Turkish House: You're welcome
The American-Turkish Association of North Carolina opens cultural center
December 9, 2007 - Excerpts from article published on December 1 in the News Observer by Peggy Lim, Staff Writer
CARY - Like Southerners, Turkish people pride themselves on their hospitality. Now, North Carolina's Turkish-Americans finally have a home where they can welcome everyone.
"We have been wanting this forever," said Sevi Gunal, president of the American-Turkish Association of North Carolina, from a sofa in the new Turk Evi, or Turkish House, in Cary. The group hopes to tell both the Turkish and non-Turkish community about all the offerings the center will soon have -- from language classes for adults and cooking classes to live music-poetry evenings and film screenings.
In years past, the association -- which formed in 1987 -- had always scrambled for places to hold cultural events. And as the community grew -- the group now numbers about 120 families from Fayetteville to Winston-Salem -- finding places got harder. Without a home base, there was no lingering, spontaneity, or decorating. "You're at a place for two hours, and then you have to get out in two hours," said Gunal, 42, a Cisco Systems manager who lives in Durham. The club began dedicating a fund toward a community center, and members started donating. Now, they have a place to store colorful dance costumes, a small library, a children's room, a dance floor. And a key step forward -- a large satellite television, around which the community can gather for televised soccer games or special broadcasts from Istanbul.
At a table at the entrance sits a guest book and a large portrait of Mustafa Ataturk-- the founder of the Republic of Turkey, revered by Turkish people for his principles of democracy and a secular government. Standing beside the portrait, Ceren Atakturk, 20, who grew up in the United States, expressed excitement about seeing her community take this next step. She has danced with the group at festivals since she was 5 years old and participated in almost all its community service projects. "It makes me really proud of my culture," she said. On Friday, members of the club hung pictures, moved furniture and debated the best way to drape flags. Whenever the group sings to the flags, it plans to sing both the American and Turkish national anthems. That's pleases club secretary Buket Aydemir, 47, of Durham. "I cry whenever I hear both of them," Aydemir said.
To find out more about Turkish Americans in North Carolina, visit www.ata-nc.org. The Turk Evi is located at 303 East Durham Road, Suite E, Cary, NC 27511.