African men singing to the beat of a drum and about ten women dressed in long bold-colored dresses danced in an undulating circle in Fair Oaks Park on Saturday afternoon. With bright scarves wrapped around their heads, their bodies seemed to move like aquatic plants to the music and chants.
It was the World Refugee Day celebration, an afternoon filled with Bhutanese, Burmese, and Iraqi dance, music from different parts of Africa, and crafts and food from around the world. (See photo slideshow here.)
"An improvisational Somali performance," the emcee called the spontaneous dancing. It was just shy of 100 degrees, but that didn't stop the celebration organized by Catholic Charities.
An international fashion show blazed a runway through the grass near a shade tree. A woman sporting Egyptian fashion wore a long airy white dress with a gold sphynx at the chest and pyramids at the bottom. It was topped by a netted rhinestone headdress. Somali women wore bright head scarves and long dresses. Bhutanese girls wore bold silk ankle-length dresses; two teenage models had angled hair dyed amber.
Meanwhile, under the pavilion with crafts and food, an Iraqi woman sold beautiful jewelry, handmade pillows, and other gilded and carefully adorned crafts. Ban Salih, sells her wares from her Vickery Meadow apartment. She was a fashion designer in Iraq, continued her craft in Jordan when she fled her home country, and now creates her designs here in Dallas. Surrounding her were other clothing and jewelry makers from Africa, Burma, and Bhutan.
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Some of the refugees had been in America for years, some for merely months. It was a nice afternoon to forget the hardships of leaving one's home for a new country and to celebrate Dallas' growing community of people from around the world.