Many of our show’s participants actively promoted the event on their social media and we had a collective countdown until the day of where we introduced the characters of the show as well as promoting any other necessary details such as dates, locations, etc.
How did this cultural program serve the campus and/or community? What were the cultural program’s goals and how did it meet them?
As stated above, the purpose of the show was to showcase Vietnamese culture to the Richmond community as well as those who came to visit us from far and near. We wanted to appeal to an audience of many generations from children, college students, to parents and grandparents. Hence, our focus on the show was on family, and the role our family plays in our daily lives. We also wanting to make sure the skit was engaging throughout and included a variety of genres, mixing the main theme of fantasy with others including comedy, drama, and more.
Hai and Thuy, the two main characters of the story, are similar to many siblings to this day, where they cannot help but get on each other’s nerves. This becomes apparent in the quest to find their mother, where their clashing personalities result in continual fights. There is a sense of realism in the plot of “Heart of Jade” that is explored through the dynamics of Hai and Thuy that shows that it can be difficult to accomplish a task, even if you are working with your own brother/sister. Despite their arguments however, as the story unfolds, we learn about the underlying idea that family triumphs and that as long as a family sticks together, they are able to overcome even the hardest of challenges. We wanted to emphasize something extremely important in our lives and Vietnamese culture that we often take for granted: our family, and that realization is exemplified through the actions and dialogue of our two siblings.
How did the organization overcome any challenges that arose while planning and implementing the cultural program?
I think the main source of our challenges was making sure we had everything prior to the day of the show. We would like to thank the other MAUVSA schools (University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, University of Maryland College Park) who were generous in lending us some of the items including fans, ao dai and ao gam. It was also important that we had the funds sufficient enough to pay for the costs of the show. We would like to send another thank you to those who sponsored us and made this event possible as well as the general body and board members who actively contributed to raising enough to help create this amazing showcase. Another obstacle that came in the way was that the day before the show, there were many issues that arose in relation to adjusting the light and sound. Thanks to the help of the janitors at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and those on our media committee, we were able to come up with the solutions to our problems. Overall, it was due to the collaborative effort of these dedicated participants that our show was able to run smoothly, and we could not be more grateful to everyone who contributed into producing yet another amazing culture show for VSA@VCU.