Come together

1st World Culture Celebration Festival unites in Centerville

Photo: Baoku Moses, a Cincinnati-based Afro-beat musician, headlines World Culture Festival in Centerville; photo: Leo Koiko, Foto With Edge

By Tim Smith

We seem to be living in an era where division has replaced diversity, but one local human rights advocate would like to see that change, starting with an all-inclusive gathering: The World Culture Celebration Festival.

The festival will be held at the St. Leonard Franciscan Community Living Center on June 10. The festival is the brainchild of entrepreneur Manfred Schreyer. His goal is to put on an event that not only celebrates Dayton’s regional diversity, but creates an opportunity for community members to come together across diverse identities, to learn, listen, share, and grow in unity.

“We were the promoters of the Baby Boomer Festival last summer, and it was a huge success,” Schreyer says. “We sought to bring little festivals together so we can all get along. We’re all human beings, we’re living in a short time, and we should all get along together.”

His agenda is an ambitious one that seeks to break down attitudinal differences and remind people of the importance of tolerance.

“We live in a time that is really bizarre where no matter what you discuss—religion, politics, whatever—we’ve taken the humanity out of it,” Schreyer says. “Not that there haven’t always been different opinions, but it’s time to get humanity back into our daily interactions. We’re all in this together. It’s an underlying part of the festival and I’m going into it with that premise. Get together for some good food, some good music, and everyone enjoy some fellowship time.”

The day-long event will include information booths featuring cultural, religious, and health organizations, a variety of live entertainment, cultural demonstrations, global cuisines, and kids’ activities.

“We want to get the kids involved, because it’s a family event,” Schreyer adds. “We want the families involved. I want to make it clear that this isn’t a stipulation, but a mood we want to present.”

Schreyer admits that events and attitude changes over the past year may have guided his decision to hold a festival emphasizing unity.

“I think you can say yes and you can say no,” Schreyer says. “These were some of the trigger moments that influenced us. It doesn’t matter which side you are on, you should be respectful of the other side. It’s not political. I just wanted to open the box up and say, hey, we’re better than this, than to argue over what happened. The other side won, so let it be. It’s just about being together, like we are meant to be.”

The main entertainment attraction will be Baoku Moses, a Cincinnati-based Afro-beat musician. He is the founder/leader of The Image Afro-beat Band, and the artistic director of Positive Image Arts.

When Schreyer isn’t organizing community events, he holds court at Taffy’s, a popular music venue in Eaton, Ohio.

“We’ve done 250 concerts a year, every night except Sunday and Monday, since 1999,” Schreyer says. “We have open mic nights and have featured some great players, such as John Hammond and many touring bands. It’s some place where we have the opportunity to talk to artists and invite them to play at festivals. For an event such as the Culture Festival, you have to have the big host, which is Baoku Moses. There will also be many local entertainers appearing that day.”

The festival will be held at the St. Leonard Franciscan Living Community in Centerville, and will begin after their 5K run in honor of veterans. Schreyer notes that his group has had a long-standing relationship with the community center.

“We work very closely with St. Leonard’s, where we held the Baby Boomer event last year,” Schreyer says. “They’ve been very cooperative, along with the city of Centerville. This is just the opening of the festival season, so we don’t know what to expect. Of course, we want a nice crowd and hope to make this an annual event.”

Schreyer is grateful for the support and sponsorship he has received, although he expressed some initial frustration when approaching sponsors.

“We sent letters to about 60-70 nonprofit organizations, from political to advocacy groups and religious groups, but we’ve gotten very, very few responses,” Schreyer says. “I would have expected that people would have been more interested, but many were not. That was a little frustrating, but I’m not going to be the judge of that. I would have loved to have organizations where you could walk up and say, ‘Hey, what’s up with this? Tell me what you are all about.’ That was just a frustrating part, which I don’t understand.”

Schreyer hopes that attendees can set aside personal differences and come away with a renewed appreciation and understanding of all cultures.

“It gets harder and harder for people,” Schreyer says. “It’s not that you have to respect everything that comes around, and there are lines that you shouldn’t cross, but you have to respect that. I may not agree with you, but you’re still my buddy and we need to get along. It’s wrong, just dead wrong, to slam someone over the head because you don’t agree with what they say. The sad thing is when you have that behavior, you can’t move forward. It doesn’t benefit all of us.”

The World Culture Celebration Festival takes place Saturday, June 10, from 11 a.m.–10 p.m., at the St. Leonard Franciscan Living Community, 8100 Clyo Rd. in Centerville. The event is free and open to the public. For a schedule and more information, please call 937.533.1291 or visit WorldCultureCelebrationFestival.com.

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Tim Smith
Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at TimSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com

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