If you ask Hamtramck resident Russ Gordon, there are two things that bring people together: food and children. So naturally, last Saturday (Sept. 18) he held a picnic.
It wasn’t just any picnic, however. Since 2007, Gordon has organized the late-summer event as an international picnic designed to introduce neighbors to each other and their cultures. It all started when he noticed that while the different groups were friendly toward each other, they didn’t necessarily mix with the others.
“Five years ago, all the groups knew each other, but they weren’t really acquainted,” he says, “so I figured this would be a good way for people to get to know what the person next door does. We bring food and kids, everyone plays together, and it’s a really good time.”
The first picnic was so successful that it spawned the current tradition. Now, neighbors say hi to one another in their neighbor’s language, help each other out with household chores, and look after each others’ houses when one family is away. And when new residents move in, neighbors are quick to make them feel welcome.
“This block is better than all the other ones,” says Salauddin Chowdhury, who formerly lived on Casmere. “Everyone is very friendly, very nice.”
One friendly resident of Zinow is Ismira Lokmic, who along with her daughter Lejla has lived on the block for the last few years. At the picnic, she sat with a group of friends and neighbors, dining on Cevapi, Polish Sausage, Tandoori Chicken and a spit-roasted lamb. As a group of kids played soccer while a group of men joked around and drank Sljivovica, she remarked that there is something about the area that makes it different from others.
“Everyone who moves out of Hamtramck always comes back,” she said. “It’s something about the community and the way people interact with each other. Your heart fills with joy when you see this happen.”
(Ian Perrotta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)