Teen Advisory Board Organizes Holi Event Celebrating Hindu Festival

With help from community partners, the Mitchell Park Library in Palo Alto (CA) created a culturally inclusive, family friendly event of color, music, and community.

Friends and families in Palo Alto, CA, get colorful at the Mitchell Park Library’s Holi celebration.
Photos courtesy of Mitchell Park Library

It was a colorful day of culture and fun in Palo Alto thanks to a collaborative effort led by the library’s teens.

The Mitchell Park Library Teen Library Advisory Board (TLAB) and town community center collaborated to create an event around the Hindu holiday of Holi and its Festival of Colors. The fun and messy, culturally inclusive outdoor program was a huge success because of the teens in charge and their community partners.

A member of TLAB applied for a grant for the funding needed to hold the library’s first Holi event that proved to be an example of what is possible when teens are given the lead and community members are brought in as well.

“Holi is considered one of the most revered and celebrated festivals of India and it is celebrated in almost every part of the country,” according to holifestival.org. “It is also sometimes called the ‘festival of love’ as on this day people get to unite together forgetting all resentments and all types of bad feeling towards each other.”

Also celebrated in Nepal, Holi signifies the end of winter and coincides with the last full moon in the lunar month of Phalguna, and is typically observed in March. Celebrants smear colored powder on each other and throw the powder into the air and at fellow revelers. The festival unites the community in a celebration of color and love regardless of race, age, gender, or socioeconomic status.

It was important to TLAB members to have a free event where all teens, their families, and community members could come to connect and celebrate.

TLAB members who celebrate Holi with their families created a playlist of popular Bollywood hits. On the day of the event, attendees of all ages spread colored powder on each other’s faces, coated their hair and skin, and tossed clouds of powder up in the air while singing and dancing to Bollywood music.

TLAB tied the Festival of Colors theme to activities beyond the traditional Holi powder, including paper garlands and button making, glitter tattoos, spin art, and mandala coloring at each station.

They also brought in a professional Bay Area henna artist, creating a larger sense of community involvement, which was one of the goals of this project.

The event was the culmination of a collaborative effort among the 16 TLAB members from different Palo Alto high schools and Mitchell Park Community Center, which provided the space in the park, tables and chairs for the activity stations, and assistance with the cleanup portion outside.

Approximately 150 people attended the celebration, and as soon as the first person threw powder in the air, teens were chasing each other with packets of color and grabbing more powder to smear on friends and strangers. When the packets were empty, they took colorful selfies to remember the day.

Gina Martinez Feil is the teen ­services librarian at Mitchell Park Library in Palo Alto, CA.

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