Diversity festival to focus on media

Portland State’s Roots Festival returns to campus for a second year today to highlight diversity and culture in the world.

Portland State’s Roots Festival returns to campus for a second year today to highlight diversity and culture in the world.

The festival, organized by student leaders and founded by student government president-elect Rudy Soto, will examine how local and national media outlets portray minorities through the theme “Diversity in Communication.”

“This year, the Roots Festival is definitely aimed more toward the Portland crowd,” said festival chair Makerosa Portesano. “I’m most excited that it’s a two-day event and we don’t have to cram everything into one.”

The event will kick off at 10 a.m. May 31 with a fair in the Park Blocks that will feature international food vendors selling barbecue, shaved ice and Hispanic and Central American food. There will also be reggae and salsa bands, dance performances and interactive art.

A reception with food will follow the fair’s conclusion at 4:30 p.m. in the Parkway North area of the Smith Memorial Student Union (SMSU) and will give attendees a chance to mingle with Oregonian Metro columnist Renee Mitchell. Mitchell will deliver a keynote speech at the Multicultural Center Thursday evening at 6 p.m.

“[Media] is something we’re all a part of and surrounded by. It’s kind of hard to ignore,” Portesano said. “We thought media would be something that touches outside of PSU and something we can all relate to.”

Local and campus media members, including incoming Vanguard Editor-in-Chief David Holley, will participate in a panel discussion on the media’s relationship with minorities Friday morning in the Multicultural Center starting at 11:30 a.m.

“We thought it would be great to have community members talk about just the media,” said Kamar Haji Mohamed, committee head for the panel discussion. “PSU is the most diverse school in Oregon and we thought it would be perfect.”

Friday will also feature a screening of the film Turn Off Channel Zero at 1:30 p.m., followed by a discussion with KMBO radio talk show host and director Opio Sokoni in SMSU 294.

At 3 p.m. the social justice theater group “Illumination Project” will present an interactive theater performance at the Multicultural Center that will be followed by a community forum. A dance party starting at 9 p.m. at the Native American Student and Community Center will conclude the event’s festivities.

Educating students is a major goal of the festival, and Porotesano said that learning will “come natural.”

“Most of the time, people don’t really realize there are active students that are out there trying to do something for the community,” Mohamed said, “celebrate as well as learn, of course.”

The festival began last year as Soto’s brainchild, an idea he gleaned from visiting Amsterdam during the city’s own Roots Festival a few years ago.

While the festival ended up being successful last year, the band Ozomatli was scheduled to perform but ended up being dropped from last year’s festival lineup due to a dispute over financial considerations. Organizers hoped that a big name like Ozomatli would draw a large crowd for the festival’s initial year.

Festival organizers offered the Grammy-nominated act a flat $20,000 fee that would cover travel and other expenses such as stage lighting, and a tentative agreement was reached. However, since Soto couldn’t sign the contract, he passed it on to the business affairs office, which found the band was asking for over $10,000 in additional costs.

After passing on hiring the band, Soto said the festival was threatened with legal action by the band’s management, though since no contract had been signed there was no legal recourse available. Losing Ozomatli almost derailed the festival completely, but organizers got it back on track by signing four local bands instead of the Los Angeles-based act.

The event’s success last year paved the way for 2007’s expanded two-day festival.

“It’s just a way of getting to know your peers at PSU, hanging out, enjoying your life at PSU,” Mohamed said.

-Additional reporting by Treasure Porth