Creating Community

During last weekend’s National Folk Festival thousands of people traveled the world without leaving the U.S. The event in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina, was a beautiful expression of how strangers; people who have no connection other than sharing a street, a laugh, or a song, can come together and create a sense of community. As I sat in the audience at numerous venues, I realized that even though I didn’t recognize a single face in the crowd, I loved these people. Although there was no common spoken language between many of us, we seemed to equally enjoy the dancers, singers and performers on the stages. In the ethnic tent, identified as the North Carolina Traditions Stage, I saw women and men in their native dress, from colorful saris to long flowing robes, heads covered and uncovered, blue-dark-skin with bright eyes and shining white teeth. I longed to tell them how beautiful they looked to me, these people I might never see again. I wanted to tell them how much I appreciate that they still wear their traditional clothing and speak their native language.

Tibetan Opera, Dance & Singers

Although most of the performers now live in the U.S., my heart ached for the Tibetan singer brought up in India, her home in exile because of China’s aggressive attempts to destroy Tibetan culture. I sought out performances from Pakistan, Rwanda, Tibet and other countries not only because I am somehow drawn to exotic cultures, but these singers and dancers are the ones keeping their cultures alive. Thanks to the work of those spearheading the National Folk Festival, I and thousands of others had an opportunity to learn a little more about those from other parts of this amazing world we inhabit.

We came together to celebrate music, culture and creativity. Perhaps this is one of the best ways for us to heal the ills of the world and bridge the cultural divides we are experiencing here in the U.S. We are, after all is said and done, in this ‘net’ together. 

Net art installation over LeBauer Park in downtown Greensboro
Net art installation over LeBauer Park in downtown Greensboro. Artist: Janet Echelman
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