Four spoken-word artists gave award-winning voice to the spirit of diversity at this year’s FusionFest
Welcome to the Newsroom!
Nov. 28 & 29, 2020.
20,000 guests from more than 110 heritages will share and enjoy:
- 3 Stages featuring music, dance, spoken word and fashion.
- 1 Film Pavilion screening the MYgration Films in partnership with Global Peace Film Festival
- Diversatistic! Parade of Flags
- International Foods & Marketplace
- Interactive Experiences
- Visual Arts Gallery
- Fun + Games Station
- Diversitastic! Choir
- Fusion Contests
- Community Panels
The pop duo Will N’ Ray was named the best music act at this year’s
The cultural collective Peru Art International scored top honors in the ultra-competitive dance competition at
Sticky Rice Lao Street Food cooked up a big win at this year’s FusionFest, receiving
Interdisciplinary artist Mär Martinez followed her muse to a big win at this year’s FusionFest
Four spoken-word artists gave award-winning voice to the spirit of diversity at this year’s FusionFest multicultural festival, winning a total of $1,200 in jury prizes for their ability to turn heritage into poetry. Two winners were picked for each day of the weekend event, which returned to downtown Orlando November 30 and December 1.
Saturday’s poetry slam was won by Dennis Amadeus, a German-born word artist whose ethnic roots are also in Mali, Africa. Amadeus netted a $500 award for the piece he performed, which criticized the culture of America for putting “more people in prison than any other country.” His impressions of FusionFest, in contrast, were nothing but positive:
“The poets and slam organizers were top-notch!” Amadeus says. “They were on time, clear and great hosts! The poetry was beautiful, and it’s so refreshing to hear some of the voices from other cultures and countries.”
Also on Saturday, Edward P. Mabrey Jr. was named the winner of the day’s haiku contest, earning $100 for a piece that acknowledged past injustices while looking forward with optimism:
An old noose hangs
from a tree, now a tire swing
Hope gets recycled
An Ohio-born black American, Mabrey was a slam winner at 2018’s inaugural FusionFest, and returned this year to claim a prize in the haiku category. He has high marks for both installments of the festival he’s witnessed so far:
“The diversity represented at the event both in front and behind the scenes is remarkable,” Mabrey says. “It is a vital force in the community of Orlando, and will no doubt play a role in bringing communities together within the Orlando region.”
On Sunday, the slam champion was Eddie Figures, a Puerto Rican poet who was born in Huntington, New York, but spent some time living on the island before settling in Orlando in 2001. His $500 award-winning piece was entitled “Scratching The Sound of History.”
“It’s a performance history poem designed to show people what history looks like from a different perspective,” Figures says. “It’s very easy to tell history from the point of view of the victors and completely ignore the victims. And this piece is designed to shed light on that.
“The slam was fun,” he says of his experience. “I participated last year and I enjoyed it so much I competed again this year.”
Sunday’s haiku contest was topped by Amy Pho, a Vietnamese American who looked toward her own family for the inspiration for her winning piece:
She tells me, “Ba noi
sợ quá.” It means “I’m afraid.”
I am too, grandma.
“I definitely did not expect to win the haiku slam,” Pho says. “My favorite parts were performing in front of my mom and her telling me she related to my poems after, as well as revisiting my heritage with her. Getting to wear the traditional outfit of Vietnam, the Áo dài, was also a really cool experience. I always hated doing it as a kid, but wearing it to celebrate my culture was a new experience I loved.”
This year’s FusionFest attracted approximately 15,000 people to downtown Orlando to celebrate the poetry, dance, food, fashion and other cultural expressions of more than 100 local heritage communities. The festival will return to the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Orlando City Hall Commons Plaza for its third edition, scheduled for November 28 and 29, 2020. For more information, visit: fusionfest.org
FusionFest is a project of the Downtown Arts District, with support from Orange County Government, the Orlando Downtown Development Board and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. In its inaugural edition, the event received the Award of Excellence in the Downtown Orlando Partnership’s Golden Brick Awards, and took first place in the “Community Outreach Program” category of the Florida Festivals and Events Association’s SunSational Awards.
