Event features tell-tale speakers

Kamariea Forcier

People must understand and respect each other in order to create a healthy environment at the University, said Kenneth Foxworth, director of diversity and outreach for the Office of Student Development and Athletics.
“We did not come here on the same ship, but we’re all on the same boat,” Foxworth said Wednesday to more than 40 people gathered in Coffman Memorial Union to hear tales of cultural experiences.
The event, “Winter Celebration — a time for renewal and growth,” featured four storytellers of different religious and cultural backgrounds.
“The best way to learn as children is by people telling stories (to them),” Foxworth said. “So why not have an event where people get up and tell stories?”
But the stories were different from traditional tales. Instead of relating fables passed down from generation to generation, the speakers who gathered Wednesday told stories from personal experience.
The first storyteller, Jennifer Rudick, spoke on behalf of the Jewish community and recounted her visit to Israel and the western wall of Jerusalem.
Rudick’s tale examined what happens when a person fails to find excitement in a cultural or religious icon.
“There it was, standing before me, the western wall,” she said, pausing slightly with a glint of buried mirth in her eyes. “But when I reached out to touch the wall, nothing happened,” said Rudick, as she dropped her jaw with a look of incredulity.
She explained how she went to the wall during her last day in Jerusalem and waited for something to happen.
“And as I was standing there, I got this funny feeling inside, like the wall was saying to me ‘come closer,'” Rudick said.
She said she went closer to the wall and touched its stone, expecting to feel its rough texture.
“But this time I noticed the texture of the stone. And it was smooth,” she said. “And I realized it was smooth because so many people had been there before,” Rudick said.
During Rudick’s story the audience remained relatively calm. But they started laughing aloud when the next speaker, 70-year-old Esther Suzuki, took the stage.
Like a stand-up comedian in her element, Suzuki had the audience continually laughing with her tales of being brought up in America by Japanese parents.
“When I was 46, my husband and I went to Japan,” she told the audience. “Now, my husband knew a little Japanese because he was there during the war. Words like ‘surrender,’ and ‘gunship,'” she said straight-faced, while the audience chuckled.
More events celebrating cultural diversity are planned in the future, said Foxworth. He wants to host an event each month, he said.
“We want to bring it outside, let the community know,” said Foxworth. “It is truly a time to celebrate.”