Cori Erwin

(Charlotte, N.C.) — On an April Saturday, performers kicked, spun and flipped to the beat of pounding music, as the audience cheered every new stunt and the athletes fed off that energy.

The Capoeira performance; a Brazilian art form which combines fight, dance, rhythm and movement; was one of many unique activities at a multicultural festival held April 6 at Nations Ford Elementary school.

This event, hosted by the community organization Culture Blocks, had a variety of different activities and presentations that focused on the interests of local residents.

According to Program Director Eboni Lewis, the organization’s goal is to gather feedback from community members in nine different regions, or blocks, of Mecklenburg County to find out what types of events they would be interested in throughout the year.

This is done through annual community meals, which are held in each block, in order to stay in touch with the different communities.

“Just because (the cultural events) are free doesn’t mean people will be interested in attending,” said Lewis. “So this multicultural festival is a way that we solicit feedback from residents, so we had surveys at the check-in tables to find out what types of things they would like to see throughout the year.”

At this event, there was a focus on African, Indian and Latin cultures through dance and instrumental performances.

“Some of it has to do with the cultures that are represented in the school, so we wanted to make sure that students and families could see themselves,” said Lewis. “That is also a really big component with Culture Blocks is making sure that people can see themselves in cultures.”

In the cafeteria there were samples of food and drinks from around the world for guests to try. For those who wanted to work off what they just ate, there were Latin and Capoeira dance classes, where students and their families could get up and moving.

Lewis said Nations Ford Elementary was a perfect place to host the festival.

“Just in talking with the school, knowing that this is a community hub where people in the community are already coming, that is why we wanted to partner with the school,” said Lewis. “They have an already invested group of people with students and parents and families and teachers, and so we felt that this place would be perfect to hold the multicultural festival.”

Rasheda Nicholson, whose son Josyiah is a student at Nations Ford Elementary, attended the festival after she received a flier from the school promoting the event and she said they weren’t disappointed.

“We also enjoyed the dancing,” said Nicholson. “What was it? The African teaching dancing that they just showed us was really nice. Very interactive.”

Students set up booths that focused on a different country, which allowed them to showcase what they had learned about each culture.

Many of the booths included pictures, toys or food that are native to the country represented.

Guests also had an opportunity to participate in a community art project, which allowed them to design their own origami bird.

Lewis said they haven’t yet decided where the birds will go, but it will be a memento to remember the beauty that can be seen when different cultures come together.

According to Nicholson, the event was a lot of fun and she would be interested in attending another cultural festival like this one.

“It was awesome,” said Nicholson. “A lot of great different foods, entertainment and we learned a lot.”

“Yeah. It was super awesome,” her son added.