For media inquiries, contact:
Terry Olson, Director of Orange County Arts & Cultural Affairs
[email protected]; (407) 836-5540; or:
Thali Sugisawa, Business Maven, FusionFest
[email protected]; (407) 574-1312
The pop duo Will N’ Ray was named the best music act at this year’s second annual FusionFest, for a performance with special guest Matt Duarte that netted the trio a $1,000 prize from the multicultural festival’s panel of keen-eared music judges. And appropriately enough, the contest entry that won the duo-turned-trio the top spot was a rendition of “My Colors,” an original composition by the three men that had already been adopted as the official theme song of FusionFest’s return to downtown Orlando November 30 and December 1.
A breezy number with roots in Bossa Nova, soul and R&B, “My Colors” features an uplifting lyric that fleshes out the festival’s credo of “I can be me here.” The song pays tribute to the melting pot of cultures that is Orlando, and to the spirit of friendship and diversity upon which FusionFest is based.
The winning performance of the number featured Ramsey Clark (“Ray”) on lead vocals, Will Nacar on bass and vocals, and Duarte on acoustic guitar. At the festival’s closing-night awards ceremony, Clark and Duarte presented
another, extended version of the tune, this time with the event’s Diversitastic Choir adding choral backup and holding up placards displaying the lyrics so the audience could join in.
It was a fitting capper to the second annual festival, which attracted approximately 15,000 people to downtown to celebrate the music, dance, food, fashion and other creative customs of more than 100 local heritage communities. The purpose of FusionFest is to spotlight the common bonds between those communities and the new collaborations they can forge. Aptly, this year’s music winners are something of an international organization themselves: Duarte and Nacar are both Brazilian-born transplants to Orlando, while Clark is Panamanian on his mother’s side and Texan on his father’s.
“I feel like FusionFest is becoming a tradition for many communities in Orlando,” Duarte says. “I can tell some people were looking forward to it the whole year and that I’ll see them again in 2020.”
Follow Will N’ Ray at:
Follow Matt Duarte at:
Two budding filmmakers turned identity into success at this year’s FusionFest, earning big prizes for their documentary portraits of some local cultural luminaries who hail from other lands. Omar Young and Carlos Rocha scored major wins from the panel of expert judges at the annual multicultural festival, with Young also the recipient of an audience award that had been handed out earlier in the year.
At FusionFest, Young was awarded the $1,000 grand prize for his film, The Art of Patrick Noze, a documentary short about the titular fine artist and gallery owner. In the film, Noze displays introspection and some wry humor as he retraces his fraught but ultimately rewarding life’s path from Haiti to New York to Central Florida.
Like all of the 23 shorts in FusionFest 2019’s “MYgration” film contest, Young’s effort had to be brainstormed and assembled over the course of a hectic 48 hours. It was a challenge the Peruvian-born filmmaker, who came to Orlando 11 years ago, approached with great relish.
“My experience was fantastic!” he says. “I enlisted the help of my friend and extremely talented director of photography, Kevin Garcia, and went about planning how to write, shoot and edit a documentary in a matter of just two days.”
The finished product, along with the other 22 entries in the MYgration contest, was previewed for the public last September, as part of a special screening during the Global Peace Film Festival. There, Young’s film was declared best in the contest by a vote of the assembled audience members.
For that success, Young gives significant credit to his subject, Noze: “His energy and passion were inspiring! I believe this much shows in the film, which is why I am beyond happy that it won both the Audience and Grand Jury Awards. Patrick’s art and story deserve to be celebrated, and the Global Peace Film Festival and FusionFest felt like the perfect place for this to happen.”
