Roots Festival celebrates diversity

The Roots Festival, an annual event celebrating diversity and advocating for multicultural appreciation, took place April 28 from 1–4 p.m. in the Multicultural Center at Portland State.

“Our goal for this event is to promote awareness of the many different cultures at PSU and in the surrounding community,” said Emanuel Magana, program coordinator for the Cultural Center Student Programming Team.

First to take the stage was the PSU Pacific Islanders Club. Members of the club performed two traditional dances from the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

Next up, Seattle native and rapper Dee Lew performed three songs, including one with his daughter.

“For me, it’s all about passing on knowledge through inspiration,” Lew told the audience.

Lucia Fasano, a comedian and musician hailing from Los Angeles, California, was a crowd favorite with seven songs on a variety of topics from Game of Thrones to gay marriage. Self-professed tragedy, punk, rock, folk, opera, riot grrrl, electronic, show tunes and jazz musician, Fasano performs in Portland regularly and was “thrilled to be invited to be a part of the Roots Festival.”

The PSU Inner Varsity Christian Fellowship made an appearance and sang several upbeat worship songs for the crowd. Midway through their last song, the fellowship was joined on stage by an audience member for an impromptu break-dance performance.

A break in the middle of performances gave festival goers a chance to check out art work provided for the event by local Portland artists set up in the next room. Mark Martinez, a PSU student in the contemporary art practice/studio program, provided a film piece that played on a loop during the festivities.

“The film is actually a sort of a compilation of videos that I have been working on for the past few years,” Martinez said. “It’s meant to be very atmospheric and ambient—a non-narrative piece.”

Entertaining the crowd with a stand-up comedy act, Julia Ramos was the first to take the stage again after the break.

“I use comedy to tell my story,” Ramos explained to the audience. “I went through a really rough time a couple years back and struggled with alcoholism, but doing stand-up has been a way for me to heal.”

Queer, Chicano, interdisciplinary artist originally from Las Vegas, Nevada, Manny Layers performed to several songs, revealing at the end that he had come up with the choreography just a few hours earlier that day.

Ending the festival was PSU senior Alexis Jackson singing a cappella and jazz.

“I use music to celebrate African-American history and traditions,” said Jackson before launching into “Lullaby Birdland,” a song traditionally sung by African-American jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald.

Throughout the course of the day the festival drew approximately 80 people.

“It was definitely a success,” said Aaron Benoza, programming team leader. “We worked to welcome all cultures and express our respect for each one.”