For our November 2017 issue, we look at immigration in the city: Who we were, who we are, and who we’re becoming.
Teruko Nesbitt, Hanamiya Beautiful Japan
Like so many locals, Teruko Nesbitt’s immigration story starts with Procter & Gamble, where she worked as an executive secretary in Kobe, Japan. She moved here with her husband (also a P&G-er) in 1997, and in 2012 opened her gift shop in Montgomery, where she sells Japanese ceramics, textiles, and paper goods. Hanamiya is a repository of lovely things, but also Nesbitt’s home base for other gigs: origami and furoshiki classes, language services, and corporate consulting. She is currently training in ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arrangement, which is a handy metaphor for her life as a cultural intermediary: “Western flower arranging is about adding,” she says. “Ikebana is minimal, about line, space, and color.”
Anupama Rao Mirle, NrityArpana School of Performing Arts
“Mine is a typical immigrant story,” says Anupama Rao Mirle, director of the nonprofit NrityArpana School of Performing Arts. Mirle has a master’s in chemistry, an MBA, and worked a stint at P&G, but “I was always interested in dance,” she says. She also saw a need for rigorous study of Indian dance, and a desire from local families for their children to know their country’s artistic history.
That’s where her story becomes less typical, as she then built her career around outreach. “Cincinnati is very diverse, but I have a feeling that we’re at a crossroads,” Mirle says. “There are pockets of people who would like to go back to the city of 50 years ago. For me, it is not just dance; it is culture as a whole, people as a whole. What we do is who we are.”
Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio, ESOL Class
Refugees may dominate today’s news cycle, but Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio has interacted with migrant communities for more than 100 years. “We’re following Catholic social teaching, which is serving the poor, protecting the vulnerable, and welcoming the stranger,” explains Director of Marketing & Communications Kelly Anchrum.
Part of that service includes English for Speakers of Other Language (ESOL) classes that prepare disparate refugee groups to settle in the U.S.—and ideally to get a job within their first 90 days stateside. CCSWO’s social impact is huge: “[Since] the Vietnam War,” Anchrum says, “we’ve resettled more than 12,000 people locally.” And the group simply changes with the changing times, helping 5,000 to 8,000 Bhutanese refugees get comfortable here since 1999.
Haneen Farhan, Queen of Brows and Day Spa
Haneen Farhan can’t stop smiling. Maybe that’s because sitting in her salon, surrounded by family and friends, she’s living out her best version of what life could be like after chaos and tragedy in Iraq. “Owning a business, it was my dream,” she remembers. “I thought, I would love to have my sign in the street in America.” And here she is with a busy beauty salon in Blue Ash, a property-flipping business with her husband, and a daughter whom she imagines as a future real estate mogul.
Farhan (right) emigrated from Baghdad as a refugee in 2006 (her younger sister Nadia Rabeeah, left, joined her in 2013 after her husband was killed), and moved into an apartment with help from the YWCA. “This is my home,” Farhan explains. “My country is my biological mother and America is my adoptive mom. I love my country, but this is my home.”
Titus Nzioki, Kilimanjaro African Art
When Titus Nzioki came to the U.S. as a student of economics at Northern Kentucky University, he had every intention of returning to his home country of Kenya. But then he met his wife, Grace (also from Kenya), she started a Ph.D. program at the University of Cincinnati, and they had children. A six-month stint at home showed that the Kenyan economy at that time couldn’t support the couple’s aspirations, and they returned to the U.S., where Nzioki opened Kilimanjaro African Art in Clifton in 1997.
In the 20 years since, he has traveled to Kenya every year to buy textiles, woodcarvings, and jewelry for his packed Ludlow Avenue storefront, where he proudly displays maps and photos from home. Sharing his culture is part of Nzioki’s personality: “I talk a lot,” he says. “It’s part of the business.”