Normally, most of my spring is filled with traveling to the girlie’s soccer games. We found ourselves with an empty weekend and I wanted to head to downtown Roanoke. I love strolling around downtown, perusing the shops, often stopping in the Taubman Museum and heading to the rooftop of Center in the Square. And of course finding something yummy to eat.
I checked to see if there were any events happening over the weekend and found out that the Festival of Local Colors would be taking place. I was excited to be in town for a festival. They add such vibrancy to a day downtown.
The Local Colors Festival is an annual event that celebrates Roanoke’s diversity and promotes multicultural understanding. This year was its 27th annual festival.
We went out to lunch with one of our sons and his girlfriend and then took in all the sights and sounds and smells of the festival.
The booths listed on the map represented a wide range of heritages which included: American Indian, Belize, Bolivia, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Norway (Finland and Sweden were represented here as well), Philippines, Romania, Russ, Scotland, Sierra Leone, Somalia-Bantu, South Korea, Southeast Asia, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Ukraine, and Venezuela.
Some booths offered information. Some booths sold foods associated with the respective culture. And others sold wares from their homeland.
The information booth sold raffle tickets, t-shirts, tote bags, water bottles and more. They also had maps available with the times and locations of booths and performances.
There were performances held on the stage at Elmwood Park’s amphitheater and also educational programs at the library, which is adjacent to the amphitheater.
We wandered into the amphitheater to enjoy a few of the performances. The Capoeira performance was finishing up as we found a seat.
We then watched the 15-50 dance group. They are a group of Blacksburg Chinese women ages 15-50. I believe all of the members are students, Virginia Tech employees, or spouses of employees. It was such graceful dance set to beautiful music.
As we sat and watched the dance, a group slowly formed in front of us that I suspect was going to take the stage in the future or had possibly already been up there.
The next performance was Tricolor y Siete Estrellas who were representing Venezuela. During the stage set up of the microphones, the sister in the front described her instrument. It is called a cuatro and has four strings. While it looks similar to a ukulele, it is not the same and it is played differently as well. It is used in the traditional Venezuelan Joropo.
But while waiting for the other band members to finish setting up, what she said about diversity is what struck me the most. I don’t have a direct quote, but it was about how “we all complement each other.” All races, all people, all colors…we complement each other.
And I thought that was such a beautiful truth.
I marveled at all the different cultures just right here in Roanoke.
I marveled at how the United States is filled with many cultures. Many that I know so little about.
I contemplated the sights that I came upon during my recent overseas trip. All that I had seen during my first time leaving the U.S. soil. The serenity of the canals in Amsterdam. The awe of seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
I thought about my upcoming trip to Scotland. About how although I identify strongly with my Scottish heritage, that is because that was the piece I have always known. My maternal grandfather was born in Nova Scotia, Canada to a father from Plains, Scotland and a mother from Wigan, England. Both having emigrated to Canada as children. His mother died when he was young and his Scottish grandmother came to live with them so the Scottish side was talked of often.
My mother used to ask my grandmother (her mother) if she knew her ethnicity. She would always laugh and say she was a mutt. Despite the negative connotations associated with the term “mutt”, she didn’t feel it was a negative thing, just a humorous way of stating that she had no clue as her family had been in the foothills of Kentucky and Tennessee for many years.
I think a lot of multi-generational Americans would find this to be the case with their history. When I took the DNA test with Ancestry.com, which I shared about here, I had no clue what might turn up. Turns out that I was more British than the British (my results were 79% Great Britain and the typical native is 60%). As I began to trace my maternal grandmother’s line, it would turn out to have a strong German lineage. While her maiden name of Van Hoose has been traced back to the man who brought it to America, Jan Frans Van Husum, it is not know if he was Dutch, Danish, Frisian, or German. Her mother was the union of a Yount (Jundt) and a Redwine (Reitweil). Quite a few names on my maternal great-grandmother’s side appear to be Palatinate German.
Most of my father’s line originates from different parts of England, but I have some family lines on all except my maternal grandfather tracing back to the 1600’s in America. At that point, I am at 9th great-grandparents, which means there are over 4,000 direct ancestors and sifting through the ones that I’ve been able to trace to the point they left their homeland for America is a slow process.
I am just one person. One person filled with a history of differing backgrounds. My DNA may show that I am predominately a certain ethnicity, but my genealogical records will show pioneers coming from different areas of England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Denmark and all the little towns amongst them that I’ve yet to discover. It shows them coming into Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Pennsylvania to name a few. It shows them settling in the frontiers of Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Carolinas. And eventually, you make your way to me…born and raised in Collier County, Florida.
I am just one piece of the diversity of Roanoke, Virginia.
Roanoke, Virginia is a microcosm of the diversity of the United States.
The United States is a microcosm of the diversity of the World.
And we all complement each other.
Let your light shine!