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Taste of Cultures Celebrates Diversity

Immigrants show off food, dance, music of their homes.

Smells of classic Ethiopian foods, sounds of neighbors mingling and the sight of cultural dances worked as a lure for this year's A Taste of Cultures Day.

That feast for the senses attracted a crowd to the Walter Reed Community Center, 2906 S. 16th St., including local immigrants, businesses, and passers-by.

"I was just walking by and I came to see what was up," said Tiffany Rice. "The people here were really nice and I had a really good time."

A Taste of Cultures Day, gathering held by the Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC), raised awareness about the Ethiopian immigrant population, and spread ECDC's mission of resettling Ethiopian refugees. Since its establishment in 1983, ECDC has served the Washington Metropolitan area in resettling immigrants from all over the world.

"This year, A Taste of Cultures Day celebrates diversity with the theme of 'sharing cultures for global harmony,'" said Hanan Bedri, event organizer for ECDC.

Arlington residents, and their neighbors from Virginia, Washington and Maryland came to A Taste of Cultures Day to enjoy music, artwork, and face painting, all offered to celebrate the diverse heritage of Arlington's immigrant community.

"There were really nice festivities and I was really interested in seeing different people coming together in a peaceful way," said T.J. Akpeneye, a Washington D.C. resident.

Daavi’s, a D.C. restaurant, brought freshly cooked West African cuisine to South Arlington, and the curried chicken, fried plantains and rice were gobbled down by hungry attendees.

"The food was delicious and opened my eyes to African cooking," said Zhiela Ashtianipour, of Arlington. "I am from Iran and the African foods really reminded me of the traditional meals I enjoy at home."

In addition to established businesses like Daavi’s, vendors at Taste included independent, home-based craftsmen. Nigist Yinesu, from Falls Church, plans to open an Ethiopian restaurant, and used A Taste of Cultures Day as a learning experience, an experiment in the restaurant business.

"A Taste of Cultures Day helped me learn more about cultural vending," said Yinesu. "This was great a experience and really opened my eyes to the food business."

In addition to food, A Taste of Cultures Day presented a number of booths full of information on local outreach programs, like Arlington County Community Resilience.

"The Arlington County Community Resilience started after Sept. 11 and came here today to celebrate the different people that make up Arlington County," said Kay McKee, a Community Resilience worker.

The festivities at A Taste of Cultures Day were highlighted by the music of Soldiers of Jah Army. The reggae quintet donated their time to entertain the community and help spread awareness about ECDC. They performed music from their upcoming CD, "Peace in a Time of War."

"We came here and devoted our time to raise awareness for the organization in a troubled time," said bassist Bob Jefferson.