Vibrant festival in U.S. capital celebrates refugees
Through music, food and dance the One Journey Festival showcased the social and cultural contributions refugees bring to the United States
Crowds of people from all walks of life filled the grounds of the Washington National Cathedral on 2 June to listen, learn, dance, eat and – most importantly – stand with refugees.
“One Journey Festival is really about the idea that there are many paths but we are one people on the same journey,” said festival volunteer Stephen Pinto, 26. “We’re focused on the mindset and the conversation around refugees, and breaking up the stigma that can unfortunately come with that.”
The event was the result of over a year of hard work from more than 140 volunteers. The festival featured a marketplace of refugee businesses and artists, as well as a diverse array of food trucks, dance groups, musicians and speakers, including UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Ger Duany. A former Sudanese ‘lost boy’ who was resettled to the U.S., Duany, 39, took to the main stage to share his story and discuss using his voice to be an advocate.
“The work that I’m doing is not really work, it’s more of a responsibility,” Duany said to the crowd. “And that’s the reason we all got together today – because we are all responsible for each other.”
“One Journey Festival is really about the idea that there are many paths but we are one people on the same journey.”
Nyawal Lia, 24, traveled from Portland, Maine to the nation’s capital not only to perform with Pihcintu, a multicultural girls’ choir and crowd favorite, but also to contribute to the event by telling her family’s story.
“We talked about the process of coming from a refugee camp to here and explained what that experience is like and that to me was really engaging,” Lia said. “Everyone was very kind and eager to listen.”
Through activities like dance workshops, virtual reality simulations, and digital portals to refugee camps around the world, the event also encouraged to attendees to get involved. The Take Action tent provided members of the public with an opportunity to engage with different organizations, including UNHCR’s fundraising partner USA for UNHCR, to keep the movement going even after the event ended.
“This was a really wonderful event and a fantastic learning experience,” said festival attendee Sarah Casiano, 27. “We not only learned more about the work being done on an international level, but we also got to learn about organizations working here in the local community to support refugees.”
After the success of their first event the event organizers plan to continue building the One Journey movement and hope to spread the festival to more U.S. cities in the future.
“The biggest thing was just bringing people together,” Pinto said. “There were people making new friendships, new connections, and getting really excited about building this community together moving forward.”