By Joel Hall
Plans are underway for the 2009 Clayton County Cultural Celebration Day, which will take place March 22 at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center.
The program, hosted by State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Jonesboro), will celebrate the cultural diversity of the county, and raise money for needy non-profit organizations.
Glanton said this will be the second year the celebration has been held at the performing arts center. The evening, he said, will feature a variety of performances highlighting American, African, Hispanic, Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, and European culture. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Grassroots Leadership Institute, the Clayton County 4-H Program, Clayton County Alzheimer's Support Services, the Boys to Men Mentoring Program, and the Partner in Education Program of Jackson County.
"From 1991 to 1993, the demographics in the county began to open itself not just to African Americans, but to Africans, Asians, and Hispanics as well," said Glanton. "The original intention [of the program] is the same intention I have now ... to bring the Clayton County community together to enjoy and appreciate the diversity that we have in the community.
"Because of the financial climate, it is extremely difficult for nonprofits to raise money during these times," he said. "This is not only a chance to bring people together, but a chance to support and promote these programs that are providing critical needs to this community."
The diverse list of scheduled performers includes: The Red Heads, a Florida-based country music duo; Zemirah, a local, 10-year-old Rhythm and Blues singer; Eve Hao Dance Studio, a metro-Atlanta dance troop performing traditional Chinese and Taiwanese dance routines; jazz, tap, and ballet dancers from Price Performing Arts Center in Atlanta; Afro Heartbeat, a local, African dance troop; Caló Gitano, a Venezuelan flamenco dance troop; Monica Gupta with the Isha Foundation, performing Indian classical dance; Yen, a local, Vietnamese Rhythm and Blues singer; Lil' Dee, a local, positive Hip Hop artist, and Clark King, a young keyboardist, vocalist and composer.
In addition, Forest Park's own Zodiax Hip Hop dance team will perform. In November, the team defeated the 'Cusetown dance team of Syracuse, N.Y. -- on national television -- in the final dance-off round of Black Entertainment Television's (BET) 106 & Park Wild Out Wednesday dance competition.
Nyasha Zimucha, Miss Africa USA 2008-2009 is also scheduled to make an appearance.
Kim Siebert serves as director of the Clayton County Extension Office, which oversees both the Grassroots Leadership Program, a training program targeted at future community leaders, and Clayton County's 4-H Club, a youth leadership program for students enrolled in grades 5-12.
She said proceeds from the celebration will help the Grassroots Leadership Program continue to operate, and will help 4-H students participate in speech contests and educational field trips.
"We have to continue to fund-raise to keep Grassroots going," said Siebert. "We want to help pay for them [4-H students] to go to these competitions, so the cost doesn't fall on the families."
She said the Cultural Day program will help raise funds, while highlighting "the fact that we are a diverse county and the positives that come from that."
Glanton said he believes the program will promote understanding and allow the different cultures of Clayton County to discover commonalties. "It's not just cultural, it's educational," he said. "This is one more effort to continue to keep this community bonded. I think it offers us a chance not only to see other customs and cultures, but a chance to appreciate them as well."
Admission to the event, which is scheduled to start at 7 p.m., is $10. A limited number of complimentary tickets will be given to representatives of local, non-profit organizations that provide services to children or senior citizens. For more information, call the Clayton County Performing Arts Center at (770) 473-2875. For sponsorship opportunities, contact Mike Glanton at (678) 479-7730.