Benson Culture Crawl aims to unite Omaha refugee communities

[Editor’s Note: Hear Nebraska is a sponsor of the Benson Culture Crawl tomorrow.]

Initially, this Friday’s Benson Culture Crawl intended only to fill a single gallery, highlighting the work of young artists in the Omaha refugee community.

Then, plans for the event spilled outside and onto 60th and Maple streets.

“It snowballed into this great big behemoth,” says Patrick Sather, a lead organizer of the First Friday event. “Now we have an outdoor venue, live performers, food vendors, poetry readings, comedy and trivia. It’s taken on a life of its own.”

Lutheran Family Services is teaming up with Benson First Friday to present the Culture Crawl from 5 to 10 p.m. on Friday. The vision behind this special edition First Friday is to create cultural awareness.

“It’s a chance for people to gather who might not be in the same room otherwise,” Sather says. “Say, your average 20-something-year-old from Omaha meets someone from halfway across the world who moved here to escape violence, persecution or sex trafficking. It’s an opportunity to get to know each other in a safe, fun environment.”

Food vendors will occupy the street curbs, serving fresh thai food and tacos. Local restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques will offer up their wall space and windows as a temporary home for artists to showcase their work. The boutiques Paperdoll Vintage, Lion’s Mane Vintage, Parlour 1887 and Vintage Clothing will be on hand with wares. Local artists will include MaysounAl-Haj, Jester Thakolo, Briana Kosmicki, Jonathan LeGrand, Spencer Pacheco and many more.

Marcus Meters Parking Lot will transform into a performance venue for music, dance and fire spinning. Artists from diverse backgrounds and nationalities will be present, including Surja Rai (Nepali), Karen Dancers (Myanmar), Omaha Burundian Choir (Burundian), Dak Thon (Sudanese), and DJ AK (Togolese).

The beer garden of Benson Brewery will become an outdoor theater featuring the documentary Quilted Conscious. This film follows the story of two refugee girls from Sudan. After escaping the violence in their home country, they find a friend in quilter Peggie Hartwell, who teaches them to tell their history and traditions through quilting. The local brewery also created specialty worldly brews solely for this event.

Sather says Lutheran Family Services is trying bring disparate groups together via a common mission, allowing a diverse community to experience a collective experience. The organization encourages people to become involved whether it’s hosting a refugee family, helping someone move to a new home or just spending time with the people in their neighborhood and city.

“That’s what it’s about,” Sather says. “Getting together, having fun and learning something about each other. Having a drink. Eating some good food. Listening to music. Looking at amazing art.”