Metro and State
Day lauds unity of all people
San Antonio Express-News
Web Posted : 07/07/2002 12:00 AM
San Antonians of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds gathered Saturday to celebrate their common humanity that transcends all differences.
"Really, our differences are superficial. In essence we are all the same," said Omar Shakir, Imam of Masjid Bilal, a mosque in San Antonio, who attended Race Unity Day 2002. "I think this speaks to the unity of the human family, and I think that is important."
San Antonio's fifth annual Race Unity event, organized by the Baha'i community of San Antonio, was held at Villita Assembly Building. It drew a thin crowd of about 100 early Saturday, but organizers expected between 800 and 1,000 participants to stroll through by the end of the day.
As performers from country singers to Polynesian dancers took the stage, the audience drank Mexican aguas frescas and ate pork tacos from Hawaii, popusas from El Salvador, lamb pulao from Pakistan, and fried beef jerky from Vietnam.
Renée Park, whose parents moved to San Antonio from Hawaii, said she hoped the event's festive, diverse atmosphere can envelop the city year-round, not just for a day.
"San Antonio is so diverse, so many cultures," she said. "Look at all these cultures here, all together, just hanging out, having a good time."
Park, who along with members of the Hula Halau Ohana Elikapeka dance group performed at Race Unity, said the event not only helps others learn about Polynesian culture but also teaches their children about their own roots.
"They are so far away from home," she said. "Some of the little ones haven't even been to their homelands."
Neera Satsangi agreed. Her daughter Nancy, 13, was one of the girls from the Arathi School of Indian Dance who performed at the event. In one performance, the troupe danced to a song about the Hindu god Krishna; in another, the song told a story about young girls going to the river to fetch water for their homes.
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'i faith established a national Race Unity Day in 1957 to improve race relations.
"We don't focus on religion," said Winifred Barnum-Newman, executive director of the event. "I don't want people to associate it with any one religion. It's about unity."
After Sept. 11, Sarwat Husain, who is originally from Pakistani, said she felt an obligation to teach others about Muslims and help erase stereotypes about her community.
"We have to go out and show, 'Well you think we are different, but we are just like you,'" she said, adding that people of all backgrounds have the same responsibility. "If we want our children to understand each other, we should bring them out."
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