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FusionFest returns to Orlando this weekend with an important and timely message about diversity and inclusion


FusionFest is returning to Orlando this weekend with an important role to play as hate crimes surge in the US. According to the FBI, hate crimes based on a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and religion are the highest they’ve been in 12 years. 

The free two-day festival is a celebration of the different cultures that make up the City Beautiful with art displays, fashion showcases and music and dance performances.

Organizer Thali Sugisawa says she was surprised by the hate mail and comments that she’s received online after posting about this year’s FusionFest. 

But Sugisawa says that’s the reason why the festival is so needed right now, in a politically divided America where violence against Asian Americans, Black people and Muslims is on the rise. 

“Our goal, our dream is to break down barriers, and fears, and divisions. So when you get to know someone, when you get to know your neighbor, and you get to know about his lifestyle, his religion, his culture, his food, and get to share something, a moment with them. Then, you become less afraid of what’s different.”

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Sugisawa says that’s why she hopes everyone, even the naysayers, come out to learn about why diversity and inclusion is the only way to heal divisions in this country.

“And for those people who commented on our post, what we did was to invite them. Like you know, if you come to our festival you will see that the American flag is there and you will see that there is no reason for you to be afraid. We're not stealing your country. We’re just celebrating being here and being us.”

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The festival will take place on Saturday and Sunday at the Dr. Phillips Center.

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter and fill-in host at WMFE.