News Column

Telling the story of S.J.'s diversity

June 29, 2014

By Jason Anderson, The Record, Stockton, Calif.

June 29--STOCKTON -- Stockton musician Khemya Mitrahina motioned for more than a dozen children to join in her performance as she sang and swayed to a rhythmic drumbeat Saturday at the fourth DeltaFusion festival at Victory Park.

Hundreds gathered in the park for the festival, which uses music, dance, puppetry and art to tell the story of the region, its cultures and the waterways that surround the people who have migrated there from all over the world. This year's festival highlighted African, Cambodian and Chinese immigrants.

Mitrahina held some of the children's hands and danced alongside them in front of a large banner emblazoned with the words "Celebrate Community." She sang about Oshun, known in the Yoruba religion as the river goddess, and Yemanya, who symbolizes the ocean, the essence of motherhood and the protection of children.

"It's an honor to be here and share that history," Mitrahina said. "Oshun represents the abundance of the river and waters around. It represents all the people, and all people coming together, just like all rivers come together and fuse together. We look at people as the love of humanity and that brings all people together just like the rivers bring the abundance of water to us."

The festival was founded in 2011 by Cathie McClellan, who works in the theater department at University of the Pacific. She first came to appreciate the region's mild climate but soon noticed something else.

"As I looked around, I fell in love with the diversity -- the natural diversity as well as the cultural diversity," she said. "That's rare in many of the places I've been. I thought we should be doing something to say how wonderful all of this is."

McClellan felt the region's diversity should be celebrated with a festival that has become a collaborative effort among community artists, musicians, students, The Haggin Museum and University of the Pacific'sDepartment of Theater Arts.

McClellan said 75 to 100 people participated in putting on this year's festival. One of them is David Qualls, a Stockton musician who teaches language arts at Stockton's One.Charter School.

"We want to celebrate community and cultural diversity, and we wanted something that brought people together," Qualls said. "It's a wonderful community event."

Friends and families settled into lawn chairs and sprawled out on blankets on the grass just north of The Haggin Museum. McClellan said the gathering at this year's festival was smaller than in previous years, but she was delighted to see so many ethnicities represented in the crowd.

"I love Stockton and I love diversity," McClellan said. "I love the statistic that, on any given day, you can walk through the streets and hear 75 different languages. One of these years, I'm going to have 'Celebrate Community' written on that banner in every one of those 75 languages."

Contact reporter Jason Anderson at (209) 546-8279 or Follow him at and on Twitter @stockton911.


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Source: Record (Stockton, CA)

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