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ANNUAL MANUAL '07: Rochester's Cultural Diversity

Around the world in 80 blocks

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by Dale Evans

Rochester is rich in cultural diversity. For proof of that, consider the area's cultural centers, built over the years by people of various ethnic or geographic backgrounds as meeting places to celebrate and share their unique heritage. Although distinct in nationality, most cultural centers have more in common than you might think. All attempt to eliminate discrimination and prejudice. All foster continued celebration and acknowledgment of their roots. Many have annual festivals. And unfortunately, many have declining membership as the members grow older and the young seem disinterested.

            Below is a sampling of the many cultural centers in our area, and a taste of what they offer. If you don't find one that meets your needs, look around --- chances are there's a group out there that represents your background. And if not, maybe now's the time to start one.

The Baobab Cultural Center (728 University Avenue) is a multi-purpose, apolitical, and non-religious facility with a focus on the art and culture of Africa. The Center presents monthly art exhibits in addition to its own permanent collection. The Baobab screens films and documentaries relating to Africa and African issues, and houses a music room containing rare tropical, jazz, and blues collections. The lounge area serves refreshments and is outfitted with international publications. The Baobab regularly hosts speakers, storytellers, poets and musical events, and also provides information regarding international sports and cultural events. You do not have to be a member to attend events, although membership has benefits like free access and discounts.

            The BaobabCulturalCenter is open Mondays-Fridays, 5 p.m.-midnight; Saturdays, 10 a.m.-midnight; and Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information call 563-2145 or visit www.thebaobab.org.

Gallery Kauai at the HawaiianPerformingArtsCenter(1560 Jefferson Road) promotes the original culture, language, and history of Hawaii. The gallery offers a wide range of ancient and modern disciplines for both children and adults. Move your hips to the Hawaiian Hula, or swish your grass skirt in Tahitian or Maori Poi dance. Learn how to play Hawaiian slack-key guitar or ukulele so that you can impress the guests at your next luau. Take center stage with Hawaiian acting classes, or bring out your spiritual side by learning ancient hula chants. Gallery members also perform at more than 200 events a year. For more information call 427-2290 or 385-8735, or visit www.gallerykauai.com.

The India Community Center of Rochester (2171 Monroe County Line Road, Macedon) is a large facility with an auditorium, classrooms, and cabins. It actually serves as an umbrella for many local Indian organizations and clubs. A not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of cultural, educational, charitable, and artistic activities of the Asian Indian community of Rochester, it presents classical music, theater, and dance programs, and organizes lectures on topics relevant to the Indian community. Contact the center for a newsletter and community directory. For more information call 233-1449, or visit www.icor.org/index.php.

On the third Thursday of each month you can find members of the IrishAmericanCulturalCenter in Johnny's Irish Pub (1382 Culver Road). In an effort to preserve, educate, participate in, and celebrate Irish, Celtic, and Irish-American culture, members gather at the pub and lift a few while enjoying a monthly presentation. The IACC hopes to soon provide a centralized facility for Irish lectures, theater productions, dance classes, sporting events, music lessons, language lessons, a library, and more. For information call 224-0990 or visit the website at http://tedmcgraw.com/iaccwny/.

Rochester features two Italy-centric centers. Both provide extensive cultural and educational resources, as well as social events and a space in which to socialize. At the Italian-AmericanCommunity Center(150 Frank DiMino Way, 594-8882, www.iaccrochester.org) you can view local art displays, take a dance class, socialize with friends and trip the light fantastic at dinner dances, or simply relax and catch up with others in the community. Meanwhile, at Casa Latina (4245 East Avenue, 389-2468, www.naz.edu/dept/casa_italiana/)

you can learn Italian or refine your language skills. Located on the campus of NazarethCollege, Casa Latina is a gift from the local Italian-American community. You can also see Italian films or take a vacation on one of their sponsored trips.

Most people in Rochester are familiar with the Jewish Community Center (1200 Edgewood Avenue). But if you aren't, you can make an appointment to take a tour of the impressive facility by calling 461-2000, ext. 278. The JCC houses a full-service fitness and recreation center. It also hosts book and film festivals, offers frequent stage productions, and contains a library. The JCC is open Mondays-Thursdays, 5:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fridays, 5:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturdays, noon-8:30 p.m.; Sundays, 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m. For more information call 461-2000, or visit www.jccrochester.org.

The Turkish Society of Rochester (2841 Culver Road) was first established as a place to gather to celebrate holidays. Now it also serves as a school to study the Turkish language, geography, history, and Islam. The main hall presents parties, concerts and other social activities. The downstairs coffee house is in use seven days a week as a popular gathering spot. For more information call 266-1980, or visit www.tsor.org.

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