By KELSEY SHEFFER
For 28 years, the Multicultural Fair has been a vivacious place for the Fredericksburg community and beyond to celebrate cultures from near and far. The fair is known for its amazing cultural performances as well as its wide selection of vendors; however, the role of activism has never been an advertised part of the event. Yet, for years, there have been community organizations that set up tents to advocate, fundraise and spread the word about their issues.
Moms Demand Action is one of the groups that was in attendance at the Multicultural Fair. This organization founded a Rappahannock Chapter less than a month ago, and they hoped by setting up a booth, they would not only be able to advocate for gun control but to also spread the word about their founding. They were present at the fair for almost seven hours and were very happy about the response they got from the community, filling multiple sign-up pages. Moms Demand Action Rappahannock Chapter will meet on Apr. 27 at Hartwood Presbyterian Church in Stafford County and encourages the community to participate in creating an educational atmosphere about gun violence.
LGBT Democrats of Virginia have been present at every Multicultural Fair since their founding over five years ago. The organization returns for multiple reasons, but Cindy Bray, treasurer for the organization, stated that it is primarily due to the “like minded people” that attend the fair. Bray went on to say that due to the “hateful environment today” towards the LGBT community, it has also become increasingly more important to become present as an organization for LGBT rights. At the fair, they distributed bumper stickers as well as had voter registration forms. Bray stated that every year is an important year to vote and this year, despite being a non-presidential election, is still important because local elections affect voters directly. LGBT Democrats of Virginia had an amazing response from the community with dozens of people signing up to vote and grabbing “Proud Democrat” and “Virginia is for all Lovers” stickers. The organization encouraged students to start engaging not only with the community, but more specifically with organizations on campus like Young Dems and PRISM.
One Virginia 2021 is a community organization that has become very active on campus the past month by holding events and speakers as well as asking for students to sign petitions. The organization is a state non-partisan group that advocates for fair redistricting in the Commonwealth of Virginia. They state that this issue is a local one to Fredericksburg since the city is divided in half and reshaped with more rural locations that “don’t share the same interests.” The group is full of locals who have attended the Multicultural Fair for years and thought that it would be a great platform to spread word about the upcoming adoption of an amendment to the Virginia Constitution that will put in place an independent commission to draw the voting district lines rather than elected politicians. They too said they had a very good response from the public because it is an issue that both sides can agree on as well as it being an important issue to Fredericksburg and the surrounding area. One Virginia 2021 wants to remind everyone that gerrymandering in Virginia is an important fight and one that is possible to win.
Students Helping Honduras is a very active student group on campus as well as nationwide. The organization is even more important to Fredericksburg due to its founding at UMW by an alumni 11 years ago. Since then, the organization has flourished all around the nation with a mission to alleviate poverty and gang violence in Honduras by creating jobs and schools. They have been present at the Multicultural Fair for years and it continues to be a very special booth for the community since the first donors were from Fredericksburg. During the fair, they set up fun games that tested how long one could hold two cinder blocks as well as a brick building game in order to raise funds. Students Helping Honduras uses 100 percent of the proceeds to build schools in Honduras. They call themselves the sidekicks rather than the hero because they are not doing the majority of the labor. Instead, they supply the funds to hire skilled workers from the community to build the schools that their children will attend, and on breaks, students from the organization will go help.
For many organizations, the Multicultural Fair is not just a place for the community to celebrate multiculturalism, but also a place for the community to organize around issues that affect the community and beyond.