Also at FusionFest, Full Sail University student Carlos Rocha was awarded a $250 membership to Maitland’s Enzian Theater for “Peace Through Dance,” his portrait of Irish-born dancer and choreographer Sarah Costello. The film gives Costello a platform to describe her upbringing in the turbulent environment of Northern Ireland, along with personal losses she weathered while becoming an international touring dancer and ultimately an Orlando-based business owner. (Costello’s company, Central Florida Irish Dance, won the entertainment grand prize at 2018’s inaugural FusionFest.)
For the South American-born Rocha, who only arrived in Orlando last June (after a time spent living in California), the opportunity to celebrate other immigrants was deeply appreciated.
“I was able to speak with/interview others who have lived in other parts of the world and now call Orlando home,” he says. “I thoroughly enjoyed highlighting the connection we all have as citizens of this planet through film. Everyone has a story, and every story is uniquely amazing.”
The second annual FusionFest drew approximately 15,000 people to downtown Orlando November 30 and December 1 for two days of music, dance, food, fashion and other cultural displays keyed to more than 100 local heritage communities. The festival will return to the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Orlando City Hall Commons Plaza for its third edition, scheduled for November 28 and 29, 2020. For more information, visit: fusionfest.org
For more on Young’s work, see:
The cultural collective Peru Art International scored top honors in the ultra-competitive dance competition at this year’s second annual FusionFest, winning the $1,000 grand prize bestowed by a panel of expert judges. Peru Art was recognized for a vibrant presentation that incorporated the dance styles of several nations, symbolizing the kaleidoscope of heritages the festival brought to downtown Orlando November 30 and December 1.
The organization’s winning performance featured a total of 24 dancers, including children, teenagers and adults. Colorful costumes and kinetic energy took the audience on a tour through the movement traditions of Peru, Colombia, Korea, Russia, Africa and the U.S.A., with helpful signage establishing the geography of each vignette.
In addition to the group’s winning contest entry, its younger children (or “semillitas”) exhibited a Peruvian dance called “Huaylarsh.” And Peru Art also made its presence known with contributions to the festival’s fashion segment, including a design by their director and dance instructor, Italo Alvinez, that combined the looks of Peru and Egypt. All in all, it was quite a showing for the organization, which was new to FusionFest but is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
Peru Art committee member and dancer Tracy Morales Vallejos says FusionFest was “truly a great experience” for their group. “Although our presentations were on Sunday, we were also there Saturday to witness the different cultures and the diversity our city has to offer,” she says. “It was beautiful to see the unique beauty in all cultures, but even more so seeing them all come together.”
More than 100 local heritage communities were represented at this year’s festival, which drew approximately 15,000 people to downtown for two days of dance, music, food, art and other creative demonstrations that built a bridge between the participating cultures. For Peru Art director Alvinez, such undertakings are crucial as immigrants to our area seek a balance between identity and assimilation:
“Our community, as well as many Latin communities, when they arrive in other countries are adopting customs of other cultures,” Alvinez says. “And that enriches this state, because we see how we are mixing/fusing. We need to create these types of festivals to partially rescue something that is wasting (away) over time. Our goal is to transmit to the new generations our rich culture even while being far away from our country.
“Thank you for the opportunity and space to express ourselves.”
Follow Peru Art at:
Sticky Rice Lao Street Food cooked up a big win at this year’s FusionFest, receiving the $1,000 grand prize in the multicultural festival’s food contest. Kevin Phanhvilay, chef and owner of the Orlando quick casual restaurant, earned the top prize for an original recipe that combined ingredients from many regions – just as the festival itself brought together more than 100 local heritage communities in its second annual edition, which was held November 30 and December 1 in the heart of downtown.
The winning dish was a Lao rice congee topped with Caribbean spice panko hamachi and yuzu shiitake mango pico de gallo. That’s quite a mouthful in more ways than one, and the festival’s panel of expert judges was duly impressed.
