Columbia International Day at lakefront to celebrate racial diversity, harmony


Latin and Caribbean bands and Irish and East Indian dancers will shake up Columbia's lakefront tomorrow as party-goers from all over celebrate the first Columbia International Day.

The free event, highlighting the town's diversity, also will feature ethnic foods, arts and crafts and international displays. In addition, five multicultural films will be shown at the Harper's Choice Village Center -- with discussions afterwards.

"The Columbia Council decided this would be a great year to celebrate our diversity and the fact we are an international city," said Maggie J. Brown, vice president of community services for the Columbia Association, which is co-sponsoring the event.

Promoting racial harmony and diversity was part of the vision that James W. Rouse, Columbia's developer, had for the planned community when it was established 28 years ago.

"Every nationality I think you can think of, you have in Columbia," Mrs. Brown said. "You have a very diverse people here. Columbia has that openness about it, and people feel very good about coming to live here.

"We want to nurture our community," she said. "We want to keep it growing."

In February, the Columbia Council approved an $8,000 budget for the event, which also is co-sponsored by the Harper's Choice Merchants Association and Columbia Management Inc.

Activities begin at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the Harper's Choice Village Center, with face-painting, clowns, games and story-telling for children. Adults can see 20-minute films, such as "The Changing Face of Education" and "The Shadow of Hate."

The Community Homes Unity Drill Team, a local group of youngsters ages 4 to 10, will begin the live entertainment.

"We are alike and we are different but we can celebrate the differences in everybody and find out how we are alike," said Jean Lewis, the team's co-founder.

About 40 teen-agers from Columbia's sister-city exchange programs in Tres Cantos, Spain, and Cergy-Pontoise, France, will attend.

Also set to perform at the village center are: Schroeder Cherry and His Puppets, the Trinidad and Tobago Steel Band and dance troupe Raks Shiraz.

Lakefront entertainment beginning at 4 p.m. will include performances by East Indian and Irish dancers; Mama Jama, a Caribbean, reggae and salsa band; and Brasilia, a Latin jazz and bossa nova group from New York.

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