Culture Talk

While campaigning for a spot on the Coconut Creek city commission in 2008, Mikkie Belvedere got a taste of the city’s diversity but was disheartened to hear some residents lacked local connections.

“When I would say to a resident, ‘Could you introduce me to your neighbor?’ [they would say] ‘Well, I don’t know my neighbor. We occasionally wave to each other, but I really don’t know them,’ ” Belvedere says.

While mulling this over, her thoughts also turned to the economic downturn at the time—and how that may lead to more crime. If neighbors knew each other, they would look out for each other. That started the idea of “something for the city where people can … get to know each other.”

“The whole idea was and still is for us to know each other in our customs,” says Belvedere, who was elected in 2009. “It’s the similarities that I like to focus on.”

The idea led her to found the Multicultural Circle in 2009. From the start, the group has boasted members of various ethnic backgrounds who meet in a casual setting.

“After getting to know each other a little bit, there’s that camaraderie,” Belvedere says. “And that’s what’s so very beautiful.”

Meetings celebrate cultural learning through discussions, guest speakers, holiday celebrations and more. The group has united for a Christmas-Hanukkah party and recently celebrated the Muslim holiday of Ramadan with an iftar, an evening meal that breaks the all-day fast practiced during the holiday. Broward County judge John Fry brought in his paralegal students from Broward College to ask group members about how they came to the United States. They invited a Sikh man to discuss his religion and once listened to a Jewish scholar and an imam discuss similarities between Judaism and Islam.

“We weren’t allowed to talk about politics; we weren’t allowed to talk about negative things. We wanted to know what we had in common,” says Belvedere, who was born in Israel [then known as Mandatory Palestine] to Holocaust survivors. “It was really an eye-opening session.”

The group also gives back to the community. A nonprofit organization since 2011, the circle collects funds for college scholarships for local high schoolers and has donated money to the Coconut Creek Police Explorers.

The organization shares its diversity of culture with the public at Coconut Creek’s annual ArtsFest, where they sell flags and hold a raffle to raise funds. In fact, the first ArtsFest in 2014 had an Indian theme, in memory of a member of Indian descent who died. Each ArtsFest since has had a cultural theme, mirroring what members celebrate at monthly meetings.

“If you have a dollar and I have a dollar, and we exchange that dollar, we each walk away with a dollar,” Belvedere says. “But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange those ideas, we each walk away with two ideas.”

The Multicultural Circle meets the first Tuesday of each month at the Community Center (1100 Lyons Road). Meetings are open to both paying and nonpaying members. The organization is searching for businesses to donate items for this year’s ArtsFest raffle. Email [email protected].

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