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New space to bridge cultural gaps with upfront talking

Kenyan Maggie Kim presents a talk on racism in Cambodia
Kenyan Maggie Kim presents a talk on racism in Cambodia. Photo Supplied

New space to bridge cultural gaps with upfront talking

Founded by an Atlanta native and his Tunisian partner, a new Phnom Penh venue aims to confront social issues often ignored in polite company

At Atlanta’s Edge, the goal is to tackle hard topics in a gentle atmosphere. The Tuol Tom Poung venue’s first presentation earlier this month featured a presentation on racism by Maggie Kim, a teacher from Kenya who has lived in Cambodia for years.

“I explained how Africans are being discriminated against by both Cambodians and some white expats and how this impacts our day to day lives,” Kim said. “The presentation went really well, with lots of people in the audience asking questions afterwards.”

John Money, from Atlanta in the US, co-founded the Street 460 events space-cum-bar with his Tunisian partner, Imen Benyoucef. He said it was an evolution of a multicultural discussion group, called Twelve Tables, that they had been running in cafes and their own home since 2013.

After Twelve Tables last year hosted a presentation on sex workers by documentary maker Paula Stromberg, Money and Benyoucef came up with the idea of a dedicated venue for presentations, discussions, book clubs, trivia nights and other events with a friendly, non-judgmental atmosphere.

“Imen and I are from two different cultures, but it’s something we both think is necessary in a global world, just to have very relaxed conversations with people from other cultures,” said Money. “At the heart, it is that learning, that exchange.”

Each week, the venue hosts a multicultural trivia night, a presentation or discussion and a documentary. Each session draws a wide spectrum of participants: Africans, Brits, Indians, Americans, Cambodians, French and others. Upcoming events include a Cambodian trivia night on Monday, a documentary on the garment industry in Bangladesh on Wednesday and another about Cambodian garment workers on Friday. The venue’s also open in the evenings Tuesday to Sunday serving drinks and shawarma wraps.

Benyoucef said the most memorable moment so far was when a middle-aged white man acknowledged that asking an Indian-American, or other non-white person from a Western country: “Where are you really from?” could make them feel uncomfortable.

“At the end, he came up to the Indian-American and said ‘I heard you, I really heard you.’ So sincerely. It was really interesting.”

Kim, who did the racism presentation, said it was extremely important that Atlanta’s Edge provided a platform to discuss such issues.

“Atlanta’s Edge is a place where people from all over the world meet to discuss issues that they wouldn’t otherwise. For me, most important of all is that people are learning,” she said.

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