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About the Team



A message from Mayor Gist:

Jackson is known for its rich cultural diversity and accepting environment for multiculturalism that enriches the members of our community. The Jackson International Food and Art Festival is a celebration of what this community is and can be!

The festival grew from the Citizens Commission on Unity, which was formed to help the community in understanding and embracing the diversity of Jackson.    There is strength in our differences and by educating our community and embracing the cultures and traditions of others, we learn from one another.

The continued success of this festival has been accomplished by a committed group of people who care very deeply about our city and its cultural diversity.

Executive Board






Team Members:

Eduardo Morales

My name is Eduardo Morales, I was born in Mexico on August 21st, 1962. At the age of 5, my parents sent me to live to my grandfather's house in a very small rural community, but that was the only place nearby that had a school. At the age of 8, I went back home to my parents because they finally made a school, where I had to start first grade. Everyone started at first grade no matter the age. From 4th to 6th grade I had to go to another school that I had to walk 6 miles to and from. At the age of 15, I moved to the closest town that had a high school, where I lived with my uncles Catalina and Cruz Morales. During my high school years, I had to work to buy my own books and school supplies, I worked as a baker, a butcher, a waiter, a cook and I also worked selling ice cream. I did not have time to go out on Sundays with my friends. When I finished high school I migrated to the United States. When I got established, I started working and going to school and was able to get my GED, and later on started attending college. I got married and had four kids 2 boys and 2 girls, a few years later I got divorced and kept custody of my four kids. It was not easy to work, study, and raise 4 kids but I did it! In 2003, I decided to retire and continue my college education. In 2005, we moved to Jackson, TN, but it was very different here and it took us a while to adapt. One day, I got a call from Ms. Tammy Buchanan, from the city of Jackson, inviting me to participate in a group, Season of Unity, that our Mayor Mr. Gerry Gist created.  This invitation came right when I needed contact with someone from the city, as I was working with my Hispanic Community. When I became part of the Season of Unity I got an idea that I shared with Tammy, which was the International Food and Art Festival. She gave me her full support and now I am very happy because I have made a lot of friends from different cultures and we have all been working together succesfully to bring everyone closer together and now the International Food and Art Festival is going to its 5th year!

Dr. Sandra V. Dee

 Dr. Sandra V. Dee is an Interventional Cardiologist at the Jackson Clinic and has lived in Jackson for the last 12 years.  She was the Lead Chair of the successful inaugural Jackson International Food and Art Festival in October 2014.  She has been involved with the festival since its inception and is the Co-Chair for this year’s event , together with Eduardo Morales.

She is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology.  Dr. Dee is a medical graduate of the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines in 1987 and awarded in 2012 as the Most Outstanding Graduate of her Class. She is a Board Member of the University of Santo Tomas Medical Alumni Association in America. She is actively involved with the American Heart Association Go Red for Women, Circle of Red and breast cancer awareness programs.

Even with her busy practice, Dr. Dee finds time to engage in civic oriented activities. She was the President of the West TN Filipino American Association in Jackson, TN from 2013-2014.  During her term as President, her association held several events to foster camaraderie among the Filipino-American community, promote cultural awareness by educating the youth and our community about  Philippine cultural heritage as well as raise funds for scholarships and assist members in times of need, including the devastating super typhoon Haiyan.

 She is not only passionate about her work as an Interventional Cardiologist and community activities.  But, closest to her heart has always been music and playing the piano!  One of her most cherished possessions is her 7 ft “B” Steinway baby!  Dr. Dee has played for benefit concerts including Steinway’s Doctors in Concert  in Memphis for the benefit of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Dr. Dee is also a licensed Zumba instructor and has done zumbathon fundraisers for different causes in Jackson and Memphis. She was also the recipient of the STERLING AWARD for the 20 Most Influential Women in West TN in 2015 and awarded as one of West TN’s Finest Leaders in 2017.

 Vinay Sood

Vinay Sood, has lived in Jackson since 1996.  He is employed as a pharmaceutical sales representative for a large national pharmaceutical company.  He has been involved with the JIFAF for 5 years and serves as Chair, Sponsorship and Fundraising.  In addition, to his role with JIFAF, Vinay, is an active member of the Jackson Indian Association and has been a past board member for the Jackson YMCA.  If you would like to assist or be involved with the sponsorship and fundraising committee, please contact Sandy MacDiarmid at jacksonifaf@gmail.com

 Sandy Macdiarmid

 Superintendent, City of Jackson, Recreation and Parks

Tony Black

Executive Director, City  of Jackson , Recreation and Parks

Zain Hakim

I moved to Jackson in 1997. I graduated from JCM in 1999 and Lambuth in 2005. My father’s family traces their roots to India, Burma, Pakistan, and Thailand and mother’s family traces their roots to France, Scotland, and England.  I love to travel to different countries, experience new things, and eat new foods. I have been involved with the festival since its first year. It is by far my favorite event of the year.

.Dr. Jean Marie Walls  

 Professor of Language and Department Chair at Union University  

Dr. Mechel Camp  

 Dean of Communications & Humanities/Prof. of English Jackson State Community College

 Melinda Richardson

 Lane College International Student Coordinator

Dr. Robin Rash      

Foreign Language Professor University of Memphis Lambuth

Bill Wyche

Wood Turner’s association

Rico Bryson

Public Education Coordinator Jackson Fire Department

Erick Merriweather  

Public Education Coordinator Jackson Fire Department

Captain Ron Adams  

 Jackson Police Department    

Patrick Williams    

City of Jackson

Sharon Smith

City of Jackson

Matt Altobell

 Executive Director of the Jackson Downtown Development Corp

Melinda Hearn      

Executive Director of  Jackson Arts Council

Teresa Crouse

Teacher at JMCSS and Vendor Coordinator for JIFAF

Helen Bada

Nigerian Representative

Prasann Jinturkar

 Jackson Association of Indians

Lauren Wood-Cutcliff


Steven Cutcliff

 Student Volunteer

Hiromi Thomas

Japanese Representative

Sabina Williamson

German Representative

Katie Howerton

Originally from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Katie Howerton is a 2015 Union University graduate and operates at Communications Manager for theCO as well as Editor-in-Chief of Our Jackson Home. She is eager to be a part of this year's festival as a means of celebrating our city's diverse neighborhood and bringing unity to our community.

Courtney Searcy

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