DeKALB – Shaylee Hester and her DeKalb Chamber of Commerce Leadership Academy 2020 graduates are hosting a new community event Saturday in the name of belonging.
The inaugural DeKalb County Culture Celebration runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Hopkins Park in DeKalb, near the Dee Palmer Band Shell.
The free festival is open to all in the community and anyone who wants to learn more about their neighbors and embrace the different cultures that make DeKalb unique, said Hester, who works as marketing and development coordinator for Opportunity House.
A live music lineup at the bandshell will feature the Klong Yao Thai Music Ensemble from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Mira Silva from 12:45 p.m. to 1 p.m. and Arcomusical presents “um, dois, três!” from 2 to 2:45 p.m. Northern Illinois University’s Banda group will perform from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m., and the Northern Black Choir will perform from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m.
DJ Toxic with Behind the Beats Productions will play music from around the world throughout the day.
Jerk Fuzion will offer Jamaican cuisine from 1 to 6 p.m., and a variety of cultural booths will be on hand to help participants learn more. Included will be the Northern Illinois University Latino Resource Center, DeKalb Public Library, NIU Bangladeshi Students, NIU Muslim Student Association, Belonging DeKalb, NIU Center for Black Studies and NIU Center for Southeast Asian Studies.
Shaw Media editor Kelsey Rettke spoke to Hester about the event.
Rettke: Tell me how an idea for a local festival celebrating different cultures in DeKalb came about?
Hester: I am actually half Black and half Asian, and I grew up in DeKalb. I am a townie and growing up with that background I really understood the importance of feeling a sense of belonging in the community you live in. That’s where my passion for this project started.
Rettke: What’s your hope for people who come to the festival? What do you want them to get out of it?
Hester: I really want to form an event that allows the community to come together regardless of background, ethnicity or where you came from. It’s a chance to get us to know each other more. Because I do feel like your culture is a very big part of who you are. Like I said, to just really better understand those who live within our community, break down walls through greater understanding.
Rettke: How did your experience going through the chamber’s 2020 Leadership Academy help inform how you took this project on?
Hester: Leadership Academy has taught me that I have the power to create change. Leadership Academy has allowed me to build many great connections, and I have had the opportunity to learn from them, and they inspire me to be a leader like them.