The 22nd annual World Beat Festival is set to kick off this Friday, June 28th in Salem, Oregon. If you’ve never been to the World Beat Festival, be prepared for three days of jam packed fun and wonder. The World Beat Festival is hosted by the Salem Multicultural Institute. The festival itself strives to offer attendees an authentic experience in cultures from around the world, such as Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. There is food, music, craft vendors, dance performances, and lots of hands-on activities for young children. One of the highlights of the festival for our family is seeing the sense of pride and welcome from the many different cultures represented. In fact, the operating philosophy is: “We all have something to learn from one another, and we all have something to teach.”
Reading and rereading the operating philosophy overwhelms me with how truly empowering this three day event is for both the hosts and the attendees. The festival sends the message of, “Let’s have a conversation about this. Let’s learn from each other.” Each event or activity is an invitation to ask questions about the origin of a song, craft, dance movement, or food dish. It’s an opportunity to learn and share stories about culture and traditions.
If you have a chance to attend the World Beat Festival, I encourage you to keep the philosophy in mind as you visit each tent, food vendor, or scheduled activity. Feel welcome to spark a conversation by asking presenters questions like:
How did this tradition come about?
Where did you learn to play that instrument?
How do the lyrics of the song make you feel when you sing it?
How was this dish prepared when you were growing up?
These kinds of questions allow children to begin drawing parallels within their own lives while making connections between different cultures and traditional practices. It’s important to support children in learning about different cultures by highlighting both similarities and unique differences in order to not form false cultural stereotypes. Plus, it also allows children to see the uniqueness within diverse cultures. For example, there may be a common practice in different cultures having a staple breakfast but it may differ from region to region and household by household. It is vital that we support children in understanding and appreciating different cultural practices and traditions by equipping them with the confidence to ask questions and make personal connections.
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