News

Potluck to celebrate neighborhood diversity

Midtown event aims to bring neighbors together over food and fun

Midtown Residents Association members don't have to travel to New York to visit the United Nations; it's right in their own backyards.

The neighborhood association will celebrate its cultural diversity during the second annual Multicultural Potluck on Saturday, June 20, at Hoover Park. The popular event, which attracted more than 100 neighbors last year, is Midtown's answer to a growing conundrum among Palo Alto's neighborhood associations: how to attract and engage new residents from other cultures in their increasingly diverse neighborhoods.

The cultural diversity became apparent to Midtown leaders at one of their annual fall ice cream socials. Association leaders discovered attendees with roots in 36 different countries through an activity in which residents and visitors marked their family heritage on a large World Heritage Map. They also played a game in which people had to identify the cultures associated with artifacts from around the world, association President Sheri Furman said.

"Like all of Palo Alto, Midtown has become quite ethnically diverse," she said. "We don't have a good way of measuring the effect of the potluck, but face-to-face communication is always a good way to get to know your neighbors."

Last year's potluck also took place in June, supported by volunteers from the association's steering committee and the group Midtown Teen Global Citizens.

The event brought together residents and local cafes and restaurants to share cultural dishes and to provide an opportunity for children to learn diversity and culture through fun hands-on activities.

A carved nut on display from an Australian boab tree and a traditional native Hawaiian lau lau, a dish made from taro leaf-wrapped pork, were among the cultural artifacts that were part of a guessing game.

And people not only brought ethnic food -- some dressed in traditional outfits.

One attendee, Samina Sundas, who is of Pakistani heritage and wore a sari, said she made a connection with the event coordinator.

"All great religions encourage its followers to love their neighbors. But to love our neighbors, we must know our neighbors. In order to build kind and compassionate communities, we must make it a priority so we can leave a better world for our next generations," said Sundas, founding executive director of the American Muslim Voice Foundation, an organization dedicated to community and peace building.

This year's attendees are asked to bring dishes reflecting their cultural heritage, which will be supplemented by food donations from Midtown restaurants such as Round Table Pizza, Indochine, Palo Alto Cafe, Subway, Baskin Robbins and Starbucks.

Last year's potluck featured diversity activities for children, such as making Native American dreamcatchers and Japanese koi windsocks, a cultural trivia showcase where people identified the artifacts and Midtown's very own "World Soccer" game. There will be similar activities at Saturday's event, Furman said.

IF YOU GO

What: Midtown Residents Association Multicultural Potluck (open to all Midtown residents)

Where: Hoover Park, 2901 Cowper St., Palo Alto

When: Saturday, June 20, noon-3 p.m.

Cost: Free, but attendees are asked to bring a meal that reflects their cultural heritage

Info: midtownresidents.org.

Comments

9 people like this
Posted by Former Palo Altan
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Whilst I applaud the efforts of the organisers to be inclusive of all cultures their efforts would have been more successful if they had made sure not to schedule this food-based event during Ramadan. I'm sure that many Muslim Palo Altans would have participated if this event had been held 1 week earlier.


13 people like this
Posted by Then Again--
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2015 at 6:28 pm

There are always neighbors who do not like to socialize. Many of the young techies seem antisocial, as are some of the foreign homeowners who only socialize with family members. There are also racist neighbors who refuse to socialize if anyone of a different race from their own attends an activity.

This is why our street finally gave up on block parties.

Good luck, but don't expect a big turnout. Xenophobics won't even try the cuisine of other cultures.


14 people like this
Posted by Immigrant
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2015 at 7:01 pm

Far from me to dislike people with a different culture. I am an immigrant myself. However, in my neighborhood, there are more and more people who do not even speak a word of English. The other day, I was walking around the neighborhood, when an elderly person started speaking to me in a foreign language out of nowhere! I had not seen that person who was about to run into me riding her bicycle on the sidewalk. And I, the pedestrian, had to move out of her way.

Hard to have fuzzy feelings when you encounter this kind of behavior more and more frequently in your neighborhood.


7 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2015 at 7:32 pm

If I were the midtown resident association I would immediately send outa notice postponing this event until after Ramadan.

"However, in my neighborhood, there are more and more people who do not even speak a word of English. "
And, so what??? Have you tried to find out who these people are. Maybe there is a reason why they do not speak English. I can think of a few

"The other day, I was walking around the neighborhood, when an elderly person started speaking to me in a foreign language out of nowhere! I"
Maybe this person needed help. Did you ever think of that?


7 people like this
Posted by Immigrant
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2015 at 12:45 am

@ Agenda

Clearly, the only "help" needed by that person, who was illegally riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, was for me to get out of her way, which I did. She merrily went on her way afterwards.


Like this comment
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2015 at 5:43 am

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2015 at 10:48 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

I think that this is a great idea! I also hope that it is the first of many events like this. Kudos to the organizers!


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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