Suburban Punjabi festival returns after pandemic hiatus

A long-running suburban Punjabi cultural festival resumed earlier this month after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

More than 400 Sikh community members from across the Northwest suburbs attended the daylong traditional “Punjabi Mela,” featuring sports, games, musical entertainment, cultural activities and free food at the Deer Grove East Forest Preserve in Palatine. The event was organized by Palatine-based Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago.

“PCS is dedicated to promoting a healthy lifestyle,” society President Parvinder Singh Nanua said of the festival's focus on athletics, games and activities designed to get people of all ages moving.

Musical chair races for women and children, a tug-of-war, kite flying, volleyball, and javelin, shot put and bean bag throws, as well as races for various ages were among the activities held throughout the day.

“There was tons of fun for everyone,” said Rajinder Singh Mago of Wayne, a member of the society's board of governors and its co-founder and past president. “We've been doing (the festival) for more than 20 years, if not longer.”

The goal of the festival has been to maintain and sustain Punjabi culture and language and build community.

Day of Peace

More than 50 diverse religious leaders in Aurora recently gathered to mark International Day of Peace at an interfaith breakfast to discuss faith, peace and ways to help the city progress.

Mayor Richard Irvin addressed the ecumenical group of Christian, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and other faith leaders, thanked them for their service, and highlighted his vision for a “One Aurora” community.

The city officially launched the new Aurora Interfaith Alliance, an advisory body comprised of leaders from different faiths. The breakfast ended with an interfaith unity prayer.

Black writers exhibit

The American Writers Museum in Chicago has an immersive exhibit and education initiative, “Dark Testament: A Century of Black Writers on Justice,” which runs through Sept. 17, 2023.

The exhibit explores racial injustice in America through the work of Black American writers from the end of the Civil War through the civil rights movement. It also explores movements in Black literature across decades through original artwork, augmented reality and other interactive elements to enrich the visitor experience.

The exhibit spans three gallery spaces and has an online component. It includes deep dives into the work of prominent Black writers such as Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Maya Angelou and James Baldwin, as well as lesser-known writers such as Pauli Murray, whose poetry collection titled “Dark Testament” inspired the exhibit's name.

A series of live in-person author events will be held with writers whose work relates to the exhibit's themes and elements.

• Oct. 13 — Photographer Carell Augustus will chat with reporter Arionne Nettles about his new book “Black Hollywood: Reimagining Iconic Movie Moments.”

• Nov. 1 — Award-winning poet and writer Ross Gay discusses his new essay collection “Inciting Joy.”

Both programs also will be livestreamed. For more information and to register for a program, visit

Hispanic leaders honored

The Elgin City Council recently honored two Hispanic community leaders, Jaime Garcia and the late Juanita “Jane” Barbosa, for their decades of service and contributions to the city's Latino community.

Garcia is one of the founding members of Centro de Información, which has served the Latino community in Kane County for 50 years.

What started as a part-time nonprofit has grown into an agency with three sites, 16 paid staff members and a budget of more than $1 million to address immigrants' needs. Garcia served Centro as a volunteer for 35 years, then as a board member and executive director until his retirement on June 30.

Centro has helped roughly 150,000 people during Garcia's 15 years as executive director. He was honored with a 2015 Community Impact Award by the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago.

Barbosa, who died in June 2021, was a community activist, former recruiter and minority affairs coordinator at Elgin Community College, and founder of the Organization of Latin American Students. She was an influential member of the Mexican American community and a longtime ambassador for Centro, receiving its community service award in 2012.

Elgin Mayor David Kaptain read proclamations in their honor at a city council meeting earlier this month.

“Jane will be remembered for her countless hours of devoted volunteering to the Elgin community,” said Kaptain, designating Sept. 16 as Jane Barbosa Day in Elgin.

“It's a very special day for us,” Barbosa's daughter Melissa Barbosa Guzman said of the recognition. “My mom, as you know, loved Elgin very much. This was her home. As proud as she was of her roots and her home country of Mexico, she was very proud of Elgin.”

Kaptain also bestowed Garcia with a key to the city of Elgin.

“These are very rarely given out,” Kaptain said. “And I can't think of anybody more deserving and anybody that's changed the face of this city for the better than Jaime Garcia.

“Our city now is 50% Latino- and Spanish-speaking. He opened doors in this area for many, many people and gave them the basic things that they needed to become citizens in the United States. ”

Celebrating 50 years

Centro de Información will celebrate its 50 years of service at its annual gala from 6 to 11 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Q Center in St. Charles.

The group provides immigration and naturalization services, employment aid, emergency food, educational classes and more to help new immigrants throughout Kane County.

“Anybody that is new to any community would appreciate the kind of work that is done here to help people integrate into society,” said Dianha Ortega-Ehreth, the center's new director and herself an immigrant from Mexico. “A large number of people who come through our doors are first-time clients. It's largely new people coming to this community.”

Ortega-Ehreth said the center helps new immigrants get on their feet, helping them navigate life here, including how to apply for a job, get their children enrolled in school and learn about their rights.

For tickets and information, visit

Latinx Heritage Month

As part of Latinx Heritage Month, Waubonsee Community College will host a panel discussion Oct. 5 on understanding and working with Latinx communities and people with disabilities.

Members from the college and Fox Valley communities will share their experiences and provide information on how to best support Latinx individuals with disabilities. The program begins 5:30 p.m. at Waubonsee's downtown Aurora campus, 18 S. River St.

Also, at 5 p.m. Oct. 7, the college will celebrate “Fiesta y Kermes,” a program featuring food vendors, community-based organizations, performers and live music at the downtown Aurora campus. The event is open to the public.

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Jane Barbosa of Elgin, who died in June 2021, was honored by the Elgin City Council with the declaration of Sept. 16 as Jane Barbosa Day. Courtesy Of Gil Feliciano
  Centro de Información is celebrating its 50th anniversary of serving the Hispanic community in Elgin and the surrounding area. Former Executive Director Jaime Garcia, one of the group's founders, retired in June and was recently presented with a key to the city of Elgin. Rick West/
  Former Centro de Información Executive Director Jaime Garcia shows off some of the posters celebrating the Elgin nonprofit's annual gala set for Oct. 1. Rick West/
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