Festival celebrates friendship, neighbors

Lemon Grove Mayor Racquel Vasquez (left) presented Amity Race Day co-organizer Roberta Bulling with a proclamation from the city of Lemon Grove.

Lemon Grove held its fourth Race Amity Festival at Berry Street Park on June 12. The festival, sponsored by the Baha’is of Lemon Grove was an outdoor celebration to encourage friendships among diverse people that make up the Lemon Grove community.

With a rich history, the first Race Amity Day was in 1921, answering the call from Baha’i faith leader ‘Abdu’lBaha, the son of the prophet founder Baha’u’llah, renowned as a champion of social justice and ambassador for international peace, said co-organizer Michael Lavach. The Baha’i religion grew out of the Babi faith in Iran.

Co-organizer Roberta Bulling said they as many friends and community members to the event to celebrate the oneness of the human family and look at this as a community event.

“We want to leave ideas behind that are not useful to community building,” she said. “One of those ideas is that one group is better than the other. We should be separate. We take it as a reality that we are all made from the same stock. We all share so much DNA, only a small portion of it differentiates skin color, facial features…We want to celebrate that we all come from the same source and when we build bonds of friendship through events like this, we come closer together as a community.”

Bulling said there were activities and games for children and adults to play together, a short program, opportunities for people to meet one another.

“We had a diverse group of people there,” she said. “People born in other countries, spoke different languages, many Spanish speaking individuals, indigenous. We enjoy getting people from different backgrounds together and providing an opportunity to share a meal together, talk with one another, and music selections. People were enjoying each other’s company.”

Bulling said El Cajon is diverse, but so is Lemon Grove.

“When we look at the demographics of Lemon Grove, we have 14% African Americans, a large Latino population, and European descent also,” she said. “We have an Asian population that came and bought land and started farming here.”

Lavach said ‘Abdu’l-Baha came to America in 1912 and spent eight months travelling around and spreading his message.

“One of the things ‘Abdu’l-Baha noted while he was here was the deep-ingrained prejudice, Festival celebrates friendship, neighbors separation of different races, segregation, and he saw that as a major blight on this nation which was born on the ideals of oneness and equality for all,” he said.

Lavach said there has been so much racial tension in recent years that he and Bulling thought this would be a good event for the community. He said the event brought in people outside of Lemon Grove, people of different religions, backgrounds.

“Next to San Diego, Lemon Grove is probably the most diverse community in the county, and we thought what a better way to forge out and create some friendships. That is the whole idea of amity, as opposed to unity. We can be unified. We can have our common goal. But friendship is something that you can really build on. It is solid. And this was a day of fellowship and friendship.”