In the mid-1990s, an increasing number of refugees and immigrants began arriving to make Nashville their home and brought with them a tapestry of cultural diversity.
Dr. Carolyn Oehler, president of the Scarritt-Bennett Center, noticed these significant changes. Oehler and others at Scarritt-Bennett, a nonprofit with a commitment to social justice and the eradication of racism, decided to start an event that brought together in one place many of the cultures represented in Nashville.
The event became known as the Celebration of Cultures, a day of song, dance, visual art and food representing diverse cultures, and this year it will be held Saturday, Oct. 2, at Centennial Park.
“Usually it takes an incident before people come together,” said Kim Roberts Johnson, vice president of educational enrichment programs and community relations at Scarritt-Bennett. “But we wanted to be proactive about people wanting to share their cultures in Nashville.”
And proactive they were. Fourteen years later, the Celebration of Cultures has grown from a crowd of 3,000 to 35,000 people exploring the Global Village with representatives from 12 different communities. There are also five stages featuring singers, dancers and musicians representing more than 25 additional cultures.
“People love sharing their culture. They want people to understand them better and who they really are,” Johnson said. “The celebration is a positive way to show the beauty that is in their tradition.”
Johnson said she hopes that people who attend the celebration will not only be spectators, but also will learn through conversation and interaction with the different cultures. There will be a welcoming parade at noon that everyone is welcome to join to celebrate their own cultures.