Students celebrate Iranian culture

Amid the buzz of activity in the downtown area last Saturday wasthe fifth annual Iranian Festival.

People who wandered down the Park Blocks from the Art Museumwere also witness to the Wine in the Park festival and the Farmer’sMarket. Between PSU’s Shattuck Hall and Stott Center, several localorganizations showcased Iranian culture.

At center stage, 12 different bands played everything fromtraditional Iranian music to more popular songs. The same variationwas also true of the art exhibit, costume showcase and food tables.Many of the performances on the main stage incorporated the effortsof young people, who signify a bridge between the older and youngergenerations of Iranian immigrants.

“We came up with the festival idea in 2000 because we found thatthe Iranian community needed a voice,” Siamak Shirazi, Director ofthe Festival Organization Committee explained. “We have a verydiverse network of people who wanted to get to know each other andthe festival has provided a forum.”

Shirazi represents the Andisheh Center that, through art andeducation, reaches out to the newly immigrated Iranian community tohelp ease their adjustment and to the Portland area community tohelp spread awareness through culture. Aside from weeklygatherings, the center also offers classes and workshops relatingto Persian literature and music.

In walking the perimeter, the event seemed to do just this.There were men holding court in the shade of the fir trees, peoplespeaking Farsi and dressed traditionally, while others sampleddesserts, organic juices and kabobs.

With support from area businesses and other non-profits, thecost of booths was kept reasonable. “We’re not interested inprofit, we just want people to be exposed to the culture,” Shirazisaid. David Wu and Goli Ameri campaign tables were among theaffiliated groups, as well as the Andisheh Center, theIranian-American Professional Society of Oregon and the Middle EastStudies Center at Portland State.

On the schedule was a free forum in Neuberger Hall, which ranthe better part of the day. The series included lectures anddiscussion panels that explored politics, a Geopolitical review anda documentary entitled “I Exist,” about Middle Eastern gays andlesbians in the United States.

“We have a very good track record,” Shirazi added. “People enjoycoming out for the day and meeting other people.”