Unity event targets racism

Residents to gather over food, music

June 10, 1999|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

The common myth about Columbia is that it is the ultimate suburb.

A utopia of community involvement, civic spirit and togetherness with street names such as Peace Pipe Court and Happy Heart Lane. A place where people move to escape the ugly realities of crime, violence and poverty, a 1960s throwback of idyllic understanding and multicultural togetherness.

But at least one societal problem -- racism -- still affects Columbia, and Howard County residents are fighting back.

Sunday, members of the county's faith and government communities will celebrate "Race Unity Day" in Columbia's Cedar Lane Park. The event will be from 1: 30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and feature a picnic, children's workshops and performances from local bands.

Baha'i Faith Community representative Jane Porter says Race Unity Day was started to "create a positive experience out in our community. Racism isn't something that we really like to talk about, but obviously there's racism in our country.

"You can complain that it's so hidden or throw up your hands and say, `What can we do?' " Porter says. "But Howard County has a strong tradition of diversity and we need to come together to still celebrate that."

Though Howard County has celebrated Race Unity Day in some form for more than 30 years, Sunday's event marks the second year the picnic has included local bands, performance artists and children's art programs.

Last year, more than 800 people attended the Race Unity Day picnic at Wilde Lake High School. This year, the scope of the project is bigger and will focus on children and family-oriented activities.

Organizers hope to focus attention on racism and the need for county residents to combat it.

They hope to establish nonprofit status for the Race Unity Day Committee, which meets sporadically to plan the event.

Sunday, Ssuuna wa Uganda will bring the music, dance and storytelling art of East Africa to Cedar Lane Park when he presents "Edda Ne Kakati," a traditional African performance art.

Japanese artist Shizumi will present a performance using calligraphy, haiku, origami, swordsmanship, tea and flower ceremonies and drama. Students are invited to learn about the cultural connections among Japan, China, Korea and India.

A member of the Osage tribe, Richard Harrison, will perform dances and discuss Native American customs and ceremonies.

Puppeteer Shirley Johannesen Levine will bring poetry and stories to life with music and mime; she will also hold a children's puppet-making workshop.

Local rhythm and blues crooner Eddie Greene and Caribbean band Mama Jama will take the stage before the Wild Women Drummers, a group of Silver Spring-based Quaker women (ages 60 to 80) who play West African drums.

Visual artist Oletha DeVane, whose work has been featured in the Women Artists in Maryland exhibit in Annapolis' Government House, will create a piece of art from recycled materials. Poet and author Donna Denize will read from her works.

The Virginia Youth Workshop, high school and college students who use drama and music to promote race unity, will perform, as will the Long Reach Community Choir and Mop Attack, an eight-piece ska band from Columbia.

Booths will be open where visitors can create a mural, friendship beads and a humanity link project.

Sponsors include the Baha'i Community of Howard County, the African American Coalition of Howard County, the Clergy for Social Justice, the Rouse Co., Target Stores, the Columbia Co-Operative Ministry, the Columbia Foundation, Community Building in Howard County, the Foreign-born Information and Referral Network, Harper's Choice Community Association, the Harper's Choice Community Partnership, Howard County Office of Human Rights, the Howard County branch of the NAACP, the Howard County Times, the Jewish Federation of Howard County and the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center.

Pub Date: 6/10/99

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