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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

Multicultural Festival 2022

By Jennifer Ersalesi

TIR: This year’s Multicultural Festival line-up seems to include some new talent for the Festival. Can you tell us a little more about some of the newer acts and entertainers that were added this year?

Mark Tenn: There will be some familiar faces from last year’s festival including Friday’s headliner, Bajah, the “voice of the voiceless”, who returns with his infectious hip hop blend of Sierra Leonian funk, dancehall, and reggae. New acts featuring on Friday include Biwanko, a traditional Japanese Taiko drumming group who have performed at national events including the Washington DC Sakura Matsuri and the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games. Young dancers from the Allegro Arts Academy will also be showcasing their love of artistic expression.

On Saturday, we are proud to welcome headliner, Amanda Homi, an eclectic singer-songwriter whose global influences of sound and style span traditions of India, Greece, Brazil, Senegal, Spain, Morocco, and Jamaica. Amanda has released two original albums, Drumgirls and Till I Reach Bombay, and performed and/or recorded with renowned artists such as Jackson Browne, Ray Lamontagne, Jane Siberry, Maxwell, and They Might Be Giants.

Cubeye is a new collective ensemble that will be fusing jazz and Afro-Cuban and Afro-Boricuan jazz in their original compositions and reworked classic standards. Also joining us for the first time is The DeNogla Academy of Irish Dance which trains dancers from beginner all the way up to World Championship level from ages three and up.

Pedro Cortes and his flamenco will return, but grander as The Pedro Cortes Quintet! Cortes comes from a family of Spanish Gypsy guitarists including his father, the esteemed flamenco guitarist, Sabicas. The Montclair State University West African Drumming and Dance Ensemble will be inviting all in attendance to join in with their group in participatory and connective traditional West African dance.

TIR: The Multicultural Festival is perfect for families and members of the community of all ages. Why do you believe this event is important in our community?

MT: The Multicultural Festival is a fun, free, family-friendly continuation of Rutherford’s long tradition of celebrating diversity through live music, dance, art, poetry, and food. The event is part of the RCRC’s volunteer work to help foster understanding, acceptance, and inclusion for all. Exposure to cultural differences empowers empathy and empathy drives inclusivity. By showcasing different cultural expressions, the festival is an invitation to share, learn from, and enjoy those differences to help inclusivity endure within our diverse community. So we invite all families and friends from Rutherford and beyond to come to gather with us. To bring your open hearts and minds to celebrate that diversity in unity.

TIR: What can people expect at this year’s Multicultural Festival?

MT: A great time! With local performers of all ages and internationally-renowned artists all bringing a rich variety of cultures from all over the world, the festival promises to be a fabulously entertaining weekend to come together to celebrate the world, at home.

There will also be international food truck vendors along Lincoln Ave Friday night from 5 pm, and Saturday from 1 pm. On Friday, Rolling Yatai will be bringing authentic, casual soul food from Japan; Latin Bites will be cooking up Cuban & Puerto Rican fusion cuisine; Bro-Ritos’ team of young Black entrepreneurs will be serving amazing burritos, bowls, and tacos; Master Asador will be grilling his mouthwatering Argentine Asado barbecue; and The Brownie Bar will be offering a variety of handcrafted, artisanal brownies baked fresh, right in the truck.

On Saturday, Rolling Yatai and Latin Bites will be serving alongside Firehouse Dogs who will be selling hot dogs and chili cheese bowls. So come hungry!

TIR: The Rutherford Civil Rights Commission is always looking for ways to celebrate cultural differences and protect the civil rights of all individuals in our Borough. What are some of the other ways you celebrate and educate our community about civil rights?

MT: We organize initiatives and events that advocate cooperation and acceptance — often in partnership with other dedicated local groups. Most recently this included a campaign to petition US lawmakers to protect the rights of gay marriage during the wonderful Pride Fest organized by the Friends of the Rutherford Pride Alliance. We celebrated progress in Women’s rights with an International Women’s Day photography initiative to showcase our commitment to #BreakTheBias. And we partnered with The Red Wheelbarrow Poets in a poetic celebration of Black History Month.

We also facilitate opportunities for the community to assemble, be seen, and be heard, especially during collective moments of crisis, reflection, and civic responsibility. Ultimately, all our volunteering efforts are driven by a vision for Rutherford to be an inclusive community that values empathy and understanding, upholds human dignity, and respects human rights for all so that all feel safe, empowered, and welcome.

The Multicultural Festival is organized by the community for the community as a way to bring our diversity together in a unified way. We at the RCRC are proud to present such an enjoyable event that appreciates our differences and broadens perspectives. We’d like to thank all those who have contributed to helping us make the festival happen: the performers, the tech crew, and the vendors. Mayor Nunziato, the Rutherford Council, Rutherford Borough administrators, Rutherford Police Dept, and all local volunteers and supporters — Thank you so much!

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