Norwich Rotary to celebrate diversity next week

Norwich — Ethnic diversity in Norwich will be on display through food, dance, music and awards Monday at Norwich Harbor, as Norwich Rotary hosts its sixth annual Celebrate Diversity event.

Local restaurants, cultural clubs and civic groups will participate in the event, which will run from 5 to 8 p.m. at Howard T. Brown Memorial Park on Chelsea Harbor Drive.

Food selections will include Mediterranean, Polish, Southern United States, Caribbean, Korean, Peruvian, Asian and Sikh. Admission to the food tent is $10 per person or $30 for a family of five.

Entertainment will be free throughout the evening and will include current State Troubadour Nekita Waller and performances of Celtic, Peruvian, Chinese and Eastern European music and dance.

At 7 p.m., Norwich Rotary will present its annual Community Diversity Award to The Gallery at The Wauregan Inc. art gallery and the 2018 Lottie B. Scott Award to Bassem Gayed, multicultural services coordinator at Otis Library.

On April 4, Gayed was one of six people honored by the Connecticut Immigrant and Refugee Coalition at the 21st annual Immigrant Day Ceremony at the state Capitol. Gayed joined Otis Library in 2008 and quickly developed a rapport with patrons who, like him, were new to this country or were struggling to adapt to a new social and cultural setting. Gayed initiated Spanish-language bulletin boards and fliers, as well as expanding foreign language periodicals, films, books and children’s material.

In 2015, Gayed was named multicultural services coordinator and actively sought to expand the library’s role, offering basic computer classes in Spanish and collaborating with native speakers to present bilingual programs and crafts to children and bilingual storytime in Spanish, Chinese and Haitian cultures. Otis hosted a citizenship class in 2017 and 2018 in collaboration with Norwich Adult Education.

Gayed’s work helped Otis Library receive the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, one of only five libraries nationally to receive the honor.

The Gallery at The Wauregan Inc., at 200 Main St., is a nonprofit organization established for up-and-coming artists to promote their art. It provides visual and performing arts classes for youth and young adults and hosts entertainment events to promote the arts in Norwich. The Gallery serves as an unofficial welcome center to visitors, artists and residents in downtown Norwich.

It is committed to embracing and promoting cultural diversity through the arts on First Fridays, St. Patrick’s Day and Winterfest parades, and a host of other downtown Norwich events. Each month, a new artist’s work is featured, and visitors can speak to the artist about work that often represents various ethnic groups’ culture and styles.

Monday’s event is the first of three in Norwich Rotary’s Celebrate Diversity Week. On Thursday, Sept. 20, Slater Auditorium at Norwich Free Academy will host the World Multicultural Variety Show from 7 to 9 p.m., with music, dance and other entertainment by students and community members. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for students. All proceeds benefit the homeless teenage population in Norwich.

The annual Peace Pole Celebration will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, at the Peace Pole at Brown Park at Norwich Harbor. The guest speaker will be U.S. Coast Guard Academy professor Jose Gonzalez. Students at the Teachers’ Memorial Global Studies Magnet Middle School will read essays and the Community Choir will perform. The event is free and open to the public.

c.bessette@theday.com

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