The San Ramon Performing Arts Center will come alive with Pakistani traditions on April 9 in nonprofit organization Mashal’s third annual cultural show, Virsa 2011.
The evening will begin with a traditional Pakistani dinner and follow with a two and a half hour presentation of Pakistani song, dance, comedy and fashion by more than 130 adult and child participants.
Faraz Sattar, who immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1994 and sits on the board of directors for Mashal, said the event will showcase a wealth of young talent and raise awareness about Pakistani culture.
“I want event participants and Pakistani attendees to acknowledge the kids’ participation and the talent that resides here,” Sattar said. “For everyone else, I want them to come and look at the energy, colors and feel of our community, and to see that we’re just like them.”
The organization behind the event, Mashal, was formed in 2008 by a group of Pakistani-Americans who wanted to do more for their community, Sattar said.
To take the first step toward their three goals of raising political awareness and accountability, increase interaction with local and national politicians and involve youth in the community, the organization held a town hall meeting.
Members then determined that spurring motivation among local Pakistani youth should be the organization’s cornerstone, and they held their first cultural show in October 2008, Sattar said.
“The feedback (for the first show) was phenomenal,” Sattar said. “We were shocked. We realized that this was something unique, and it allowed the kids to get closer to their culture.”
Mashal also hosts a youth camp focused on the globally popular sport cricket, as well as an Independence Day parade in Danville, Urdu language classes and other events throughout the year.
This year, Sattar said he expects 650 people at Versa 2011, and guests will include San Ramon Mayor H. Abram Wilson, Counsul General of Pakistan Riffat Masood and California Congressman Jerry McNerney.
Show highlights will include Pakistani comedy translated into English, poetry written by Pakistani poet Allama Iqbal, a children’s fashion show with a focus on traditional attire and an adult fashion show featuring couture pieces by Pakistani fashion designer Zahra Saeed.
Approximately 70 to 80 percent of participants are San Ramon residents and the remainder reside in outlying areas such as Danville, Fremont, Livermore and Oakland, Sattar said.
Sattar added he hopes the cultural show, as well as all of Mashal’s efforts, will help locals view Pakistanis in a positive light.
“Pakistan has a bad reputation in the media, but a vast majority – about 95 percent – of Pakistanis are just like you and me,” he said. “But the media is so focused on the other 5 percent that no one knows what the real Pakistan is all about.”
The San Ramon Performing Arts Center is at 10550 Albion Rd. Virsa 2011 will run from 6 to 10:30 p.m. and tickets cost $25 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under.
To buy tickets, click here.