Resume: A newsmaker you should know / Keyla Cook to be honored in Latino community
August 14, 2015 12:00 AM
By Kathleen Ganster
It’s a long way from Brazil to Hampton, but Keyla Cook is uniting her two hometowns.
Ms. Cook, 32, was born in Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil. When she moved to the United States 10 years ago, she spent time in Atlanta before moving to Clarion, Pa., where she attended Clarion University.
“It was so different — I was used to being in a very large city,” she said. “Then, I am in a small college town that was completely different than what I was used to. I really missed my culture.”
Ms. Cook decided to try to find fellow Latinos in the area and to educate others about her heritage and culture, often making meals for fellow students and friends.
When she relocated to Hampton three years ago, she continued sharing her culture, embarking on new projects to do that.
She expanded her cooking efforts to open a catering service, Feijoada To Go, specializing in Brazilian food. She also created a photo project, Projeto Madre Latina, featuring Latino mothers.
For her efforts, Ms. Cook is one of 10 Latinos who will be honored Saturday at Fuerza, a celebration hosted by Cafe Con Leche, an organization creates awareness of the Latino community in the Greater Pittsburgh area.
Tara Sherry-Torres, director of Cafe Con Leche, said Ms. Cook was chosen because of her passion for her family, her culture and the food she cooks.
“She looks to make these cultural connections with everyone around her, always inviting people ‘in,’ always looking for a new opportunity, a new friend and a new way to connect,” Ms. Sherry-Torres said.
The photography exhibit was created after a discussion about motherhood.
“There was a variety of Latino mothers and we were talking about how hard it is to share our culture with our kids — our kids are growing up here in the U.S., but we don’t want them to miss out on their heritage,” Ms. Cook said.
She worked with photographers to capture Latino mothers’ life stories to create the exhibit. In two months, Ms. Cook and others organized and took the photos, then set up the show.
“We wanted to run it in honor of Mother’s Day, but we want to make it a year-long event and ongoing. We want to take the exhibit to other places,” she said.
Ms. Cook, who has a 10-year-old son, Amyr, took on the photo exhibit while working full time at Carnegie Mellon University. That was one more reason Ms. Sherry-Torres wanted to recognize her.
“Keyla does not shy away from new projects. Her vision for Pittsburgh is inspiring — every day I learn from her,” Ms. Sherry-Torres said.
Ms. Cook is devoted to sharing her Brazilian culture.
“The Latino community is huge. It isn’t just Mexican or Puerto Rico, it is a rich, rich culture. I hope people get to welcome us and know us, because we are here to stay,” she said.
Ms. Cook tries to visit her family in Brazil every few years. Now, she has two cities she considers home.
“I love Pittsburgh,” she said. “It is great for my son and I love it here — it is a cozy city.”
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