Taking Festival Inclusion To The Next Level At Beloved
By Autumn Feldmeier
I wanted to title this 'Coolest Volunteers EVER' but that wouldn't cover the whole experience at Beloved Festival. But, Beloved did have super sweet gate volunteers, parking attendants and White Bird clinic medical volunteers.
People with names like Sparkles and Dimples who were not only super cool with our car-camping placement, they also handled the usual chaos of entrance and exodus with a smile. They always say the first impression is the one that counts but Beloved continued to impress.
One of the things that I loved was the stage in the middle of the festival which is set up like the center of a mandala, drawing energy in towards the center. To me this went along with part of what makes Beloved special to me, Beloved seeks to create a melting pot of sorts into this center by offering a diverse lineup. Gender equality is very important on stage and a music lineup featuring 26 musical traditions from 20 countries. A few of my favorites were Femi Kuti, SIMRIT and Polish Ambassador.
I loved that one moment I was taking a Sufi dance class with Fanna-Fi-Allah-Sufi-Qawwali and the next I was jamming out to the Everyone Orchestra (including members of the Grateful Dead, String Cheese Incident, Thievery Corporation and Tea Leaf Green).
At Beloved there was also room for the unexpected…
Friday night, we stumbled upon HuDost - this amazing duo who mixed ancient mantras along with an electric guitar. HuDost call themselves a 'Neo-Folk-World-Rock-Ensemble.’ I'm not even sure what that means but their Friday evening show was so good. We made sure to brave the rain the next day for their ‘Elements of Healing’ workshop, and it was well worth it. We shivered in the chilly Oregon rain as we walked to the tent where they were performing and soon we found ourselves sweating as they went through the 5 elements (Earth/Water/Fire/Air/Ether) with us. It was a magical experience doing breath work and movement for each element. This was the perfect entry into our Saturday, where we continued to hear amazing music, danced like crazy and most importantly - the connection with other conscious beings.
This small, 2000 person festival brings together persons of all ages and communities and it wasn't uncommon to see Grateful Dead-type hippies hanging out with Renaissance fair followers to African dancers. In fact, Beloved is so dedicated to inclusion and community, they did two unique things I've never seen done before.
First the founder of Beloved Festival, Elliott Rasenick, got on stage and announced, “This is the most important talk of the festival.” And Elliott began his talk, he said Beloved’s goal is to actively seek out and make impact on all communities. A really powerful and inspiring talk! His friend, Keela Johnson (Social Activist and PhD student in Social Work), got up next on stage and explained that Elliott wanted a real, raw talk on the true meaning of inclusion vs Impact. And that is exactly what is was, truly uplifting to see so many people interested in making real change.
The second thing, was that they had Buddy Benches with the words “Need a Friend? Take a Seat” boldly painted on them stationed throughout the festival. It wasn't uncommon to see a crowd around these benches but, even sweeter, the one on one interactions between very different looking people.
Elliot’s vision of inclusion was evident as we watched the Everyone Orchestra and Fanna-Fi-Allah-Sufi Qawwali close out the magical weekend. We bid farewell to all of our new friends and to Dimples, our exceedingly nice parking volunteer, and drove home feeling revived and optimistic!
Everyone truly is welcome at Beloved Festival. To learn more about Beloved Festival visit belovedfestival.com.