Durham County

El Centro Hispano hopes diversity dinner is ‘Recipe for Unity’

In Spanish there’s a saying, “Barriga llena, corazón contento,” or a full belly is a happy heart.

That’s why El Centro Hispano and UnidosUS are holding a potluck dinner Sunday, where guests from different backgrounds will share a meal.

“Food is something that unites everybody,” said Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, executive director of El Centro Hispano. “It’s a good way to share.”

The event, named Recipe for Unity, aims to spark conversations within a diverse group. It will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Durham office of El Centro Hispano.

Guests will bring a dish that’s culturally significant for them.

“The event is a vehicle to share stories about how that dish is meaningful and start a conversation,” said Clarissa Martinez, the deputy vice president of UnidosUS. “The dishes might be different, but have some ingredients that are the same.”

The invited guests to the dinner, which is not open to the public, come from different cultural backgrounds as well as different races, professions, and political groups.

The organizers expect 10 to 15 guests, including representatives from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office; Equality N.C., an LGBTQ advocacy organization; Food Insight Group, a food system consulting firm; and International Focus Inc, a nonprofit that promotes multiculturalism.

“In our area, we have a lot of diversity, so we need to work together, and I think we’re good at that.” Rocha-Goldberg said. “But this is an opportunity for fortifying relations in the community.”

So far, the dishes include guacamole, knox box (made with gelatin), sesame seed dip, a chicken dish, Cuban rice and black beans and tortas de papas (like a potato omelet).

The potluck model comes from the nonprofit Conexión Américas and the group Dirty Pages, both based in Nashville, Tennessee. Recipe for Unity is part of UnidosUS’ Rise Above campaign, which calls on people to look beyond racial and political ideologies that sometimes separate them.

Formerly known as the National Council of La Raza, UnidosUS helps Hispanic people with immigration, education, civil rights, the economy, health and housing, and other subjects.

The campaign grew out of a 2017 survey by Lake Research Partners that found 80 percent of participants agreed diversity makes the United States stronger. The survey, with a margin of error or +/- 3 reached a total of 1,000 registered voters nationwide with oversamples of 100 African-Americans, 100 Latinos, and 100 millennials.

The Durham event is the first of five Recipe for Unity dinners that UnidosUS has lined up for March. The other locations are Memphis, Tennessee; Tampa, Florida.; Alexandria, Virginia; and Phoenix.

“We’re hoping these events are just the starting point, and then different organizations can do Recipe for Unity in their communities,” Martinez said.