Intercultural Festival celebrates diversity through food, music

Various restaurant vendors and food trucks participated in the 16th Annual Intercultural Festival outside the University Student Commons on April 13. Photo by Gessler Santos-Lopez

Walter Chidozie Anyanwu, Contributing Writer

Local vendors lined up along Main Street outside the University Student Commons April 13, catering to students and attendees of the 16th annual Intercultural Festival.

The event has occurred in Richmond for 20 years and became part of VCU in 2003. This year’s theme was centered around the concept of being a global citizen.

Sabrina Rusli, marketing chair for the ICF planning committee, said they hoped attendees would come to the festival and understand what it means to be a global citizen, how they can act as global citizens and share the responsibilities of global citizens.

“There was really no collaboration, it was kind of just ICF,” Rusli said of the festival’s organization.

The festival also received assistance from the University Student Commons in securing the space.

Featured restaurants included M&F Jamaican Cafe and Monique’s Crêpes, as well as Soul-Ice Vending, whose drinks were popular with attendees. A stage set up in front of the Ram Horns featured perfor

mances and other vendors were scattered around the Commons Plaza.

 

The event began at noon and, despite the dreary weather, continued as planned.

There were performances from student groups as well as some from local musicians and dancers. One such group was I&I Riddim, a reggae band based in Washington, D.C.

Performers took the stage at the festival despite the rainy weather. Photo by Gessler Santos-Lopez

The word “riddim” describes the upbeat dance rhythm that is almost synonymous with reggae music. I&I is an allusion to Bob Marley’s “One Love,” which the legendary musician used to express the importance of equality for all people. Lead singer Nikoli Andrews led the band in covering an array of reggae standards.

I&I manager Kori Coleman said the band has performed at the ICF for about four years.

“We love the concept of it, [we] love to support young people,” she said. “And it’s just always been a fun thing to do.”

Ayo Abifarin of Culture4MyKids, an arts education and culture program, led a dance troupe that performed in African attire and was accompanied by loud, rhythmic drums.

“It’s become an annual tradition to come and celebrate the Intercultural Festival,” Abifarin said. “I prep students from VCU as well as my community group to come together and just share in the culture, share what they’ve learned with other people.”

Charles Brown of Urban Traders had a station at the ICF where he sold handmade accessories and other Afro-centric wares such as sunglasses and clothing. Brown is something of a staple in the VCU community; most days of the week he can be found outside the University Student Commons with his van and a small kiosk of an assorted range of products.

“This is probably maybe my 20th year at the [ICF],” Brown said. “I’ve been selling on campus for over 25 years. I started this business in 1979. And my goal then, as it is now, was to sell [international products] and reflect who I am as an African American.”

He said he was glad to be there to experience the cultural diversity, which he said did a good job of representing VCU’s own diversity.

“VCU is one of the most diversified campuses that you’re going to see visually,” Brown said. “I don’t know the real statistics, but when you walk around … any given day, you see diversity.”

While the turnout was marred by bad weather, students still expressed optimism for the message the event was trying to propagate.

“I think we’re here to promote cultural awareness and exposure to different ideas,” Coleman, I&I’s manager, said. “Every year [VCU has] the most unique vendors. I wish the weather was on our side, but it has been great so far.”

The ICF was previously held in Monroe Park, and Brown said he thinks the event should be relocated there.  

“They need to take it back to the park,” he said. “In the park [there’s] a better flow. It brings more of the people that actually live in the city.”

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