The Norwich Rotary presents the Community in Food and Music.



 From Yantic to Jail Hill, Norwich has long been a city defined by its neighborhoods. On Wednesday, a leading civic organization introduced its plan to get all the disparate cultures of those neighborhoods under one tent. “It’s terrific,” Norwich Rotary Club President Barry Shead while sampling food from one of nearly 20 restaurants that participated in the inaugural Celebrate Diversity event at the city’s marina. “The thought came about because there are 35 languages in the school system. That led us to believe there’s a lot of diversity in Norwich.”   Cape Verdian, Greek, Indian, Italian, Jamaican, Thai and Vietnamese dishes were among those offered by area chefs. Bassem Salahi, owner of Lazizah Bakery in Yantic, brought Lebanese and Turkish baklava to Wednesday’s function. “It’s amazing. This is what Norwich needs,” he said. “Diversity is a marvelous thing, because you learn about all other people and don’t have those stereotypes that some people do.” The Rotary also presented former Norwich Branch NAACP president and longtime community activist Lottie Scott with a diversity award on Wednesday. The award, named in her honor, will be bestowed annually. In addition to the food, organizers invited several groups to provide entertainment that is part of their native cultures. Performers included a Haitian dance troupe from Norwich Free Academy, Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation drummers and gospel singing. Shead said proceeds from the event will benefit the Rotary foundation, and officials hope to see it become a yearly tradition. Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, owner of the Norwichtown Shell gas station, brought samosas to Wednesday night’s gathering. A baked or fried pastry usually filled with spiced potatoes, onions, lentils, peas and ground meat, the food is a staple of Indian cuisine. As people hovered around his booth, Khalsa praised Rotarians for hosting a night dedicated to the city’s various ethnicities. “This evening is the greatest thing ever organized by the Rotary,” Khalsa said. “Most of our problems are because people don’t know each other or talk to each other. It’s the duty of a city to get everybody together and help them understand one another so we can all live in peace.” Volunteer Daryl Tibbetts said he was surprised by the range of culture in Norwich, and agreed that food was a good way to break down barriers.