30 August 2006

Is Multiculturalism Alive?

Yes, there is hope for multicultural respect and understanding. Not from columnist Cal Thomas, whose recent syndicated right-wing tirade against Muslims concluded "Americans must see past their natural reluctance to paint all members of a group with a broad brush..."

The refreshing developments include:
1. A meeting put on by the local Muslim community. It was something of an Islam 101 session, complete with the basic tenets and beliefs of Islam. Mainstream Islam. Speakers included James Yusuf Yee, former Army chaplain and author of "For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire"; Imam Mohamad Joban, leader of the Islamic Center of Olympia; and Amy Annette Winslow, a convert to Islam. Hundreds of people packed the room at the Olympia Center, and the event was recorded by KAOS radio and TCTV for rebroadcast. Critics who fault moderate Muslims for not speaking out should take note.

2. The debut edition of an online multicultural arts magazine by Abhi Arts of Seattle. Issue 1 explores the theme of "collaborations" and includes stories on the hip-hop group Boom Bap Project, the d9 Dance Collective, Latin jazz band Mangoson, and dancers Archana Kumar and Ying Zhou of ZA Ensemble. Read it online at abhiperformingarts.org

Curiously, this comes just as the Seattle Times reports that sleepy Bellevue is actually outpacing Seattle in terms of diversity. Almost a third of Bellevue's residents are foreign-born, many coming from China, Russia, India, and Mexico for tech jobs. Read all about it.

Another recent report by the US Census Bureau finds that diversity is increasing in 49 of the 50 states. The sole exception? West Virginia. The state's motto is "Montani Semper Liberi - Mountaineers are Always Free" and we guess the mountaineers in question must be pale, because the state is 97.4% white (though we're told there's some blending between the German, Irish, English, and Italian-rooted folks there).

Less refreshing: In a familiar twist see with previous anti-terrorist travel restrictions, the new rules about carry-on luggage are hitting artists hard. One early impact is Russian classical musicians who are under contract to keep their instruments with them (and not check them as baggage). Which means...a long train ride instead of a flight home from London. Read about it at the BBC. To learn more about how visa restrictions are impacting artists and musicians, check out Freemuse.

Finally, a little mid-week music for you. Two cuts from Seattle-area Latin jazz group Trombanga, live at Bainbridge Island Waterfront Park in June.

[mp3] Trombanga: "Mas Que Nada"
[mp3] Trombanga: "Oye Como Va"
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