On Friday I was a guest at the high school’s Multicultural Fair. It was the most dramatic and most successful cultural event I’ve ever seen – beating everything from Lincoln Center to the MFA.
Dozens of cultures were brilliantly represented with music, dance, food and talk. The presentations were person-to-person, with teens talking with teens, reflecting on ideas, styles, and values of their parents and grandparents. There were very few adults, who were graciously invited and respected as guests for what was (and remains) essentially a peer celebration of the variety that IS Somerville and OUGHT TO BE the nation in which we live. It was best because it was NOT directed to us, the grownups, but, rather, to each other as the next generation. And it was memorably affecting, beautifully executed, and brilliantly engaging.
Fortunately there were other teens with video and sound to capture it – it will doubtless be on Channel 15 – so you can catch a glimpse. Yet the overall affect was beyond any documentary: the flavor of a pastry from Portugal or Ireland, Bangladesh or Haiti, the smell of rice pudding with coconut from India or young people dancing, in costumes from a dozen countries, to the music of still another country was beyond any video.
I tend toward extremes in some of these observations, but mine are only shallow shadows of what kids – and adults – who were there were saying. It was an event that celebrated a new generation’s mutual concern and a new, seriously multicultural respect that transcends race, language, and class. It may only have been an event, but it is annual, it is increasingly powerful, and it is theirs, not ours, and their grace in hosting us is very rarely matched by the adults in our city.
The kids are quite remarkable, and have earned a school system we can only race to meet their standards.