Sudanese Cultural Center to hold food-filled fundraiser Saturday featuring Mazahir Salih, Kingsley Botchway

Fundraising Dinner for Sudanese Cultural Center

St. Patrick’s Church — Saturday, Jan. 27 at 6 p.m.

The Sudanese-American Women’s Association prepared a feast of traditional foods for an event celebrating Mazahir Salih’s induction into the Iowa City Council on Dec. 29, 2017. — photo by Mauro Heck

The Sudanese-American Association for Development in Iowa City invites all members of the community to participate in a fundraising dinner and cultural showcase this Saturday, benefitting Iowa City’s Sudanese Cultural Center. Tickets cost $10.

Traditional Sudanese fare will be served up by cooking aficinado Kamel Elgiseer. Elgiseer, a Sudanese immigrant, hopes to open a Sudanese restaurant in downtown Iowa City one day.

Sudanese food represents a fusion of African and Middle Eastern culinary influences; Elgiseer said Saturday’s menu will feature chicken, rice, falafel and hummus, as well as dessert. Both spicy and mild versions of the dishes will be available.

The dinner will also feature live music and speeches from Iowa City Council members Kingsley Botchway and Mazahir Salih. In November, Salih became the first Sudanese-American elected to public office in the United States.

The speeches will focus on the benefits of cultural exchanges. City council member and event organizer Rockne Cole said outreach efforts by the Sudanese Cultural Center, located at 710 S. Dubuque St, facilitate these exchanges.

“Right now they have a variety of initiatives,” Cole told Little Village. “One is education of the Arabic language, where they’re teaching young people the language, which is not offered by local schools. They provide a meeting place and resources for new Sudanese arriving in the city. They’ve done a great job of preserving the culture and … really embody the best of Iowa City.”

From 2005 to 2009, almost 1,000 Sudanese moved to Iowa, according to the Arab American Institute Foundation. Today, it’s estimated that approximately 1,500 Sudanese immigrants and refugees have settled in the state, concentrated in the Des Moines area and Johnson County. Cole said the continued growth of this population is being felt in the community.

“I think it was really embodied by Mazahir’s election,” he said. “Not only are they coming and celebrating their culture, but participating in the body politic of the area. They’re really pushing us to provide more representation.”

Events like Saturday’s fundraiser not only support the center’s programming, Cole added, but advance their mission of creating greater visibility for Sudanese immigrants in the area.

“These sort of cultural outreach efforts are really part and parcel of what they’re trying to achieve,” Cole said.

The event will begin at 6 p.m.

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