In this week’s film, we introduce you to Raffe and Ibti, two women for whom food is both an opportunity to make a living and a bridge across cultures. We met them at Kaleidoscope, a festival hosted by Little Bird Innovation and Binghampton Development Corporation (BDC) as a means for people to experience other cultures through food, storytelling and performance. Raffe and Ibti were two of the six multicultural food vendors at the festival. We also visited them at the BDC commercial kitchen where they cook regularly for their culinary enterprises. They shared with us how thankful they are for being able to use the kitchen and participate in the festival.

Raffe came to Memphis from Syria in 1990. After working as a nanny for several years, she had the opportunity to follow her dream and open a restaurant. She ran a successful and beloved deli for 14 years. She now sells her Mediterranean cuisine at local farmers’ markets, where she is known for her delicious hummus. Raffe tells us that she is grateful to be in the United States. She expresses how much it meant to her when people cared enough to stop and ask about her family after the start of the Syrian war. We followed Raffe to a weekly farmer’s market at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She tells us that people in this community are very open to learning about the cultures of others.

Ibti and her family relocated to Memphis from North Sudan in 1999. She holds masters degrees in philosophy and psychology which are not recognized in the US so took a job in a warehouse while pursuing her catering business. She is famous for the flavorful soups which she started cooking while working at a neighborhood community center cafe. We went with Ibti to a World Refugee Day event co-sponsored by World Relief Memphis and The Rev, a storefront that serves as a cafe, give-back retailer of artisan goods, organizer of missions to Uganda and Kenya, and place to “gather for good.” Ibti tells us that food brings people together by encouraging questions and conversations. She says that sharing her culture through cooking has helped her find love and feel at home here.

We end with a saying that Raffe translates from the Arabic for us, “If you wish good for your neighbor, it comes to you too.” We are thankful to have neighbors like Raffe and Ibti who fill our community with good food and lots of love.