Bahai News - Heritage Festival

Festival to honor heritages

Annual gathering celebrates diversity, reaffirms unity

Residents holding 
VARIED CULTURES - Antelope Valley residents representing a wide spectrum of ethnic origins line up behind the American flag at last year's Heritage Picnic to show that their diversity does not keep them apart. This year's gathering is slated for Saturday. Valley Press photo by Gene Breckner.

This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press September 8, 2000

Valley Press Staff Writer

LANCASTER - Like the colors of a rainbow, people of different ethnicities will stand side by side on Saturday and share food, dance and camaraderie.

The sixth annual Antelope Valley International Heritage Festival will be at 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lancaster City Park, 43011 10th St. West.

The festival is to learn about other ethnic cultures, Lancaster Mayor Frank Roberts said.

"These cultures are woven into a great tapestry that leads this great nation into what it is," he said. "We must learn to embrace these cultures."

Farivar Roshanian, a Heritage Committee member, said, "It's not only a celebration of our diversity, but an affirmation of our unity. That's the way I see it."

"No matter where you come from ... all human beings have the same hopes and aspirations," Roshanian continued. He added that those who attend can see this through the many offerings at the festival, such as the different cultural dances and foods.

Festivities begin with the Parade of Nations, where participants dress in attire according to their cultural traditions and march behind the American flag.

"It shows we are identifying with our individual heritage, but at the same time, we're also committed to the American ideal," said Mike Kirkland, another Heritage Committee member.

During the festival, the winner of the Heritage Essay contest - in which teens wrote on the subject of positive race relations - will read the winning masterpiece.

The Heritage Essay contest was run in conjunction with the festival and is sponsored by the Heritage Committee, the Antelope Valley Human Relations Task Force and the Antelope Valley Press.

Junior high and high school students submitted essays depicting positive experiences outside their own immediate circle of ethnicity and background.

Essay contest winners will be announced at the picnic. Winners will receive savings bonds of $300 for first place, $225 for second place and $150 for third place.

In addition, the first-place winner's essay will be published in the Valley Press.

Various booths will be on display at the park as part of the festival, including those for a children's center, foster care and the Cancer Society.

While the Heritage committee serves up hot dogs, foods from different cultures will be brought for sampling by local organizations and groups. Vicki Rae Tomosada, chairperson of the committee, said there will be Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Indian and soul food, among others.

"It's a smorgasbord of all cultural food brought together in one day," Kirkland said."

People will be able to enjoy cultural dances as well. There will be African and Native-American dancing, Irish dancers, dancing from the Japanese group KodamaKai, as well as Middle Eastern dance from the Nissa Benezir troupe.

Agape Community Church's Men's Choir will sing, and Carlos Reynosa, an American flute player, will be bringing his 20 flutes to the picnic as well. The highlight of the event will be Taiko drummers, Mararil said.

The Heritage Festival was put together by the committee six years ago. The committee, founded by David Hong, was created to find a way to relieve racial tension in the area. The festival was the answer to this dilemma, Tomosada said.

"People who come to these festivals say they learn much more - things they didn't know before," Tomosada added.

"We started with the idea that if we could get the kids to talk to each other, they can start to embrace each other," Kirkland said.

Today, the picnic's goal is to bring people of all cultures together and to wipe out stereotypes, Kirkland said.

"What we're fighting is stereotypes," Kirkland said. "You have to get rid of packaging people.

"The biggest enemy of unity is ignorance," he continued. "I think this picnic is a perfect example of what happens when people get together and decide to no longer let ignorance reign."

The Heritage committee is made up of service groups from all over the Valley. Groups in the committee that are sponsoring the picnic include Antelope Valley Chinese Association; Sunrise HIVAIDS Coalition, American Islamic Institute of Antelope Valley, Antelope Valley Allied Arts Association, Democratic Club of the High Desert, Sunrise MCC of the High Desert, Forum of Responsible United Men, Antelope Valley College's Black Student Union, The Intertribal Council of the Antelope Valley, the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster, the Korean American Association, the Filipino Association, the Bahai faith, Antelope Valley Interfaith Council, NAACP, Latinos for Social Justice, Bond of Unity Buklod Nq Pagkakaisa, AV Women's Cultural Association, Indian Society, High Desert Japanese American Citizens League and the Antelope Valley Black Heritage Council.

©Copyright 2000, Antelope Valley Press

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