Cultural Celebration to showcase county's diversity

According to State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood), the Clayton County community is rich with cultural influences from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Later this month, Glanton, Clayton County Public Schools and Superintendent Edmond Heatley will showcase the county's diversity, while raising money for local nonprofit groups and aid organizations.

The fourth annual Clayton County Cultural Celebration will take place on Saturday, April 17 from 7 to 10 p.m., at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center, located at 2530 Mt. Zion Parkway in Jonesboro. The event will feature a variety of dance and musical performances representing the talents of the county's Korean, Indian, African, African-American, European, Taiwanese, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Tahitian, and Hungarian communities, according to organizers.

Glanton, who has hosted the program since its inception, said he began hosting ethnic observances as an equal opportunity advisor for the U.S. Army. He said events like the Cultural Celebration can help bring the community together by highlighting what people have in common.

"We all want quality education, we all want safe neighborhoods, we all want economic prosperity," Glanton said. "We just don't know how to communicate that to each other. Often, we can get so locked down on what we believe, we can have a tendency to have a zero tolerance for people who do things differently. From my experience, I think what people take away from an event like this is a newfound appreciation for the customs and traditions of other folks."

Among those slated to perform at this year's Cultural Celebration are: Kevin "Kalimbaman" Spears, who performs African kalimba music using a 100-year-old kalimba, once owned by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Alex Haley; the "Slide by Slide" American jazz ensemble; the Eve Hao Dance Studio, specializing in Taiwanese and Chinese dance; the Afro Heartbeat African dance troupe; folk, ballad, and soul singer, Faye Raye; jazz, rhythm and blues, and funk singer, Michel Jons; the Loving Heart Korean Dance ensemble; the Price Performing Arts Center, specializing in various dance forms; Full Radius Dance, which showcases the dance of people with physical disabilities; Ju-Taun, a multicultural rhythm and blues ensemble; and the Forest Park-based Zodiax Dance Team, specializing in hip hop dance.

Funds raised from the performance, according to Glanton, will benefit a number of local organizations, including: the Clayton County Alzheimer Services Center; Clayton County 4-H Club; the Clayton County Grassroots Leadership Institute; Prodigal Sons and Daughters, Inc.; the Historic Rex Village Restoration Association; the House of Dawn; and the Clayton County Public Schools Scholarship Fund.

Glanton said the funding will help local nonprofits during a time when many local governments have little to give.

"In light of the economic times, the first thing to get cut or eliminated are programs that take care of people," Glanton said. "A lot them are already operating on shoe-string budgets. It's extremely important that these organizations continue to function."

Rhonda Burnough, community relations liaison for the school system, said many of the participants in the performance will hail from Clayton County Public Schools. She said the event will provide students with exposure, as well as educational benefits.

"The Clayton County school system is always excited about any opportunity where students can showcase their talents," Burnough said. "This is going to be a great opportunity for them. The biggest benefit is that the students who attend, they'll get to experience different cultures first hand ... they'll learn more about the different faces of their community."

Tickets to the performance are $10 and can be purchased in advance from the various nonprofit organizations participating, or on the day of the performance at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center. A limited number of complimentary tickets are available to nonprofit groups providing services to seniors and children.

For more information, call (678) 508-5254, (678) 760-8500, or (770) 473-2875.