Photo by Mouna Photography
Refugee chefs share their native cuisines through Tables Across Borders, which is organizing a variety of street food for the World Refugee Day celebration at Lynden Sculpture Garden.
Tables Across Borders, a global food collaboration highlighting the cuisines of refugee chefs in Milwaukee, will create a street food bazaar. It will feature food from the Karen (an ethnic group from Burma/Myanmar), Afghan, Ethiopian and Somali refugee communities. Food is free but donations are accepted and encouraged, said Kai Gardner Mishlove, founder and organizer of Tables Across Borders in a telephone interview today.
Tables Across Borders started in 2019 as a pop-up global food project that grew out of Gardner Mishlove’s work as program coordinator for refugee services at Aurora Walker’s Community Point Clinic on Bruce Street and other volunteer work with refugee communities. She left that post to become the Jewish Community Relations Council director in May 2021, but continues her volunteer work with refugees, including Tables.
During the pandemic, when Gardner Mishlove became aware of a rise in food insecurity, the project transitioned to charity food giveaways. Tables would bring chefs to Damascus Gate on Milwaukee’s Southside every Saturday to prepare food that was given away to anyone who needed it. Later it provided online cooking demonstrations.
“This project brings people together and keeps cultures alive,” Gardner Mishlove said. “I’m particularly interested in highlighting how food helps a community sustain itself during desperate migrations through time and space. When migrating, familiar foods, spices and indigenous plants might not be readily available. Sometimes there will be a fusion of what they traditionally made and what’s available in their new communities.”
Other activities include an Ethiopian coffee/buna ceremony; hands-on batik dyeing with Arianne King Comer (take home a T-shirt!); a multilingual story time with Claudia Orjuela and Julio Pabón; a poetry walk with poets from the refugee community and others led by artist-in-residence Chuck Stebelton; music from Samba da Vida MKE; and crafts and artworks sold to support Myanmar-based artists and Myanmar democracy movement efforts, coordinated by Aung Myo Tin.
Hayat Pharmacy will be onsite, offering COVID vaccinations.
In the gallery, HOME will open Healing Coats, an exhibition organized by Arianne King Comer featuring wearable art designed and made by refugee, immigrant, Black and Indigenous artists, tailors and community members.
Under the big tent, vendors from the HOME community and resource booths staffed by refugee-serving agencies and community-based organizations will be available.
HOME 2022 will continue to host events at Lynden Sculpture Garden throughout the summer and early fall, which will feature art, food, fashion and performance. See a complete schedule here.
World Refugee Day more important than ever