ST. PETERSBURG – A dream is what made Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hopeful. A dream where people will be equal with oneness! Unity! Together! What a dream, where people separated by racial tension, political position and economically inequality could transform into a community one day.
Transformed: Community Unity Day held last month at the Laos Multicultural Center aimed at providing an opportunity for discriminatory healing and the embracing of oneness in our local community. The event provided a venue for the community to release stress, anxiety and examine their beliefs about varying cultures. It allowed the community a chance to share various cultural perspectives and to celebrate our diversity.
“This was quite an experience where people who don’t know each other came together in unity and love and just had fun,” said Deborah Saathoff, program chairperson for the event.
“I believe when Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of unity that it would look something like this. When we all get to heaven, there is not going to be my neighborhood and your neighborhood. We’re all going to be together so we may as well start in on earth.”
Radio station 99 Jams broadcasted live capturing the experience, which featured booth exhibits displaying various cultural ethnicities, clothing, music, food, artifacts and history.
A 6ft by 3ft, four-sided column became a focal point for people of different cultures to respond to the thought: “I have a dream that one day…!” Each person wrote their response in their native language. This gesture was so impacting that Northeast High School’s Multicultural Club is extending the act at their school.
The thought process is when people learn more about one another they can appreciate each other and have some fun while doing it. Seeing Bulgarians, Hispanics, Asians and African Americans all dancing to the Caribbean music was a message all within itself.
“We are part of the community and we want to have a greater role,” said Donald Jackson, general manager of 99 Jams, which is the newest community radio station in St. Pete. “We want to partner with the people in the community. Events like the unity day bring positivity to the Bay area!”
The Bulgarian Dance group brought the audience together in a display of trickery dance step moves that they so gracefully performed. Their combination of high energy and great grace made joining in a delight.
The St. Petersburg Police Department Mount Unit was a captivating sight, especially for the 60 or so youth at the event. The beauty of the horse drew oohs and ahhs from the crowd as he high-stepped into dance moves.
“Did you see that?” exclaimed one youngster, mystified that such a large and powerful animal could be in sync with the music.
Joining in on the excitement of the day was Noemi Bosques, a three-time boxing champion. His championship belts gave the audience a moment to feel like winners as they wrapped the belts around their waists.
Also included were fun children activities, such as a bounce house, kid city, arts and craft, face painting, basketball shooting and the popular henna tattoos. Together, the audience joined hands with neighbors to encompass the entire field in a motion of solidarity.
This “Day On, Not A Day Off” project was dedicated to bringing people of various ethnicities and backgrounds together to celebrate the diversity that makes our community great and unique. By implementing this project, the goal was to reach beyond the local community and empower those who take Dr. King’s message of hope and equality everywhere they go.