Keynote lectures highlight diversity
This year, the International Festival will be a part of Cèilidh Weekend, and will celebrate Carnegie Mellon’s ethnic and cultural diversity. Although typically held during a separate weekend from Homecoming and Family weekends, the International Festival is now part of a larger celebration. The festivities will include keynote lectures, traditional religious ceremonies, and an international poster and photo fair.
The main events of the International Festival will center on keynote lectures and discussions by Freddie H. Fu, M.D., and novelist Chris Abani.
On Thursday, Fu will host a discussion on his personal experiences and his career in the medical profession, specifically within the field of orthopedic surgery. His lecture will be followed by a Q & A session.
Fu grew up in Hong Kong and later made his way to America, where he attended Dartmouth College as well as Dartmouth Medical School. He eventually arrived in Pittsburgh, where he attended University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine. Since then, Fu has worked at Pitt for 36 years.
He specialized in sports injuries and spearheaded the creation of UPMC’s $80 million Sports Performance Complex, a state-of-the-art sports medicine complex which opened in 2000. The center has acted as a model for other medical complexes around the world and has attracted surgeons from over 50 countries on six continents.
On the topic of the center, Fu said, “People come to Pittsburgh [to learn about sports medicine] ... not just patients, but also countries.” He explained that the center was an opportunity to “rejuvenate Pittsburgh” and to “showcase that we [Pittsburgh] are a very good place.”
Fu, a Chinese-American, has made numerous contributions to the Pittsburgh community and even has a noodle dish, the Dr. Fu’s Special, named after him at Lu Lu’s Noodles on Craig Street. Fu’s cultural diversity and commitment to the community made him an obvious pick to highlight the goals of the International Festival.
The second keynote lecture, taking place on Friday, will center on Abani and his experiences as an exiled writer. His discussion will be followed by a special luncheon.
At 18, Abani was imprisoned by the Nigerian government for his first novel, Masters of the Board. In the novel, Abani describes a fictional takeover of the government. The Nigerian government believed it was a real plot for rebellion and subsequently imprisoned the author. After serving six months in jail, he was released but continued to speak out against the government. Abani was ultimately arrested and jailed three times and was almost sentenced to death.
Abani finally fled Africa in 1991, and fled again to the United States in 1999. After escaping political suppression, he was able to write freely and publish his works without fear. “Happiness is learning to live with difficulty and grace,” he said, in reflection of his experiences in Africa.
He has published three novels, two novellas, and five books of poetry. Abani is currently a professor at the University of California, Riverside, and the recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award. He also received the 2001 Prince Claus Award, the Lannan Literary Fellowship, the California Book Award, and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.
Besides the keynote speakers, the International Festival will incorporate the experiences of students who have studied abroad. The Tartans Abroad Poster Displays will showcase posters, photos, and other memorabilia in Kirr and Hoch Commons in the University Center throughout Cèilidh Weekend. This event will showcase Carnegie Mellon’s international campus locations as well as provide information on the cultural opportunities that study abroad programs give students.
The International Festival will also feature a dual religious celebration of Eid and Diwali, traditional Muslim and Indian festivals, respectively. Taking place in Wiegand Gym and sponsored by MayurSASA, the event will celebrate the religious and cultural histories of South Asian countries as well as the different ethnicities within the Carnegie Mellon student body.