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Refugees' culture, contributions celebrated at Harrisonburg festival this Saturday

Festival-goers dance at the World Refugee Day Celebration in Harrisonburg last year.
CWS Harrisonburg
Festival-goers dance at the World Refugee Day Celebration in Harrisonburg last year.

Harrisonburg will celebrate World Refugee Day this Saturday as part of the city's annual Best.Weekend.Ever. festival. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

Rodrigue Makelele is the Virginia refugee organizer for Church World Service.
Rodrigue Makelele
Rodrigue Makelele is the Virginia refugee organizer for Church World Service.

Kurdish dancing, a drum circle, and inspirational speakers are on the agenda for this Saturday's "Celebration of New Americans" hosted by Church World Service. From 3 to 6 p.m., the Turner Pavilion will showcase food, music, and storytelling from refugees who have made their home here in the valley.

RODRIGUE MAKELELE: We invite everybody to join us on June 15th, because it's a special event here in our community in Harrisonburg!

Rodrigue Makelele is the agency's Virginia refugee organizer.

MAKELELE: Let's come together to honor the resilience and contributions of refugees, and also to reaffirm our commitment to build a compassionate and inclusive community.

Church World Service will also recognize local leaders who have made significant contributions to the community, and recent high school graduates coming from a refugee background. The Harrisonburg Citizen reported this week that the city council officially recognized June 20th as World Refugee Day, "to the delight of about 30 refugees … who attended the meeting."

This event is part of the Best.Weekend.Ever. festival, which features live music, community art projects, vendors, food trucks, and more across downtown Harrisonburg.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.