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Sweet success for Auburn Springfest

The Sweet Auburn Springfest of Atlanta has been a multi-cultural conglomeration , writes Meeta Chaitanya.

india Updated: May 16, 2006 17:13 IST

Celebrating the diversity of Atlanta's cultural composition, the Sweet Auburn Springfest of Atlanta has been a multi-cultural conglomeration welcomed by the city in more ways than one. This year too, it has been very well-received by its numerous patrons that stand out as perhaps one of the most exuberant diverse population group.

Spanning the mid-May weekend this year, Auburn Avenue's historic festival is dedicated to Mrs Coretta Scott King and inherently to the various Diaspora groups that make up the vivacious American landscape. The annual party began on Friday, May 12, at 5 pm and roared successfully through the weekend culminating at 8 pm on Sunday, May 14. 

One of the hugest shindigs in the South, the Sweet Auburn festival is known as the city's premiere International art, food film and music festival. It attracts a huge number of Indians, Pakistanis and people of Caribbean origin along with Latinos and African Americans. The poster for the festival, with its vivid
delineation of an Indian woman in blue was lure enough for many who chanced upon it.

Of the many people actively involved in organizing the melee are Farooq Soomro of the Asian-American Foundation and Giriraj Rao Executive Director, The Gandhi Foundation USA. Dr. Rao is known for his enthusiasm and zealous contribution to community issues in Atlanta. Retiring from the Coca-Cola Company after 32 years of service as the Principal Investigator of the Corporate Research and Development Department, Rao has tirelessly gone on to work for causes bigger and simpler than corporate success, which he has had aplenty. Since 1984, he, along with other zealous members of the Gandhi Foundation, including Mr Subhash Razdan, Dr Sujatha Reddy and Mr Mahadev Desai has worked intricately with the King Center.

Being the nucleus of the Civil Rights thrust, it is only natural that this historic neighbourhood should represent and embrace people from various cultures in a celebration that encompasses activities for one and all. The entertainment platter that the springfest offered was staged evenly across the Dobbs Plaza World Stage, International Youth Stage, Harambee Stage, Soft Sheen - Carson Just For Women Stage & Venue, Western Union Global Stage, Stage of Inspiration and the Karaoke Contest Stage.

Descending upon the downtown area with much alacrity were large families with kids and grandparents. Conveniently marked car parking zones adumbrated the fantastic fun zones that catered most significantly to kiddies' entertainment and homespun vending off makeshift stalls serving mouth-watering dishes. The slides, young talent stage, face painting, pony-rides and in-line skating kept tots busy and chirping. 
 
For the artist in us, the Sweet Auburn Arts Literary Festival proved to be a utopian call. Artists, authors and art aficionados converge here for what is fast becoming one of the premier international art and book festivals in the nation. Original display of individual aesthetic talent lends this venue a palpability all its own.

Similarly, the Cultures In Motion International Film festival was universally extolled by patrons. Among the movies presented this year were India's Broken Beads by award-winning director, Hari Das. Set against the ruddy rural Indian background, the film centres on Muniamma, her thwarted dreams and indefatigable spirit. Ordinary Lives, the other Indian film is a 38-minute documentary that has won several awards including the winner of Best Documentary at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, International Student Competition (November 2005). Directed by Sheetal Agarwal this film encapsulates the irony of life and progress in Mumbai, India's city of dreams.

Auburn Avenue, the birthplace of Dr Martin Luther King Jr is home to more than a formidable legacy steeped in utter regard for him and his ideals. Sweet Auburn is said to have been the epicentre of more 'financial institutions, professionals, educators, entertainers and politicians (were) on this one mile of street than any other African American street in the South'. Once the root of the thriving, throbbing black community, today this socio-economic hub resounds with voices as myriad as the demographic canvass of Atlanta. Among them are Indians, with their significant history of resistance to imperialistic injustice.

As the festival drew to a close, the King Center came alive with the rhythm and spirit of the pulsating crowd.  And, Mahatma Gandhi's statue that graces the facility stands stolidly in one corner, as if to endorse the universality of uplifting emotions and elated harmony.