Tasting event held to celebrate culture, support asylum seekers

Jun 19 2017
Posted by: Staff
Tasting event held to celebrate culture, support asylum seekers

By: Andrew Wigdor

Food from countries named in President Donald Trump’s travel ban were served at a local event held to support immigrants who require legal assistance when seeking asylum.

TN Justice For Our Neighbors hosted the event, dubbed “Food from Inside the Travel Ban,” earlier this month at Vanderbilt University. JFON is a nonprofit organization in Nashville that regularly provides legal service to low-income immigrants and their families. 

Some of the food featured from Syria, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Iran and Somalia included Ghormeh Sabzi, an Iranian herb stew, Konafa, a Middle Eastern cheese pastry, a rice dish from Libya, Vegitable Pulav, a Middle Eastern vegetarian dish and hummus. All proceeds of the event went to JFON’s support of immigrants in need of work authorization, relief from deportation for immigrants and to fund legal representation for refugees and immigrants.

Chair of the Board of TN JFON Barbara Clinton spoke about the importance of assisting the refugee families in need.

“When Donald Trump was elected, the situation of refugees became much more dire than it had been,” Clinton said. “So, now, what we are trying to do is to increase the services we offer, so that we cannot only help immigrants, but we can help refugees. So, this dinner is raising money to do that. Because, a refugee case is much more expensive and lengthy than it is to help somebody get authorization to work.

Adrienn Kittos, the legal director at TN JFON, explained how the nonprofit organization directly assists in the legal cases of immigrants and refugees.

“We are just embarking in the last couple of years on asylum practice within our organization,” Kittos said. “We have always done humanitarian legal services, and (asylum practice) is a really specified, specialized area of law. And, so, we are learning with really experienced attorneys and excited to be able to help more of those individuals.”

Rose Hernandez, an attorney in Nashville and a member of the board at JFON, stated that JFON’s new asylum practice is a necessity in the current political climate. 

“People who are seeking asylum in the United States have fled for their lives. So, this is literally a life and death situation. If someone arrives in this country with just a shirt on their back, that doesn’t mean that they don’t need help, even if they can’t afford to pay for it,” Hernandez said.

All of the foreign food at the event was provided by Gigamunch, a company that partners with immigrants and refugees to sell food from various cultures.

 “(The cooks) really passionately prepare their indigenous meals, so that adventurous eaters can experience new cultures, one dinner at a time. So, we are subscription service, and we deliver cultural experiences every week,” said Enis Cirak, one of the co-founders of Gigamunch. Cirak said that he thought Gigamunch providing the food for the event was a perfect fit.

“We wanted to provide anything that we could. It’s a partnership that makes sense,” Cirak said.

The event also served as a platform for JFON to honor organizations in the Nashville area for their continued work in assisting immigrants and refugees in need.

Nashville International Center for Empowerment and Catholic Charities of Tennessee were the recipients of those honors. 

Dov Hirsch, the chair of the board of directors for NICE, explained what the award means to his organization and the community surrounding Nashville.


“We were honored with an award for humanitarianism in 2017 as a beacon in the community alongside Catholic Charities of Tennessee,” Hirsch said. “A very strong part, if not the majority, of the constituency in the community that we are a part of sees tremendous value in the refugee community and believes very strongly that we need to nurture that. And they believe that together, we are much stronger. Not because of the different countries we may come from but simply what brings us together.”  

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