Where culture meets community

Amidst all of last year’s romping, stomping, clogging and dancing during Folkmoot USA, one event may have slipped off the radar of festival attendees.

But based on what’s happened as a result of it, this year’s cultural conversation is a can’t-miss occasion.

“It is something I continue to think about,” said Angela Dove, Folkmoot’s facilitator of last year’s Cultural Forum and Dance Performance. “I find myself returning to some of those conversations again and again, and I think the impact of those continues to unfold in me.”

In 2016, Dove moderated a Q&A discussion between members of the public and some of the touring groups that attended last year’s festival — a rare chance for people to engage in a candid dialogue across cultures.

Questions from Americans centered upon perhaps the most basic cultural norms and mores — how does your society commemorate birth, or death? Who can vote? How are Americans perceived?

“We took questions from attendees, many of which were election-related, due to last year’s timing,” she said. “We were in the midst of a national debate about who can and cannot come into this country.”

After the event itself ended, Dove and Folkmoot Executive Director Angie Schwab had a conversation of their own, and decided to create a six-week curriculum that would drive the discussion in a more introspective direction.

The first class in Folkmoot’s innovative “Cultural Conversations” program — consisting of a diverse cross-section of the community — explored topics of bias, privilege and race across the country and across the county.

Police, public officials, students and other professionals with ancestral heritages stretching from Nigeria to Austria to Venezuela to Cherokee all had something to learn, and something to teach.

“We spent the time sharing things that make us all human, regardless of what country we come from,” Dove said.

Word of the class’s existence quickly got out, and Folkmoot’s been approached to expand the program to other locations and other age groups, which may happen soon. But for now, Dove said they expect to begin taking applications for the next class perhaps by fall.

Until then, those interested can get a small taste of how Folkmoot is helping to create the community it wants to see — one luncheon at a time — on Sunday, July 23, at the First United Methodist Church in Waynesville, where Dove will reprise her role as moderator and be joined by Israel, the Netherlands, Taiwan and Canada (Wales).

Tickets for the noon Cultural Forum & Performance are $25 for adults, $10 for children and can be purchased by calling 828.452.2997, visiting www.folkmoot.org or at the door.

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