In spite of the current atrocities occurring in Darfur, the local Sudanese community gathered on May 27th to celebrate diversity and make a call for peace. Now in its fifth year, the Fashoda Cultural Day, held at Minnie Howard School in Alexandria, united the community with music, poetry, dance and food.
ONE OF THE head coordinators, Kwathi Ajawin, says that the event acknowledges the many different people living in Sudan, a fact usually not presented in the media.
"Sudan is multicultural," he said. The event showed this diversity in one key moment, a sort of "fashion show" which demonstrated the attire from different regions in the Sudan.
The event was just as much for the children of the Sudanese community as it was for those born in the country. Ajawin repeatedly stressed the importance of "keeping the culture alive." In some cases, this culture took on a new form here in the states. Hip-hop artist Young David performed at the event, speaking proudly of his Sudanese heritage.
"If you don't know your past, you don't know your history, then you don't know who you are," Ajawin said.
Furthering the theme of diversity, some of the poetry went beyond Darfur and spoke about horrors elsewhere in the world. One poet likened natural disasters to cruelty done by human hands, echoing the refrain, "The Asian tsunami is immensely sacrilegious."
Darfur, which means "Land of the Fur" is a region in western Sudan. Tensions came to a head recently when rebel groups in the region began attacking government targets. Hundreds of thousands in the region died at the hands of a retaliating militia group known as the Janjaweed. Though the government denies any link to Janjaweed, there is strong international pressure to stop the killings.
Though this event benefited the Sudanese community here in Northern Virginia, it acknowledged the need to keep helping those still in Sudan. Fliers announced a Darfur Relief Drive on Saturday, June 10th at Edison High School in Franconia.