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International Festival 2020: A Virtual Celebration of Unity in Diversity

By Victoria McJunkin | October 2, 2020


Categories: Community Featured

This Sunday, International Festival, the Davis International House’s 10th annual celebration of unity in diversity will be held entirely online! 

For the past nine years, International Festival has taken place in Central Park, but in order to accommodate public health initiatives, the all-day cultural fair has been transformed into a 3-hour broadcast featuring carefully-curated performances from over 20 cultural groups. Tune in for free October 4 from 5-8pm at https://internationalhousedavis.org/. No registration required, come and go as you please. 

International Fest 2016. The all-day celebration consisted of booths, food vendors, and performances.

At its core, International Fest seeks to provide attendees with cultural resources to help instill an appreciation for the diversity at the heart of our community. Although face-to-face interactions will be missed in this year’s virtual celebration, Shelly Gilbride, executive director of International House-Davis, maintains its integrity: “The performances represent cultures as they exist all around the world and as they exist in the people who contribute so meaningfully to our community,” she says. “By sharing that in a virtual space, we can provide a little bit of support and connection to people in a place where divisiveness can so easily permeate.”

Antara Bhardwaj, a kathak dancer. Kathak is a classical dance from India, and Antara will be presenting a traditional story-telling piece from the ancient epic, the Ramayana.

From Japanese Taiko drummers to Indian Classical dancers, Polynesian Hula and Aztec Traditional dancing, performances will feature a wide range of local cultural groups. “These groups are not only from Davis,” adds International House Office and Volunteer Coordinator Shahzana Ali. “We have participants from Yuba City, Sacramento, Woodland. All of these groups came together to form an entire regional community.”

Black Flag Dance: “During the Golden Age of Piracy, the black flag symbolized humankind’s natural freedoms. Established in 2018, Black Flag is a dance crew that has adopted the symbol to stand for creative freedom–a state in which people can create beyond the obvious and encounter ways into the unseen, unheard, and unfelt.”

In light of this year’s tumultuous social climate, International House staff have prioritized Antiracism, which has been a longstanding part of I-House. This year especially, the International Festival seeks to intentionally uplift BIPOC communities with the inclusion of BIPOC artists that have not performed for I-Fest thus far. 

Meal from ZimCuisine, an authentic Southern African pop-up restaurant.

While you watch the show, I-House encourages attendees to support local businesses and stay safe by ordering takeout from your favorite local restaurant. “If you take a picture of your takeout while watching the festival, you will be entered into a chance to win a wine basket from I-House,” explains Ali. Make sure to use the hashtag #Takeout4IFest for a chance to win. 

Ballet Folklorico de Sacramento. Ballet folklórico consists of some basic set of steps called zapateados which involve percussive heel-stomping.

In addition to the performance broadcast, Culture Commons, a cultural directory, is launching in unison with International Fest on the I-House website. Culture Commons will function as a standing resource for the community, documenting artists and cultural groups everywhere. 

“The Culture Commons will serve as a documentation of this region’s cultural richness: almost like a cultural asset map for anyone to access,” shares Gilbride. “A lot of these groups don’t have the strongest online presence because they aren’t a ‘formal’ organization or institution, but they still contribute greatly to the community,” shares Gilbride. Each group has a profile searchable by diasporic origin and performance type. A few additional clicks will reveal information of the group’s cultural history, country, faith-base, and more. All International Festival performers are listed in the directory, and any local cultural group is also encouraged to join. 

Kalpulli Xihuacoatl is a traditional Aztec Dance Group under the direction of Late Capitana Irene Adame RIP. Their mission is to conquer people’s hearts with culture, harmony, and love.

Despite being closed since March, and unable to draw in revenue by renting out their facilities for events, I-House continues to serve the community as a now-virtual space of inclusivity, while still financially supporting artists through a grant from the Cal Arts Council. The center currently holds language classes, English-learning opportunities, cooking classes, and international parent groups. Gilbride explains: “Our intention is community-building: to engage with differences in opinions and cultural norms in order to have thoughtful, respectful conversations.”


Make sure to tune in to International Festival 2020 this Sunday at 5pm! Streaming from https://internationalhousedavis.org/

In order to continue to support local cultural groups and artists, support I-House! Donate (any amount is welcome and appreciated):  https://internationalhousedavis.org/give-to-i-house/

Text “I house” to 44321 to donate


Victoria McJunkin is a senior at UC Davis and a regular contributor to The Dirt.

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