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Uptown Park celebrates diversity

By Jackie Mooney, For The Miami Student

The Center for American and World Cultures and the Office of Diversity Affairs are sponsoring a Latin American and Caribbean UniDiversity Festival in collaboration with many local and student groups.

UniDiversity Festival is the first of several events in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month. It will take place at Oxford Uptown Parks tonight from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

This year marks the 12th annual UniDiversity Festival. It was organized to promote diversity and inclusion as well as to recognize the increasing growth of Latin Americans in the U.S. and their contributions to society.

"It is important to raise awareness on Latin Americans' contributions to the economy and culture in the U.S. since they are the largest minority among us," said Jacqueline Rioja Velarde, Associate Director for the Center for American and World Cultures and co-director of the event.

To kick off the event, Mayor Kevin McKeehan will read the Proclamation of the Hispanic Heritage Month. Following the proclamation, there will be musical performances, food, arts and activities, animals and information booths.

Music will be performed by Trinidad Tripoli Steel Band, Oxford Choro Ensemble and Stacie Sandoval and Grupo Tumbao. Trinidad Tripoli Steel Band will play Caribbean music. Oxford Choro Ensemble and Stacie Sandoval and Grupo Tumbao will play Latin American music.

Traditional Latin American and Caribbean food will be at the event. Food vendors apply to participate. Velarde noted that in past years Tacqueria Mercado has been very popular among festivalgoers and is expected to be this year as well. This year, a new Caribbean food vendor will be present.

In addition to vendors, ALAS, Association of Latin American Students, from the Hamiltion campus will also be providing traditional food.

Craft vendors will have tables set up with a range of traditional arts and artifacts.

Ann Wengler, affiliated with NAACP, coordinated children's activities for this year's UniDiversity event. Activities include balloons, face painting and games.

"Silly Safari" live animal show will be put on by Amazon Jungle John at 5:45 p.m. Amazon Jungle John will offer information about animal species from Latin America. He will also discuss how important it is to preserve their ecosystems. Throughout the whole festival, llamas and alpacas will be present.

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"One of the most important elements of the festival is the information booths that will be set up throughout the festival," Velarde said. "The information booths will feature many groups from not just Miami, but the community of Oxford as well. The purpose of the information booths is to show what diverse members of the community are doing - their contributions."

League of Women Boaters of Oxford, NAACP, Dayton Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Cincinnati Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Oxford Choice Pantry, Red Cross and Best Buddies are just a few of the groups that will be holding information booths at UniDiversity.

To emphasize the importance of diversity, performers from UniDiversity will also perform at schools in the Talawanda school district.

"This is important for our world. Lives and professions are changing, learning about and appreciating diversity can help us to understand what is going on," Kelly Spivey, Talawanda School District Superintendent said about promoting diversity within the Talawanda school district and Oxford community.

Miami University students and volunteers will be assisting in the set up, welcome of festival-goers, and clean up for UniDiversity Festival. The festival is free and open to the public.