2021 Multicultural Festival
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Last year, the Rutherford Civil Rights Commission was unable to present its annual Multicultural Festival. Although Commission members and the local community were disappointed, the year off gave the Commission an opportunity to explore other ideas and options for the Festival. On Friday, September 24th, and Saturday, September 25th, the Rutherford Civil Rights Commission (RCRC) will proudly present the 2021 Multicultural Festival: Movies, Music, and Movement Series. This is Rutherford spoke with three RCRC members, Mark Tenn, Paul Frazier, and Beverly Kahn to learn more about this two-day festival.
TIR: Last year’s Multicultural Festival was canceled due to the pandemic. This year the Festival has been planned a little differently and will take place over two days. What types of activities do you have planned for the Festival?
RCRC: This 2021 Multicultural Festival will be two days of dance, spoken word, book signing, local bands, and world-class musicians. Due to the pandemic, we are unfortunately unable to feature vendors. However, there will be four different food trucks serving some great multicultural menus on Lincoln Park across the two days.
TIR: This year’s Festival is considered a Movies, Music, and Movement series. Is this different from festivals in the past?
RCRC: The pandemic has changed how we all function and the RCRC is no exception. So moving forward, we have been figuring out how we can better serve the community with the resources we have in order to bring people together in new ways.
One of those ways is the RCRC’s new Movies, Music, and Movement series which enables us to better fund, organize, and connect all the more intimate events that we host beyond the festival (like the Stonewall Commemorative Walk with the Friends of the Rutherford Pride Alliance, and the summer film screening of "Remember the Titans" in Lincoln Park). We hope that by including the Multicultural Festival in the series, we can better help bring the community together in a unified way throughout the year.
TIR: Tell us more about the Ethnic Food trucks that will be at the Multicultural Festival.
RCRC: There will be three ethnic food trucks parked on Lincoln Ave Friday night from 5 pm onwards, and two trucks on Saturday from 1 pm until 8 pm. They include Bro-Ritos, a Black-owned business specializing in amazing burritos, bowls, and tacos. Rolling Yatai will be serving an authentic, casual Japanese menu inspired by traditional food carts in Japan. True to Jamaica’s national motto, “Out of Many One People”, Jerkin Chicken will be cooking up a taste of Jamaica’s multiracial roots. Jerkin Chicken will return Saturday alongside some festive Mexican cuisine from the Viva Margarita food truck.
TIR: There will be a number of musicians playing during the Festival? What can you tell us about those musicians/ bands?
RCRC: Headlining the festival on Friday is Kaïssa, a New York solo artist from Cameroon who has performed on the Oprah Winfrey Central Park SummerStage and toured with David Byrne of Talking Heads and Manu Dibango Soul Makossa Gang. Her transcultural music speaks to contemporary cultural and women’s issues.
Saturday’s headliners, Walter Parks, and The Unlawful Assembly are led by guitarist Walter Parks — longtime sideman to Woodstock legend Richie Havens. The Unlawful Assembly features drummer Steven Williams (Sade), Ada Dyer (Lenny Kravitz) on vocals, Michael Bellar (Amos Lee) on organ, and Rutherford’s own Paul Frazier (David Byrne) on bass. Their music reimagines historic spirituals and hymns to universally inspire, empower and unite.
Also performing Saturday is solo singer/musician Redray Frazier. Dubbed “The Rock & Soul Troubadour”, Redray grew up in Rutherford and creates his own unique fusion of Alternative R&B, Rock, and Indie-Soul. He has toured with David Byrne and was a member of the Sony recording group the Funky Poets.
TIR: What are the goals of the Rutherford Civil Rights Commission with this Festival?
RCRC: The main goal is to continue the 15-year tradition of hosting a multicultural festival for our community. In celebrating diversity in food, music, dance, poetry, and story, the festival is also the annual capstone of the RCRC’s volunteer work to help foster dignity, respect, understanding, and acceptance for all members of Rutherford and beyond.
TIR: Why would you like to encourage members of the community (of all ages) to attend the Multicultural Festival?
RCRC: Rutherford is a diverse community and the Multicultural Festival represents a fabulously free and local opportunity to safely gather with open hearts and minds to experience and celebrate that diversity through culture. We invite families, friends, and neighbors of all walks of life to come out and join us.
TIR: Who are the current officers of the Rutherford Civil Rights Commission?
RCRC: The Rutherford Civil Rights Commission is composed of twelve Mayoral-appointed Rutherford resident volunteers. The current Chair and Co-Chair are Steve Way and Beverly Khan Pal respectively. A full list of commissioners can be found at rutherfordcivilrights.org.
“I’m so excited that the Multicultural Festival is back. It’s never been a two-day event before so we’re all looking forward to seeing how it plays out. Everyone on the Commission was eager to produce this year’s show after last year’s cancellation and it’s been an honor to work with them and the Borough,” explained Current Chair of the RCRC, Steve Way.