Participants in the Taste of Culture sample items catered by a number of Buffalo-area restaurants.

Taste of Culture Returns Bigger and Better Than Ever

Published December 21, 2021

story by bill bruton

Last year, Taste of Culture was one of many events wiped out by COVID-19. This year, organizers of the event brought it back — and they made it even bigger and better than before.

“The more we know about our patients, the more we can help them. The more we know about their cultures, the better we can help them as well. ”
Arsh Issany
First-year medical student and master of ceremonies for the Taste of Culture

Art, Fashion Show Added

Tiffany Sinclair

The event, sponsored by the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Science’s chapter of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) — previously a potluck celebrating diversity through food — this year became a multi-sensory experience of culture at the Jacobs School with the addition of a fashion show and art show. Due to COVID restrictions, the food was catered from area restaurants.

“We decided to incorporate all of the senses this year, instead of just the palate,” said Tiffany Sinclair, Minority Association of Premedical Students’ liaison for SNMA and a second-year medical student. “So we expanded the event to include a fashion show and art show with catered food. We wanted to explore the ways we can show culture and showcase Buffalo.”

Student Ideas Embraced

Stephan Herard

Taste of Culture started in 2011, and up until this year it had been strictly about celebrating diversity through food.

Stephan Herard, a first-year medical student, had suggested to SNMA that the organization conduct a fashion show.

Olumayowa “Mayowa” Adebiyi

Olumayowa “Mayowa” Adebiyi, SNMA president, had already been thinking of adding a fashion show to Taste of Culture, while Andy Medina, SNMA vice president, had brought up the idea of adding an art show. 

Thus, an expanded Taste of Culture took shape.

“When we first heard the idea of a fashion show, most of us were like ‘that’s not really feasible — how about just showcasing artwork or something like that.’ But we embraced the idea and ended up combining everything to make it really interesting,” Sinclair said.

“I think we’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of the work that’s gone into it. Restaurants were really looking forward to bringing in food and showing who they are,” Sinclair added. “We have vegan dishes, vegetarian dishes, meat dishes from the Caribbean, Africa, South America and Asia. We tried to bring in as much as we could with a limited budget.”

Event Exceeds All Expectations

Janine Alexis Meurer

Approximately 120 people paid to eat, which included catered fare from Buffalo Suya, Kalypso, Niagara Cafe, Peking Quick One, Sunshine Vegan Eats and more.

“My original expectation was maybe 30 or 40 to break even and make back what we spent on the food,” Sinclair said. “We’ve tripled or quadrupled our original goal. So this is a big success.”

“It was just a way of celebrating all of the different cultures that are embodied in medical classes,” said second-year medical student Janine Alexis Meurer, SNMA social media chair and a participant in the fashion show. “We’re back with the food aspect, but we decided to come back with a bang by adding an art and fashion show. We’re excited to start making that part of the tradition of this event as well.”

Artists from New York City Display Works

This painting was one of many artworks on display at the Taste of Culture.

Ming Xia Lian

Ming Xia Lian, a first-year medical student, displayed some of her drawings, which started when she was 13.

She also invited two professional artist friends from Brooklyn — Jane Li and Giovanni Ramos — to display their pieces. They are part of 27 Collective, a group of diverse artists from different parts of New York City.

“It’s a wonderful event. It’s nice to be in a new environment that’s different for us,” said Li, who does acrylic paintings that feature splashes of color. “We get to explore Buffalo as well. It’s been a great experience.”

Issany Serves as Master of Ceremonies

First-year medical student Arsh Issany served as master of ceremonies.

First-year medical student Arsh Issany served as master of ceremonies, regaling the crowd with stories about trying to fit in as an Indian-Muslim-American growing up in Rego Park, Queens, and on Long Island.

“That’s why this show is so important. Here we’re showing you different perspectives and different groups who you will see as future physicians and leaders,” Issany said. “It’s important to see them now, and be exposed to different cultures.”

“The more we know about the world, the better we can enhance the human condition. It makes sense. It applies in medicine, it applies in research, it applies in patient populations,” Issany added. “The more we know about our patients, the more we can help them. The more we know about their cultures, the better we can help them as well.”

African, Asian, Latinx, LGBTQIA+ Fashions

First-year medical students Katherine Foote and Ming Xia Lian model traditional Chinese Hanfu.

The art show took place on one side of the M&T Auditorium at the Jacobs School building in downtown Buffalo.

The fashion show, in which African, Asian, Latinx and LGBTQIA+ fashion were all featured, took place on the other side of the auditorium.

Also featured were readings and dance.

Show Features Amazing Vocal Performances

First-year medical student Sasha S. Joseph channels her inner Beyoncé for a stirring rendition of “Ego.”

Nathaniel Gregory Graves

The show also featured amazing vocal performances by a pair of first-year medical students, with Sasha S. Joseph singing the Beyoncé song “Ego,” and Nathaniel Gregory Graves singing the Chaka Khan song “Through the Fire.”

In both instances, the performers encouraged and received audience participation for their renditions.

Andy Medina

“Every single one of you who donated, who supported SNMA in some shape or form, you gave us a voice, you gave us a platform. The food that you ate today, the clothes that you see on this stage, the art that was on display, those are some things that for much of our childhood was a symbol of embarrassment, was something we were perhaps ashamed of,” said Medina, a second-year medical student. “If I could just tell the younger version of myself to wait awhile, give it a couple of years, look at what you’ve done today. On behalf of SNMA, the executive board, we sincerely appreciate all of you.”