Next week from May 3 to 6, Binghamton University will be helping to host the 2021 virtual LOCO Festival. The LOCO Festival is an educational project organized by the Spanish Committee of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to raise students’ awareness of refugees’ situations and the importance of getting actively involved in the defense of human rights. While many versions of the program have been hosted, Marisol Marcin, lecturer of global studies and program coordinator for the global studies department, has been working to build a team of members of the University and the outside community to bring LOCO Festival to the United States.

The LOCO Festival is a weeklong educational opportunity filled with smaller events, conversations, workshops and roundtables. Many BU groups have been active in these aspects of LOCO fest, including the global studies program, the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) and the English Language Institute. The organizers have also tapped external organizations such as the American Civic Association (ACA) and the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility to contribute. Some events include workshops on the impact of COVID-19 on immigration and a roundtable discussion of Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander topics.

In addition to the educational opportunities being offered, a secondary goal of the festival is to promote artists and artworks reflecting the event’s mission of talking about refugee human rights and promoting cross-cultural understandings. While the educational talks will all be held online in a virtual capacity, the accompanying artwork will also be exhibited at the Roberson Museum and Science Center. To help with some of the arts-related sides of the programming, event coordinators have worked with several campus arts groups, such as the department of art and design at BU. Richie Sebuharara, assistant director of the MRC and a collaborator of the LOCO Festival, wrote in an email about the importance of including artists in the scope of the organization’s mission.

“Art has historically been an impactful way to express emotions through a variety of mediums,” Sebuharara said. “The uniqueness and creativity of individual artists help create enriching dialogue.”

Bringing such a unique program to the Binghamton community is something that the event coordinators are excited to share this coming week. Given the diversity and demographics of BU and the surrounding area, coordinators are hosting LOCO Festival with the intent of promoting “multiculturality, multiethnicity and diverse thinking,” according to the LOCO Festival’s website. With the impacts of the refugee crisis being felt throughout the world, LOCO Festival looks toward working at a local level to promote solidarity and cooperation.

“Issues that the LOCO Festival addresses affect families on and off campus and it is important to acknowledge,” Sebuharara wrote. “There are programs and people in the community that are able to speak to several different experiences that we can learn from.”

LOCO Festival will be held virtually all week, with many speakers and educators from both within and outside the University contributing time to the event. Through this showcase of speakers and art, participants can gain a new perspective about the lives of vulnerable populations within their own communities.