2017 Annual Dinner & Awards Ceremony

Centilia Cultural Center, Plaza Roberto Maestas El Centro de La Raza, Seattle – April 29, 2017
Photos by Gary Benson
Centilia Cultural Center photo courtesy of El Centro de la Raza


Music to warm our souls. It was raining outside, but inside the new Centilia Cultural Center at Plaza Roberto Maestas, El Centro de la Raza, daisies danced on the tables while guests glided on shiny decorative floors to the original Cuban Son music of Seattle’s own Trovadoro. It was an evening of making new friends across cultures, as guests celebrated the achievements of the recipients of the 2017 Ethnic Heritage Council achievement awards.

The Gordon Ekvall Tracie Memorial Award. Master of Ceremonies, Tino Salud, Board Treasurer of the Ethnic Heritage Council, welcomed the guests and started the program hurriedly. There were time constraints on the first award recipients, who were booked to play at a Greek engagement party the same night! Christos Govetas and Ruth Hunter, husband and wife duo, received the Gordon Ekvall Tracie Memorial Award for leadership and excellence in musical performance. Introduced by Cheryl Spasojevic, who nominated them for the award, they followed their acceptance remarks with two riveting Balkan songs–Christos on the clarinet and Ruth on accordion. Their third piece, a line dance, caused guests all around the room to fly out of their seats to join in, testimony to how beloved Balkan music is across cultures.

After dinner EHC President JoAnne Lee conducted the annual meeting. She presented and EHC members approved the financial report and slate of EHC Board of Directors nominees. A special feature followed with the roll-out of EHConnect, a new program of the Ethnic Heritage Council. Project Director Ann Wright described EHConnect as a dynamic online portal with social media interfaces (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) where regional ethnic community organizations and leaders consolidate ethnic heritage information and resources, increase their public visibility and engage, share and collaborate with each other and with website visitors.

The Aspasia Phoutrides Pulakis Memorial Award.  The moment then arrived to honor the Pulakis Award co-recipients. Iraj Khademi had filled the room with joie de vivre the minute he walked in, breaking into Spanish when he introduced himself to co-recipient, Estela Ortega. Dozens of Iranian Americans were present to honor Khademi’s many years of preserving and presenting Persian poetry and music. Professor Selim Kuru, who nominated Khademi for the award, introduced him to the audience as the centrifugal force that brings together Persian community members and Persophiles from miles around. Iranian American composer Payam Khodaie performed two piano pieces, exemplifying the rich offerings Khademi features in his monthly cultural programs in Bellevue. Khodaie’s original composition “Color of Life” mesmerized the audience with undulating, memorable tones. Khademi further stirred eternal sentiments with a reading in Farsi of his poem “Home,” equally movingly followed in an English translation by his son Peyvand Khademi and read by his son. The poem has been printed below.

Estela Ortega was in her own “home” to receive the Pulakis Award. As Executive Director of the remarkable El Centro de la Raza, she is the epitome of an ethnic community leader who helps preserve history and traditions while growing a physical center that delivers social services and is a gathering place for multitudes. Ortega was introduced to the audience by Maria Batayola and Dr. Dorothy Cordova of the Filipino American community. They are part of the greater community Estela said the award really belongs to—the many who have supported and helped develop El Centro de la Raza over the decades. Her “Viva Ethnic Heritage Council” cheer at the end of her remarks boosted all of us who are building programs at EHC.

Thank you to all. Ethnic Heritage Council is grateful to many for their contributions to the success of the evening: Ramiro Reyes, Multicultural Events Manager, Plaza Roberto Maestas; JoAnne Hardt Rudo; A-l Piano Sales & Rentals; Holly Moxley, Graphic Designer; Charlene Salud, National Barricade Company; Peyvand Khademi, Payam Khodaie, Alex Herbert, Professor Selim S. Kuru, Dr. Dorothy Cordova, Maria Batayola, Cheryl Spasojevic, Ann Wright, student volunteers Kathryn Lam and Jenny Robbins, Ewa Roszkowski, Kiki Valera, Javier Maru, Steve Smith, and Justin Maggart, Manager of Trovadoro; La Chapanita Catering, Ethnic Heritage Council Board of Directors and Advisory Committee; and the Ethnic Heritage Council Members.


Poem by Iraj R. Khademi
English Translation by Peyvand Khademi

Iraj R. Khademi