Eat and Greet

All across the country, cities are honoring their cultural heritages while resisting President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda by bringing together their communities over shared meals. Cleveland celebrated its multicultural heritage during the launch of Global Table, a community potluck that was held March 25 at the Cleveland Hostel in Ohio City. Organizers hope the event will be a recurring series.

Open to the public, the family-friendly potluck provided an afternoon of amazing food and entertainment.

“The Global Table concept developed in response to the recent immigration ban and current issues surrounding immigration,” said event organizer Ashley Shaw, economic development and planning manager of Ohio City Inc. “Friends, resettlement agencies, and refugee organizations quickly came on board with plans to provide a forum for meaningful conversation in light of these difficult times.  We strongly felt the need to create a non-political event with the opportunity to channel concerns and energy in positive ways and uplift those around us.

“Bringing people together over a good meal to share ideas and concerns seemed like the best way to accomplish the goal,” she said.

The potluck illustrated how food is a universal language, and a pathway toward forging new friendships. The Cleveland Hostel, which regularly welcomes many guests from all over the world, set up its second-floor Gathering Place to accommodate the event. A wall of wooden blocked letters announced, “We’re Glad You’re Here.”

Countertops were laden with paella, Mediterranean flatbreads, falafel, a Persian rice and lentil dish, lasagna, pierogi, and sushi—to name a few items—along with a worldwide selection of pastries.

Global Connection, a band featuring Conga drums and guitars, provided an international beat. A craft station encouraged kids of all ages to create a flag representing their native country. One girl made her own personal statement by crafting a heart-shaped design.

Shaw is working with groups such as Global Cleveland, Refugee Response, and US Together to raise awareness about how important immigrant and refugees are to our community.

“For every dollar spent in refugee services, $10 is given back to the community—a ten-fold return,” said Danielle Drake, US Together community relations manager. “Immigrants and refugees work and pay taxes from day one, begin to build businesses, and buy homes and cars. However, with the current immigration ban, while 1,200 immigrants were projected to arrive in the Cleveland area this year, the number now has been reduced to 400.  And, along with the decrease there is a 55% reduction in government spending.” These are sobering facts.

However, with awareness and growing involvement from the community, individuals, organizations, and agencies are stepping up to the plate with support.

“We are taking this project one step at a time with the hope of developing it into a regular event,” Shaw said.

SPACES Gallery and Global Table are collaborating on the next gathering. The “All Welcome Community Potluck” is set for 6pm-8pm on June 8 at SPACES Gallery, 2900 Detroit Ave. Please be sure to share a dish that is unique to your family or cultural heritage.

The potluck will be followed by an informational panel session focusing on how to be an ally to immigrants, what the changes to the laws mean, and a general discourse on how these changes will impact our economy and culture.

Panelists include Jazmin Long of Global Cleveland, immigration lawyer Elizabeth Ryser, and Refugee Response executive director Patrick Kearns.

The “All Welcome Community Potluck” is part of The First 100+ Days exhibition at SPACES, on display from May 5— June 30.

— Story and Photos by Pamela Rhoads