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Diversity cookout to celebrate culture, community

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Amid these heavily divisive times, it might never have been so important to come together with the intention of community.

On Saturday, Fox Cities residents will celebrate the differences that make us unique while discovering the many common points we share.

Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities will hold its 27th Annual Community Cookout on Saturday at Menasha’s Jefferson Park.

It’s free, it’s family friendly and all are welcome. It’ll run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at and around the park pavilion. 

E-Ben Grisby with Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities said the cookout is an opportunity to learn from and about one another as demographics here slowly but surely continue to change.

“The population is browning and we need to be able to embrace that,” he said.

That embrace comes more naturally in a supportive, festive environment.

“It’s a place where people can let their hair down and be themselves,” Grisby said.

The cookout will feature the flavors of different cultures represented in the Fox Valley. Members of the Menominee Nation, for instance, will serve up fry bread. 

They’ll also present cultural dances.  

The day will include east Indian dancing. The Happy Feet Kids will present traditional quinceanera dances.

The event will include hair braiding, henna artists and face painters for the kids.

Grisby is confident that budding friendships will serve as a highlight. Prior events have drawn between 150 and 300 people.

“We want many different segments of the community there,” Grisby said.

After the cookout closes, the organization’s efforts to build connections and understanding will continue.

Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities will hold daytime and evening discussion series beginning next month entitled, “Bridging the Political/Ideological Divides.”

 “People are having difficulty communicating and we wanted to do a small part in helping them talk with each other,” said Sharon Bowen, co-coordinator of the discussions.

Trained facilitators will assist the groups in achieving deeper conversations and fruitful dialogue. Participants will explore where their viewpoints derived while considering those of others.

The daytime series will take place on Sept. 11, Sept. 18 and Oct. 2, from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Neenah Public Library. The evening series will take place on Sept. 19, Sept. 26 and Oct. 3 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Appleton Public Library.

Those interested in participating can sign up here.

Though communication has become difficult, it says something about our community that there’s an eagerness to break through those walls, Bowen said.

“We have a lot of people with big hearts,” she said.

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