World youth festival a carnival of culture

Imagine a beautiful song with elements of jazz, hip-hop, reggae, R&B, compa, funk, blues, spoken word, bachata and salsa. This is what it will sound like this summer when thousands of youth and students from over 100 countries representing a wide spectrum of world cultures meet in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 7-15.

The occasion is the 16th World Festival of Youth and Students, a festival of shared cultures, struggles, party and celebration. Over 500 youth from the U.S. are planning to attend.

United behind the slogan “For peace and solidarity, we struggle against war and imperialism!” the festival will be an opportunity to get a firsthand, grassroots perspective of the Venezuelan revolutionary process and share experiences with the revolutionaries of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Republic and the people of beautiful Venezuela.

Youth and students are bearers of popular culture and the festival will be a strong expression of it.

Visitors are prepared for a treat. Venezuela is the nexus where the Caribbean and Latin America meet. A Caribbean/Latin American carnival of culture in a kaleidoscope of color awaits.

Venezuelan is a multiethnic society. Only under President Hugo Chavez Frias have Afro-Venezuelans (who are 12-15 percent of the nation’s population) been able to freely celebrate their culture and their ethnicity.

Visitors will get the opportunity to dance to Afro-Venezuelan music with youth who are reclaiming and celebrating their heritage under the Bolivarian revolution and to share their experiences.

A host of hip-hop and other artists from the U.S. and around the world will be performing at the festival. On the lineup is the New York-based Welfare Poet, bringing their blend of performance and community activism to the festival stage. Another is Aztlan Underground, an indigenous rock group from Los Angeles. Also on the roster are the Chicago-based University of Hip-Hop collective and the New York rapper Immortal Technique.

There will also be an international hip-hop summit at which performers from around the world will perform, share their craft, their struggles, and exchange ideas.

Opportunities will be provided for sports, games and impromptu street theater. Interspersed throughout the duration of the festival there will also be opportunities to catch scheduled soccer matches or play a game of baseball and basketball.

For those who just want to hang out, regional club houses will offer each delegation an opportunity to network, share information, materials and artwork from their country and share with other delegations.

Two community concerts are scheduled where international artists will perform in the Caracas neighborhoods — the barrios — with local artists. Venezuelan authorities have donated a huge wall for the festival for collective art.

The Manhattan Neighbor Network will be training festival participants on how to digitally reproduce the festival, to come back and share the experience. There will be graffiti artists, painters, muralists, poets and artists of all stripes.

According to festival organizers, quite a number of artists are going just for the experience of performing in another country and in front of thousands of socially conscious youth and students.

The festival is a great opportunity to build relationships with youth and students’ organizations involved in social change through culture and the arts. Whether in a formal setting or as informal as talking over a meal or at a party, the festival offers a space for dialogue and exchange between young people from around the world.

That’s the 16th World Festival of Youth and Students!