Bridging traditions at community potluck dinner

Will Wells

Kent will get a culinary crash course in understanding tomorrow evening.

The Islamic Community of Akron and the City of Kent will host a potluck to give non-Muslim Kent area residents the opportunity to sit down and learn about another culture through immersion while breaking bread together.

The potluck will begin at 6:00 p.m. at the Islamic Community Center, located at 152 E. Steels Corners Road in Stow. Alcohol and pork will not be allowed in accordance with the traditional Muslim diet.

“I know there are a lot of misconceptions about us,” said ICAK vice-president Abdul-Hakeem Najeeullah. “We just want to get people acquainted with us and vice-versa.”

The idea of a community potluck originated in Kent during the 1970s, with a goal of bringing people of different backgrounds and beliefs together under a common denominator: Food. The monthly get-togethers becoming a tradition that lasted until the late ’80s.

In November 2005, Laura Mazur of the Kent community activist group All Together Now, Inc., helped to resurrect the dinners and continues to organize them each month.

“We’ve really increased our numbers, and more importantly, increased our diversity since then,” Mazur said. “We started with 35 people, and now we can top 200.”

The partnership between All Together Now and the Islamic community began in March, when the ICAK was invited to have a member lead the potluck’s bread-breaking ceremony.

Najeeullah gave a 10-minute presentation on his faith and culture during the ceremony, ending with a Q&A session during which attendees could ask questions about the Muslim community. Najeeullah said the evening helped to clarify any false information they might have received on the religion.

While the evening isn’t meant to convert anyone to another faith, Mazur expects those in attendance to come out of the event with a greater appreciation of other cultures.

“Those of us who can’t afford to travel around the world, this is our chance to experience something different – a culture that’s truly different from our own” she said.

Contact public affairs reporter Will Wells at [email protected].