Taylor Toben, Contributing Writer
Most of Richmond’s festivals are on the opposite side of the river from Southside — which is why the Imagine Multicultural Festival, which sought to represent the area’s communities and provide resources through cultural exchange, took place south of the James.
“This is about the people living here in the Southside,” said Karla Ramo, the manager at Richmond’s Office of Multicultural Affairs.
Vibrant performances and music from various cultural groups accompanied a family-like atmosphere on Saturday at the annual Imagine Multicultural Festival. The event celebrated minority groups in the area through song, dance, food trucks and booths to offer information about the resources available in the community.
The event included food vendors, organization booths with service information, activities for children, as well as free health checks and information on how to prevent certain illnesses. More than a dozen music groups performed on the main stage, including the South Sudanese RVA Youth Girls Group, the Richmond Chinese Folk Dance Group and the Sacred Heart Folklórico.
The event offered free health checks and education on how certain illnesses disproportionately affect minority groups.
Over the course of its 15-year history, the festival has expanded to include more cultures.
“It used to be mostly the Hispanic community, and now we have three Chinese performances, and two African, out of twelve,” Ramo said. “The Mixtecan indigenous community from Mexico will be represented for the first time ever this year as well.”
The event also had a wider variety of food vendors this year. For example, the festival included a truck from the Jamaican Cafe, an American food truck serving food options like corn dogs and hot dogs, and food from Senegal.
This was the first year that the Office of Multicultural Affairs hired a company to take videos of the event.
“We need people to know about it and come join,” Ramo said.
One performance included a rendition of the lion dance, a Chinese-style dance performed by students at VCU.
The event was first established to help the Hispanic community in Richmond. The Office of Multicultural Affairs was formerly known as the “Spanish Liaison,” but soon changed its name to include services for other communities.
The festival’s symbol used to be a butterfly, which represented the migration of Mexicans to the U.S., but now uses pottery pieces.
“We got away from the butterfly and went with pottery because everyone recognizes clay from every cultural group, so it is not specific to the Latino community,” said Bradley Evans, who was volunteering at the festival for the fifth year.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs can be found at richmondgov.com/MulticulturalAffairs.