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The Ever-Evolving Identities of a Street Festival

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by Evan Storey

Maybe it's already time to store away your memories of this year's Sunset Junction Street Festival, or maybe, as in my case, they're a bit too hazy to even give it a try. Nevertheless, as yet another non-native I feel it worthwhile to comment on the admirable atmosphere that my other non-native friends and I experienced.

Growing up in the suburbs of Phoenix socialized me into assuming you can force a grin between neighbors, but obey each others' fences because this land was not made for both you and me. Although individualism and protection of private property have been mostly useful in our nation, they have also helped to drive an SUV between an otherwise intimate sense of community.

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I have spent a lot of time in both Spain and Mexico where Carnival and Semana Santa, running a good business and a running of the bulls, or birthdays and a Day of the Dead are all good enough reasons to celebrate together. I always presumed this was due to a stronger sense of national identity -- ethnically, culturally, historically -- which still holds some credence.

But attending last weekend's Sunset Junction Street Festival opened my eyes to something new -- and I don't think it was just the second-hand smoke from my fellow jammers in an impromptu drumming session. Without getting too cheesily preachy, I admit that I genuinely felt a sense of unity, despite being an outsider. Granted, you had every walk of life walking these fenced-off streets, but there was undoubtedly a feeling of acceptance and, if not an American national identity, then an LAist fringe identity.

I have only felt this way abroad so it was quite refreshing to feel this way in the most diverse, most segregated city in the world.

photo by emdot via flickr