An organization has been formed to promote people of different cultures mingling in Lodi and elsewhere in San Joaquin County.
Robert Rojas, executive director of Cultural Heritage Council of San Joaquin County, told the Board of Supervisors recently that people of different nationalities and cultures don’t mix very often. It’s something he’d like to change.
A Stockton resident whose main focus is on Stockton residents and events, Rojas has talked to some Lodi leaders about bringing people of varying nationalities together and share their festivals and special events.
That includes Hispanics, Pakistanis, east Indians, Italians, Norwegians, Greeks, the Welsh and others, Rojas said. However, the Cultural Heritage Council is not a minority organization, he said.
Rojas said he’d like to develop a master calendar of events for residents and visitors. He’d also like to develop a system where if there are two events on the same weekend — say one in Stockton and another in Lodi — people at both events could promote the other one.
An example he gave was Lodi’s Zinfest, which takes place Friday through Sunday. But there’s also a multicultural program at San Joaquin Delta College called Artists in the Spirit, from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday.
It’s a way to promote activities for county residents while improving tourism, Rojas said.
Rojas founded the Culture Heritage Council in 2006 when he noticed that San Joaquin County thrives with different cultures, but they tend to keep their cultural groups and corresponding events.
So he went to as many cultural leaders as he could, and, regardless of their backgrounds, they had two things in common, Rojas said — they want to preserve their heritage, and they want to share it with the greater community.
“I realized there wasn’t a network to give these organizations a vehicle to promote themselves,” Rojas said.
Rojas said he has talked to a few Lodians, including Mark Chandler, executive director of the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission, and Deanie Bridewell, community center manager at Hutchins Street Square.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Chandler said. “Of course, wine crosses cultural lines. That’s exactly the kind of things we need to do. I think cultural awareness is a good next step.”
Bridewell said she speaks with Rojas periodically about music or dance events that bring cultures together.
Naheem “Nick” Qayyum, treasurer of the Lodi Muslim Mosque, said he hadn’t heard about the Cultural Heritage Council, but he said he’d like to learn more about it.
“As the chairperson of the Lodi Arts Commission and a commissioner for the past three years, I have seen a marked increase in the amount of outreach to the diverse cultures of Lodi,” Cathy Metcalf said.
Metcalf and Bridewell outlined several ways the Arts Commission has encouraged people of different cultures to participate in community events and projects. They include:
- A mural by Tony Segale painted on the Lodi Buddhist Church reflecting the history of Lodi’s Japantown.
- Different cultures represented on a mosaic art piece on Lodi Avenue.
- Dia de los Muertos during First Friday Art Hop nights.
- Ballet folklorico classes offered by the Division of Arts and Culture.
- The Lodi Arts Foundation co-sponsoring the Cinco de Mayo event at Hutchins Street Square West Park on April 30 and in previous years.
- Shows at Hutchins Street Square including Mariachi Divas, Lila Downs, Chicano comedy shows and a recent Punjabi cultural event.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.