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Cultivating Our Cultures For 25 Years

Photos Provided By Pangea

Pangea” is the concept of a supercontinent that existed over 300 million years ago. It is believed that this supercontinent broke apart, forming into pieces of what we now know as our earth’s seven continents. While our continents are far in geography, The Historic and Cultural Society of Clay County’s annual event “Pangea: Cultivate our Cultures” shows that we aren’t so distant from one another after all. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, this event is the largest free, family-friendly celebration of cultural diversity in the community.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on November 16, Fargo-Moorhead residents will gather at the Hjemkomst Center to celebrate and learn about the cultural diversity in our area. This one-day, family-friendly celebration of cultural diversity has something for everyone, including food, artwork, cultural exhibits, children’s activities, performances and educational demonstrations. For many, the sampling of ethnic foods is a highlight of the event, and this year food vendors include Everest Tikka House, Adibon, the Concordia French Club, Red River Danes, Paul Aladdin and more.

The Pangea celebration began in 1994, going by the name “Cultivate our Cultures” and put on by Cultural Diversity Resources. It wasn’t until 2003 that The Historic and Cultural Society of Clay County teamed with Cultivate our Cultures to host the event and rename it. The event was started as a way to bring the community together to learn about the different cultures that exist in our region and to make connections.

The executive director of Cultural Diversity Resources and Pangea’s founder, Yoke-Sim Gunaratne said, “Cultivate our Cultures was really done not just for new Americans, but minorities, too. We wanted to highlight diversity, focusing on people of color and different cultures.”

One aspect that makes the event so interesting is that the vendors, performers and educators involved in the event are all living in our community currently. These aren’t people coming into town to teach about where they are from, these are our neighbors. For many living in the region, they might not know the breadth of diversity our city limits hold, and this event is the perfect opportunity to be educated. Maureen Kelly Johnson, executive director of the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County and director of Pangea since 2008, said, “I think it has a unifying effect on our community. We’ve had so many people come and say they had no idea there was this much diversity in our community.”

Beyond a general awareness of who our neighbors are, the event offers several educational opportunities. Throughout all of the Hjemkomst Center, there will be booths with vendors of imported goods, henna demonstrations, food samplings and educational programs. “We always try to have the educational component, it’s not just entertainment. That is part of it, but there are ways to learn about how they dress, the meaning of certain dances or songs and more,” said Del Rae Williams, former Moorhead mayor and longtime Pangea collaborator.

With a commonality of being new to the area, vendors and participating groups can also get to know each other better. “I encourage a lot of them to connect with each other because they have that common bond,” said Williams. Even though the cultures from countries near and far are very different, how they relate to the greater, larger community is that thing in common. “I get to see people interact and have dialogue and have fun with people from different cultures. This is a time we all get together and eat something new and have fun,” said Gunaratne.

Beyond the job market and affordable cost of living, one thing that makes Fargo-Moorhead so special is the sense of community here, and that is why refugees and new Americans settle here. About Pangea and why Fargo-Moorhead is so unique, Gunaratne said, “It really comes back to the community atmosphere and connecting with one another, it’s so important. I still think, to this day, living in a place like Fargo-Moorhead is amazing because I love the connections. I go shopping or anywhere and I see familiar faces. You feel like you are part of the society.

It’s not just fitting in, it is feeling like you belong. This event is really getting people to feel like they aren’t just fitting in, they are belonging. They are part of the society and the community, which is so important. Diversity is all about [feeling] I’m not different. I belong here, I am part of the community.”

This special program is made possible by generous donations, sponsors, community partners and collaborators such as Cultural Diversity Resources, the New American Consortium and Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota. Pangea is truly made for the community and by the community.

In years past, the parking lot has filled up by 10:30 a.m. (not to worry, parking is available at the Moorhead Center Mall and there will be a free shuttle back and forth). The first 500 attendees get a free bag and attendance is free, so what are you waiting for? Mark your calendars for Saturday, November 16 and prepare for a day of diversity and cultural education.

Pangea – Cultivate our Cultures

Saturday, November 16
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Hjemkomst Center
202 1st Ave N, Moorhead

Written by Josiah Kopp

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