We Love Buford Highway, a non-profit organization that supports the culture and community along the thoroughfare, is gearing up for a colorful fundraising gala on Aug. 24.
FEAST – which stands for Flavors, Experience, Art, Stories and Traditions – is an introduction to the food and culture of immigrant communities that have made Buford Highway their home.
When guests enter FEAST they’ll step into a bazaar with wares for sale by nine local merchants, followed by Indian, Filipino, Mexican and Lebanese food, cultural dance performances, a live painting and more.
The event promises to be colorful, fun and representative, according to Lily Pabian, executive director of We Love Buford Highway.
“People think of this area as just food. And food is absolutely an important bridge, but the color behind the food, the passion and conviction, speaks to the immigrants’ influence and impact,” Pabian said.
People from Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia have been coming to Buford Highway for 50 years, just to get a piece of themselves that they can’t find in their own communities, Pabian said. They come to see their own languages on signage, on menus, and on storefronts.
Pabian came to We Love Buford Highway in 2019 just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. For the past three years, the organization has deepened its focus on the community’s needs while navigating a crisis.
“We know that members of the community were hit much differently with COVID, and we wanted to address it,” Pabian said.
We Love Buford Highway has fed 100,000 people, worked to get access to COVID-19 test sites, made language translation available, and pushed out vaccine efforts.
One of the most impactful programs created during the pandemic is the Buford Highway Orchestra Project led by Juana Alzaga. Held at the Latin American Association, the orchestra started with 10 students and quickly grew. Now 85 families are on the waiting list to join.
“Predating COVID, we are an agency of storytelling, an oral history project collecting the story of the immigrants here,” she said. “But nobody was thinking about stories at the time. It was really about serving our communities.”
Pabian said telling stories raises awareness of the communities of Buford Highway and empowers those communities.
“As an immigrant myself, I saw my parents struggle. To hear other people’s struggle, it helps. It strengthens that sense of belonging, which is what Buford Highway is all about,” Pabian said.
FEAST is being held on Aug. 24 at Spring Hall, 7130 Buford Highway, Atlanta, GA, 30340. Tickets are available here.