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Youth festival aims to combat racism, celebrate global cultures

A local youth festival that will celebrate cultures from around the world is attempting to tackle discrimination in Edmonton, organizers say.


Clare Clancy, Edmonton Journal
Thursday July 13, 2017

“What is the best way to combat racism? … Love of each other’s culture,” Ahmed Abdulkadir, executive director of Ogaden Somali Community of Alberta Residents, said Friday.

The July 21 festival, which is also supported by the non-profit E4C and the city, will include dance, poetry, acting, comedy and several workshops, he said. Booths set up at Giovanni Caboto Park will focus on several different cultures, including Syrian, Somali and Indigenous communities.

“There are strange pockets of people in Edmonton and Alberta who have no understanding,” said Nigel Robinson, 26, a youth leader who will emcee the event.

“It sounded like something very different for the city that was very necessary, bringing people together to experience each other’s culture,” he said, noting he is a member of Cold Lake First Nation.

His hope is that the event targeting teens and young adults, and spearheaded by a youth committee, will debunk cultural myths.

“Let’s say their parents have a certain belief about someone, they actually get to talk to a person of that community for the first time,” he said.

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Over the past six months, Abdulkadir said organizers visited religious sites across Edmonton to garner support. He highlighted ongoing concerns about Islamophobia, after Statistics Canada reported Alberta had the largest increase in hate crimes in 2015 compared to other provinces.

“There’s so much hatred we’ve seen,” Abdulkadir said. “We want to wake the silent majority and show them the minority in hate … There’s no space for them.”

He said Syrian refugees participating in the celebration will share their struggles.

“They showed us the journey of where they came from and all the suffering they went through,” he said, noting the festival is at its core celebrating diversity and resilience.

“As soon as people sit down and see each other’s cultures, everything else goes away.”

The Global Fusion Youth Cultural Arts Celebration will take place at Giovanni Caboto Park (109 Avenue and 94 Street) from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., July 21.

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