Black Women's Improvement Project (BWIP)

BWIP: Get out of the house and don’t come back without news.

BB&W crew member, ‘Dani’ thought of a BRILLIANT IDEA for you ladies to expand our horizons and meet random people who you might otherwise be too bashful to talk to. Through a magic pen and enchanted notebook, you transfer into ‘reporter of the street,’ then all of a sudden, you HAVE to talk to people, and the HAVE to talk to you back.

Eh; I’ll let Dani explain.


Here at BB&W, one theme our posters often reiterate is the importance of finding good places to meet quality rainbeau men and then getting the heck out of the house! But if you are shy like I am, initiating conversations with strangers can be intimidating. So Chris is providing a way to ease this burden: if you plan to attend various cultural events this summer, blog about it! Share your thoughts and observations about other cultures with the crew here at BB&W. Don’t worry if you have to go alone; take a notebook, jot down a few questions or items of interest you have in advance, and then whammo, you don’t look like a weirdo for being alone! You’re a blogger and these days, everyone LOVES press J And you have an excuse to initiate conversation, which might actually work better if you are alone.

Slavic Fest 2011

One of the weekly papers in my city publishes an annual summer guide with all the festivals, sporting events, plays, concerts, etc going on through September, so I went through and circled everything of interest I wanted to attend. One event in particular stood out to me – the 2011 Slavic Fest. I love history and follow another blogger who is passionate about Slavic culture so I had already been learning the history of the region now comprised of several countries including Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Serbia (though Slavic peoples are found throughout Eastern Europe). I was also in Holland and visited the Hague when Slobodan Milosevic was in custody at the World Court. So I was looking forward to having even more exposure to this culture, which I previously I did not know much about (for example, I cannot recall learning anything in school or college about the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and resulting war in Bosnia, or the separation of Czechslovakia).

Originally I was supposed to go with a friend, but she had to cancel so I grabbed a notebook, checked my smile and left. I had a blast! Here’s a little of my time at the festival:


I learned that many people of Slavic descent settled in my area in the late 1800’s after coming to work in the meatpacking plants. They quickly formed their own organizations to help other immigrants who had newly arrived; I spoke with members from the local lodge of the Croatian Fraternal Union, which has been around for over one hundred years! The CFU itself was established in 1894. As I visited the different booths I noticed how close-knit the culture was; several people were bilingual and spoke Croatian or Czech and the festival was a giant homecoming of sorts for people from the community who had moved away. I talked with a lady who came from the former Czechslovakia (now the countries of the Czech Republic and Slovakia) 62 years ago and helped found the local Czech & Slovak Club in 1984. She was manning the organization’s booth and had current maps of both countries, brochures for the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Iowa, and tour guides for beautiful castles in Prague.

I also noticed a strong work ethic and commitment to working hard; several businesses had been in the family for two or three generations, with younger children now on the front lines to learn and help out.


I LOVE trying new foods. At Slavic Fest I tried several things: Croatian kabobs (roznijici), slaw, potatoes, kielbasa (polish sausage), haluski kapusta (a noodle dish), and what turned out to be my personal favorite, povatica (pronounced po-va-TEE-sa), a swirled bread with yummy fillings and baked in loaves. Everything I tried was delicious; sadly though, I missed the cabbage rolls and kolaches. I just had a quick taste of the kabobs since I don’t eat pork but they were grilled perfectly; the noodles were my second favorite dish of things I tried (the first being the povatica). I had three varieties of povatica – English walnut, cranberry walnut and cream cheese – and liked the English walnut the best.

Overall, I had a delightful time and everyone was warm and gracious! Many folks even sent extra goodies my way when they saw me taking notes. I definitely plan to go back next year but earlier in the weekend so I won’t miss as much as I did this time. Hopefully one day I’ll even be able to take a trip to Prague and see those beautiful castles.

If you are interested in trying any of the foods I mentioned, please check out these businesses (both have been in their respective families for years), and both ship internationally:

Strawberry Hill POVITICA CO


Peter May’s House of Kielbasa

Here is a link to the festival I attended:

What cultural festivals do you plan to attend this summer?


PS – there are really beautiful Slavic people!

Chris here: Dani, next time you go, bring back a hot Slavic so we can oogle over him. 😉


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