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California Diary: 13th Annual Punjabi American Festival

The festival brings together people of different generations and varied cultural backgrounds, writes Shalini Kathuria Narang.

world Updated: Jun 01, 2007 17:29 IST
Shalini Kathuria Narang

The Punjabi American Heritage Society of Yuba City presented the 13th Annual Punjabi American Festival 2007 at the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds in Yuba City on Sunday, May 27. The festival brings together generations of community members from all over Northern California is a tryst of not only the community members celebrating common community roots via showcase of myriad cultural activities but is also a medium of inter cultural understanding and co operation. Incidents post 9/11 in US and ongoing global happenings reiterate the significance of inter cultural and intra religious understanding.

The highlights of the festival included high decibel, feet tapping performances by UK performer Sukhshinder Shinda and Pammi Bai from Punjab with their troupes.

On a somber note, the movie titled 'Divided We Fall about the post 9/11 attacks' on members of Sikh community was showcased and Valerie Kaur, the young director was felicitated at the ceremony. She spoke about her grandfather who had migrated to Yuba City, a small California Farming town about five decades back. The movie is the first feature documentary film addressing the issue of hate crimes and hate violence against the members of Sikh community due to their turbaned appearance in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. It premiered last year on September 14, 2006 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Besides the well-known artists, hundreds of localities, including students from various schools, colleges and universities also displayed their performing arts talents via traditional dances such as Bhangra, Giddha, Jhumar and Malwai Giddha.

The Punjabi American Heritage Society founded in 1993 is tasked with promoting friendship and understanding amongst myriad communities and helping younger generations in understanding their cultural, lingual and communal roots.

Sutter County in California has over ten per cent population with Punjabi roots and is one of the counties with most concentrations of any Indian American community in any part of US.

Besides the annual festival, the Punjabi American Heritage Society also organises varied community activities such as teacher appreciation in local schools and contributes to Punjabi students cultural programs at University of California Davis, California State University in San Jose, UC Berkeley and California State University Sacramento. The organization has sponsored Human Rights Seminar at UC Berkeley, cultural exhibitions at Asian Arts Museum in San Francisco and other events.

In one of the major initiatives to promote and propagate inter cultural and inter racial understanding in America, the Society is in partnership with the Sutter County Community Museum. The two organisations are working to setup a permanent exhibition to display the story of the migration of the community members to the US over the last century and to highlight the contributions of members to the mainstream society, culture, faith, and heritage.

One of the vital phases of this project will include the publishing of a book, "Becoming American." Besides highlighting the migration experience, this book will also summarize the museum exhibit and summarize the achievements of prominent community members who have made substantial contribution to the community and mainstream society.