On April 6, 2014, the American Turkish Friendship Association (ATFA) held its annual International Festival of Language and Culture at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Virginia. The event brought together over 1,400 guests, which included families from various ethnicities, cultures and religions. The opera-styled venue housed a vast number of people, who kept pouring in despite being a sold-out event.
Jena Luedtke, Director of the Center for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue at Rumi Forum, presided over the event as the emcee. Teachers accompanied middle and high school students from all over the U.S, including those of Turkish and Turkic descent, to showcase the beauty and their appreciation of Turkish culture and its prestigious history. The students recited a famous collection of Turkish poems and Turkish songs, and also performed traditional dances. The young finalists electrified the crowd with zeal and high spirits, inspiring hundreds of guests to wave their country flags with pride and joy. This year’s finalists and winners will move on to attend the grand finale competition in Turkey later this year.
Later, middle school students from Pinnacle Academy wore traditional Turkish dress and danced to Turkish folk music and instruments. The winners were awarded gold medals and certificates and later delivered individual and group performances.
Also present was Mahmut Yeter, Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Federation of Turkic Americans (MAFTAA). Mr. Yeter was greatly impressed by the turnout and congratulated the finalists on their achievements. The festivities concluded with a live performance by Süleyman Erkişi, who charmed the audience with his highly popular songs and brought them to their feet with his enthusiasm and encouragement.
The guests had a chance to enter into a sweepstakes, for which three lucky winners won a round ticket to Istanbul, an iPad and an Xbox One, respectively. At the event’s closing, the participants and finalists came together to sing the festival’s signature song “Yeni Bir Dunya,” which means, “A New World.”
ATFA is a cultural organization that fosters integrity through cultural and education activities and also assists communities to integrate well into the American society. ATFA is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Federation of Turkic Americans (MAFTAA). MAFTAA is one of six member federations under the Turkic American Alliance (TAA), an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization whose mission is to represent and work towards the social, political and economic empowerment of the Turkic American diaspora community. It also works towards facilitating strong ties among the United States, Turkey, the Caucasus and the Central Asian republics.