Muckenthaler Cultural Center hosts the Silk Road Unity Festival to celebrate diversity

The ancient Silk Road was a network of trade routes connecting people from Asia all the way to Europe, serving as a melting pot of culture, according to the Muckenthaler Cultural Center. The connecting roads were vital for trading and paved the way for shared languages, religion, philosophies and sciences among people from different walks of life.

Cal State Fullerton students joined the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in honoring the historic route during the first annual “Silk Road Unity Festival.” The community was invited to share goods, services and ideas like many did long ago.

Noah Sanchez, the project manager for M.J.N. Public Relations, a CSUF student-run public relations firm that helped promote the event said the multicultural festival was unique in its diversification of heritages present.
“This festival is celebrating (different traditions, beliefs and food) by bringing all of those elements together,” Sanchez said. “I think that is a good thing today, to celebrate diversity and appreciate different cultures across the world.”

The Brookhurst Community Center and Park in Anaheim was transformed into a blast from the past through performances, trade and exhibition rooms, a film festival, panels, family arts and food from the cultures along the Silk Road.

The main stage, the East Room, held performances like Turkish guitar playing and Syrian wedding dancing. Girls of all ages from the Savithri Arts Academy adorned in vibrant colors and gold jewels performed Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, ancient classical dances originating in India. The sound of Taiko drummers from the Shinnyo-en Buddhist temple released rhythmic sounds, giving life to the standard showroom.

The trade room featured goods from Syria, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, demonstrating what would have been observed on the silk and spice routes. Embroidered and brightly colored clothing hung along the room and handmade art from all over the Middle East was displayed in separated sections that represented their origins.

Farrell Hirsch, the CEO of the Muckenthaler Cultural Center, said this event was especially important because it highlighted all of the cultures that may not get recognition otherwise.

“A lot of people know Chinese culture, Indian or some of the other larger cultures, but you might not know the Azerbaijani culture, or Bangladeshi culture. We’re celebrating everything, giving voices to people whose voices aren’t always heard,” Hirsch said.

The festival included family arts activities where children could create art that was commonly found on the Silk Road, like Indian elephant prints and plum blossoms painted with branch chinese brushes.

Festivalgoers were able to go from live performances to the indoor film festival, which included films like “The Chinese Silk Road” and “Journey to Mecca (Ibn Battuta).” Guests were also invited to listen to shared ideas with the Silk Road Interfaith Unity Panel where religious beliefs were given space to intersect.

“We live in a world where people like to point out differences and they like to point them out as a way of separation. I think when you acknowledge differences and wipe away ignorance with a little bit of knowledge, you end up with a better community,” Farrell said.

Jose Moreno, mayor pro tem for the City of Anaheim and associate professor of Latino education and policy at Cal State Long Beach in Chicano and Latino Studies, said the event is an opportunity for the community to exchange cultural differences and beliefs.

“Culture is especially important, that’s what brings us together,” Moreno said. “It’s especially essential during this rhetorical time that we’re in where there is so much vitriol.”

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