Updated September 11, 2023 - 7:07 pm
Canopy tents lined the levels of the Clark County Government Center’s outdoor amphitheater Friday evening as the hum of food truck engines and music from one of many cultures filled the warm night air.
Organizations from the AAPI, Black, Latino, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ communities partnered with the Service Employees International Union and other local organizations Saturday evening to host the second annual Communities United Multicultural Festival.
Hundreds of people filled the amphitheater where 100 partner organizations gathered to celebrate Nevada’s diversity, stand up to the recent rise in hate crimes nationally and provide resources for voting and citizenship.
Alongside the organizations, food trucks surrounded the outermost borders of the amphitheater and vendors offered merchandise ranging from culturally-themed jewelry and handbags to children’s toothbrushes with art featuring kids of color.
Elnora Harris, whose organization Our Reflections sold the toothbrushes, said the festival is important because it shows that all cultures are important and lets people learn about communities and cultures outside of their own. She said her company is working on lines of toothbrushes for different ethnic groups, thanks to feedback she received at this year’s festival and the one last year.
“This is so important that the communities that are represented here, they’re welcomed, they’re embraced and we’re able to learn from each other our different cultures,” Harris said.
Members of the Las Vegas Native Youth Dancers, who were the first group to perform Saturday night, said being represented at the festival was especially important because Native American culture is often overlooked and not accounted for.
“To be invited to dance and share our powwow culture … it was really relieving that we’re being seen and invited for it,” Kerriehbah Bedonie, a member of the group, said.
‘Make our voices heard’
Organizers said the festival also provided resources like voter registration, policy education and help with immigration for attendees.
Mathilda Guerrero, government relations director at Native Voters Alliance Nevada, said event staffers patrolled the amphitheater with papers to help attendees register to vote. Multiple booths also offered education about state policy and its effects on their community.
“This festival is another way you can make our voices heard, especially with the important elections coming up,” Guerrero said. “It’s a celebration but it’s also a call to action.”
Many of the organizations participating in the festival, like Service Employees International Union 1107 and National Federation of Filipino American Associations, were also involved in the anti-Asian hate rally in June following the attack on Filipino-American Amadeo Quindara.
Service Employees International Union 1107 President Michelle Maese said this year’s event was very successful in gathering organizations that wanted to take part in the celebration, calling that success an effective stand against hate.
“It’s very surreal to know that your community will come together,” Maese said, “and that people want to come together to rebuke all of that negative energy and things that people say like, ‘We can’t work together as different communities,’ because (these different communities) make Nevada Nevada.”