Finding common ground

People dance at the Common Ground event held Thursday at the Quality Hotel. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

A project led by a trio of local initiatives brought together food, music, dancing and presentations from some of the many cultures that exist in Prince Albert in an effort to build cultural understanding Thursday.

The Prince Albert Common Ground project partnered with the Prince Albert Multicultural Council diversity nights and the Prince Albert Municipal Cultural Action Plan to host a common ground night at the Quality Hotel in downtown P.A. Thursday.

The event was held to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

It included food from Korea, the Philippines and China as well as from Métis and First Nations traditions; opening prayers from elder Florence Allan; drumming by Warrior Tracks and a jigging demonstration from Riverside School; presentations from Prince Albert Masjid Imam Irshad Unia and from Métis speaker Shelly Belhumeur and concluded with a salsa lesson from Prince Albert salsa.

Throughout the night, Lemoya Lorensen of Prince Albert Common Ground encouraged attendees to mingle, speak with and hear from each other.

“It’s a mixture of presentations, performances and culture sharing,” she said.

“The goal of this is to talk about racism, but also to break bread together so people in Prince Albert can find common ground.”

The event was family-friendly, and guests packed into the room designed to fit 250. About 200 chairs were set up, and before 6:30 p.m., the event that ran past 8:30 had almost all the seats filled.

“It’s immensely important,” Lorensen said.

“We all live in our own bubbles. When those bubbles cross, we share culture. Just by sitting next to someone who you might not meet in your own social circles, it normalizes diversity and inclusion and helps people find common ground. That’s why we encourage our guests to interact.”

The type of culture sharing that went on Thursday night is something Lorensen said Prince Albert can expect more of in the future.

“The Common Ground Project has been around for three years. It’s a partnership that started with the Indian Métis Friendship Centre, Price Albert Multicultural Council and YWCA settlement services. The partnership alone represents diversity within the community,” she said.

“Now that we are in the third phase of this project, we want to include the broader community, not just recent newcomers and Indigenous people. We want people of all backgrounds to interact, to talk, to speak — to break bread.”