Two years ago, Culture Chatt saw a gap. Today, we see a bridge — a bridge that connects cultures and communities alike.
Two years ago, I (Jaime) made a post on social media noting that at that time, during National Hispanic Heritage Month, "[Chattanooga] made no posts listing Latin American-owned businesses. They've planned no events. Nada...Chattanooga leadership has got to do better."
At that time, frustrated that our city didn't seem to publicly value the contributions of its Hispanic citizens, we reached out to the community to plan our own events. Culture Chatt started with what we thought would be a small event at a Red Bank park. When over 300 people showed up to celebrate the intertwining of Brazilian and Japanese cultures that happens in South America, we knew that the Tennessee Valley was hungry (literally) for a taste of diversity.
From that event to the present, we've celebrated a variety of cultures, tasted food from and broken bread with some amazing vendors from all over the world, raised money for a diverse range of non-profit organizations, and helped to animate our community spaces. We were invited by River City to bring vendors to Ross's Landing for the big seesaws (or teeter-totters, depending on your background), we packed out the Sculpture Fields at Montague Park for Festa Junia, and we welcomed almost 4,000 people to East Lake Park just this June.
Our journey towards "bridging cultures and building community" has been a collective endeavor. Esteemed institutions such as Arts120, the BLVD Project, the Pop-Up Project, ArtsBuild, and the River City Company have been invaluable allies, guiding us as collaborators and mentors. Central to our success is the community. Your enthusiasm in attending these events, engaging with our shared spaces, exploring cuisines from countries like Sudan, Venezuela, Brazil, and Syria, and supporting our diverse vendors, especially those from immigrant, refugee, and first-generation backgrounds, truly embodies our motto. Your involvement and support champion our mission to highlight and celebrate the rich tapestry of cultural diversity within and around Chattanooga.
This year, the City closed out National Hispanic Heritage Month with a Hispanic Heritage Festival. We were proud to stand alongside several departments in our city government to do the very thing I bemoaned the lack of two years ago. We are proud that, working with the directors of Special Events, City Parks, New Americans, Economic Development, Equity & Community Engagement, and more, we could proudly acknowledge and honor the contributions and the heritage of our neighbors of Hispanic heritage. When Chattanooga mayor Tim Kelly spoke to the crowd, giving some of his remarks in Spanish, I listened, immensely proud of how far we've come. Culture Chatt is proud of our Hispanic Heritage, proud of our work with the City of Chattanooga to celebrate that heritage, and proud to call Chattanooga "hogar."
Jaime Jiménez Kerns Culture Chatt