Silver Chips Online

Taking to the streets

October 8, 2009
Takoma Park Folk Festival, Magical Montgomery, Takoma Park Street Festival, Silver Spring Jazz Festival, Hispanic Heritage Festival, World of Montgomery Festival. This is but a smattering of the fairs, festivals and other types of gatherings that deluge the greater Blair area every autumn. Most of us shrug them off as just more silly Montgomery County festivities for which we don't have time. But before you crumple that event flyer into the recycling, take a second look - and maybe even consider showing up.

It's easy to take for granted the diversity of Blair and the surrounding community. We live it everyday - by attending school, going out to eat, or taking a walk. But to participate actively in the multiculturalism that characterizes our community requires more than just going about our everyday routine. And what better way is there to participate in the diversity around us than by attending an exciting, vibrant and music-filled celebration? Festivals provide an abundance of opportunities to leave the comfort of your home and meet new people, whether allies sympathetic to a shared cause or people from a completely different background from whom you can learn.

Living in the greater Silver Spring area, many Blazers are granted the opportunity to engage with a large community. Unfortunately, Blazers are often accused of self-segregation. Festivals, however, are a way to break that pattern outside the confines of school. Instead of just rhetorically promoting "diversity," that elusive quality which so many people extol in descriptions of our school, let's get out there and live it.

And the numerous community festivals have nearly as many different themes as we have interests. Many are not only lighthearted amusement but also important events that build alliances and force people to step out of their comfort zone. At the Takoma Park Folk Festival a few weeks ago, for example, booths and booths of causes to support, petitions to sign and volunteers to recruit encircled the entire perimeter of Takoma Park Middle School.

There is immeasurable benefit in choosing to turn off your TV or computer and taking to the streets - but not in the traditional, riotous sense. Rather, try some new food at a festival that celebrates a culture with which you are unfamiliar (even if it has something weird and slimy in it). Listen to a new genre of music. Meet your neighbors at the block party. By trying new things and meeting new people, we not only gain valuable experience, but forge connections to foster community and build alliances. And it all comes at a very, very low price - community festivals have the added bonus of being cheap fun because of the county's generous funding.

Perhaps the most important function of community events is that they bring us together in wake of violence. Mixed Unity's Peace March, held on Aug. 22nd, is a prime example of neighborhood people banding together for strength, organizing purposes and to stand up to gang violence. Though not a street festival in the traditional sense, the gathering was nonetheless valuable.

In light of the tragedies in Silver Spring in the past year, it's more important than ever for our community to stand united, to stick up for each other and to band together. Attendance at festivals and similar events is a powerful, public manifestation of solidarity.

So Blazers, let's get out there and participate. From block parties to countywide festivals, there's a need for volunteers, audiences and people who just plain show up. Teens are a crucial demographic of the population - let's make sure our voices are heard and our presences felt.