In the shadow of Kline Biology Tower on Sunday, Yale’s seven affinity groups partnered with local businesses to promote diversity at Yale and in the broader New Haven community.

The annual Multicultural New Haven Block Party, sponsored in part by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, comes amid recent concerns over Yale’s lack of attention and funding for the cultural houses and affinity groups on campus. But the Block Party’s organizers said the growth and popularity of the event is cause for celebration, not consternation, about the state of Yale’s diversity initiatives.

“[The Block Party] brings the multicultural community together,” said Manjula Santhanakrishnan, a researcher at the Yale School of Medicine who brought along her young daughter. “It makes sense [for Yale] to partner with the New Haven community.”

[media-credit name=”Wa Liu” align=”alignnone” width=”640″][/media-credit]In an effort to draw the participation of more New Haven businesses, this year’s Block Party committee expanded their outreach to merchants on both Whitney Avenue and the Broadway shopping area. University Properties Marketing Coordinator Patrick O’Brien emailed storeowners, asking them to partner with the Block Party. Their replies were immediate and overwhelmingly positive, said Shirley Chock, co-chair of the Block Party Planning Committee and a member of the Asian Network at Yale.

Partnering with local vendors — which included Insomnia Cookies, Cafe Romeo and Caseus — is one way to bring Yale’s cultural centers together with the local community, said Marinda Brown, the diversity program coordinator for ODI.

“It’s a combination of staff and students,” Brown said of the Yale crowd walking from booth to booth, looking at the cultural centers’ displays and activities. “It’s a great way to build community.”

In addition to finding the support of more local businesses, ODI also invited nonprofit organizations from the greater Connecticut area to participate in the block party. Sha Liu, a dance teacher from the Southern Connecticut Chinese School, brought a dozen of her students to perform at the party. Liu said that her school participates in Yale’s cultural events “very often,” as this is their third time cooperating with the Asian Network at Yale.

In the past, students have criticized Yale’s cultural centers and affinity groups for excluding people who do not come from the same cultural background as the participating group. But this year, the Block Party’s organizers made sure to include everyone in the event, securing the sponsorship of all seven cultural affinity groups and dozens of local organizations, such as the New Haven Police and Fire Departments.

“No matter which affinity group is hosting an event, everyone on campus is welcomed to attend,” said Randi McCray, co-chair of the Yale African-American Affinity Group. “We market it all over, so other affinity groups will share the activities that the other affinity groups are doing. At a lot of our events, you see people from other backgrounds.”

The Block Party raised $4,900 in donations for the event, the highest amount in over two years.