“I wanted to hit the five flavor profiles with this dish while also incorporating different ingredients from different regions,” Chef Kevin says. “I started off with the Lao-style rice congee as the base and the starch for the dish (Laos/Bitter). I battered the hamachi (Japanese fish also known as yellowtail) with a Caribbean spice rub (Carribean/Savory and Salty). I panko fried it (a Japanese technique of frying with bread crumbs). I glazed the plate with a drizzle of sweet soy sauce. And I topped it off with yuzu pickled shiitake mushrooms and mango pico de gallo (South American and Japanese fusion/sweet and sour).”
For its creator, that original recipe was a tribute to both the spirit of the festival and his own diverse background.
“I was excited to enter the FusionFest competition because I represent what the festival and America are all about: a melting pot of cultures,” Chef Kevin says. “I am an American who is ethnically Lao, and trained in Japanese cuisine. I was born in California but raised in North Carolina, and spent three years living in Laos and Thailand before moving to Orlando in 2009.”
Approximately 15,000 people attended this year’s FusionFest, a two-day celebration of diversity that spotlighted innovative collaborations in the areas of food, music, dance, fashion and other forms of cultural expression. The festival’s philosophy of cooperation and camaraderie was deeply appreciated by Chef Kevin:
“I love it when the community comes together and supports each other,” he says. “I got to speak with other chefs and connect on a personal level.” He also valued the feedback of attendees who came by to sample his wares. And from a spectator’s vantage point, “The music from different countries and outfits everyone was wearing were all amazing.”
Chef Kevin is on both platforms as chefkevin407:
FusionFest will return to the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Orlando City Hall Commons Plaza for its third annual edition, scheduled for November 28 and 29, 2020. For more information, visit: fusionfest.org
The festival is a project of the Downtown Arts District, with support from Orange County Government, the Orlando Downtown Development Board and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. In its inaugural edition, the event received the Award of Excellence in the Downtown Orlando Partnership’s Golden Brick Awards, and took first place in the “Community Outreach Program” category of the Florida Festivals and Events Association’s SunSational Awards.
Fashion artist Londa Msanii literally embodied the spirit of FusionFest by being named the top designer at this year’s second annual multicultural festival, held November 30 and December 1 in downtown Orlando. Msanii was awarded $1,000 by the festival’s panel of fashion judges for two original garments that brought together the apparel traditions of Africa and Japan in a bold new hybrid.
Msanii’s first piece, modeled by Miss North Orlando Leyennshka Batista, was a mid-length sleeve kimono constructed from a cotton West African print. Colorful and expertly fitted, it was tied by an obi (or sash) of African garden hibiscus. The second outfit, as worn by Msanii herself, was based on a head-turning South African-style apron made from a Japanese brocade design and decorated in cowry shells, animal feathers and a Maasai beaded necklace representing Tanzania.
“I love the fact that, as contestants, we were allowed to select our own regions and express ourselves freely with our designs,” Msanii says.
Paying tribute to African culture is important to Msanii, who learned its beauty and richness as a child growing up in Buffalo, New York. For her FusionFest entries, she was moved to incorporate Japanese stylings as well, in a tandem salute to what she calls “the warriors of human history that fought to preserve culture and protect the land.”
Africa and Japan were among the more than 100 heritage cultures represented at the second annual FusionFest, which drew approximately 15,000 people to celebrate diversity through art, music, dance, food and other forms of creative expression.
“It was such a pleasure participating in FusionFest this year,” Msanii says. “I was nervous but did not feel pressured at all. It was a friendly environment and a pleasure meeting the other designers.”
In addition to her work in fashion, Msanii is active in the area of thyroid cancer awareness and advocacy. “I was diagnosed with a rare form of the disease (MTC), and after three occurrences, I’ve decided it was time to bring my passion and purpose together,” she says. She hosts an annual fashion show back home in Buffalo every September (which is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month), and would like to bring the undertaking to Orlando in the future.
To see more of her work, visit londamsanii.com.
FusionFest will return to the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Orlando City Hall Commons Plaza for its third annual edition, scheduled for November 28 and 29, 2020.