Bahai News - Event celebrates diversity and unity Published Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Event celebrates diversity and unity

NATALIE P. McNEAL
nmcneal@herald.com

The event was billed a celebration in the name of unity and community.

Monday evening, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, the community came together to dispense love, acceptance and understanding in a time of unprecedented upheaval.

Organized by the National Conference of Community and Justice, the event attracted between 500 and 600 people who reflected different races, religions and beliefs.

That's exactly what organizers wanted.

"We are a diverse community and we need to respect each other," said Marlene Baltar, spokeswoman for the event. "The community needed something like this."

The plan for the celebration started after the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks when a member of NCCJ asked whether the organization could coordinate a celebration of diversity.

Organizers quickly pulled together more than 50 groups to help put on the evening that included performances by high school bands, Native American folk dancers, flutist Nestor Torres, the South Broward High School ROTC Color Guard, and others.

"Nobody turned us down," said Carol Spring, NCCJ executive director. "How could they? We're all about building communities and bringing everybody to the table."

Outside, four young ladies, called "masqueraders" dressed in elaborate West Indian carnival costumes, stood on the steps as the color guard escorted local political leaders inside the theater.

Inside, a diverse crowd, including Sikhs, Buddhists, members of the Islamic and Bahai faith joined Christians, Jews and others as they filled the Au-Rene Theater.

During one patriotic moment, Broward Property Appraiser William Markham belted out the Star-Spangled Banner, receiving applause when he was done.

"I enjoyed the diversity of ages, religion and races," said Arvind Singh, of Miramar. "I thought it was an incredible function."

Ben and Yoshiko Oehterking, Buddhists from Pembroke Pines, attended with their 2-year-old daughter, Victoria.

"When she gets older and looks back, she can see she was a part of this," Yoshiko Oehterking said.


©Copyright 2001, The Miami Herald

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