Who we are?
By Eren Giray, October 2001
The Turkish American Association in Columbus, Ohio -is a non-profit &501 (c) (3) organization- was founded in January 1969 with the primary aim of representing the best of Turkish culture and history to Americans in whose land many Turks had come to make their living. The community of Turks in Columbus is nearly fifty years old, the first members of professionals arriving in the mid 1950s to receive specialized training and to stay at most a couple of years to work after that. By the late 1960s it became clear that they had a new home in the United States, but ever-committed to carrying on the traditions of their native land, the Turkish American Association was formed.
Faced with the prospect of becoming naturalized citizens, the idea of a formal association developed when in April of 1968 two Turkish doctors traveled to Chicago to meet with the Consulate General of Turkey. Their concern was to learn the official position of Turkey with regards to their becoming American citizens without severing their ties to their motherland. Greeted with the highest support, the Turkish Consulate suggested that they form an association as had been recently done in Chicago and Washington D.C., to help promote Turkish culture and heritage in their newfound country. Thus the Turkish American Association was founded in 1969 with a steady membership, and a Turkish Student Association formed shortly thereafter. The celebration of the founding of the Turkish Republic on October 29 marks an annual event which is the highlight of the year’s activities. The first October 29 celebration ball included 129 participants, 26 of whom were non- Turkish Americans.
In the course of the last 33 years, the association formed an executive committee, drafted a constitution and by-laws in keeping with non-profit organizational status, and has had 14 presidents overseeing its various events and activities. In the late 1980s and early 1990s a quarterly newsletter, “The Turkish Letter,” was produced for several years, highlighting achievements and announcing events. In February of 1993, a Ladies Auxiliary was formed with the intention of reinforcing the association by organizing additional fund- raising events and holding social gatherings to support Turkish women’s participation and sodality. They held garage sales, organized pot luck dinners and traditional Turkish “beans and rice” dinners to promote social exchange and fund raising. In the 1998, they organized a bus trip to the riverboat casino as a recreational activity. The “Friends of Turkey” was formed as a subsidiary of TAACO by a group of non- Turkish members in 1993 for the purpose of educating local community members about the culture and history of Turkey. Their activities included lecture series and slide presentations organized largely by American spouses of Turkish community members. Also in the early 1990s a Turkish Education Program was developed and had as its purpose to introduce reading, writing, and Turkish culture to the many first generation Turkish-American children and grandchildren born in the United States. They learned the Turkish National Anthem, folk songs and folktales such as stories of Nasreddin Hoca. This program lasted several years but disbanded due to lack of interest and support.
The Turkish American community of Columbus Ohio strives to become an ethnic presence in the city. The original members now in their 70s and 80s are passing the torch of continuing the cultural preservation and representation which this community has been so devoted to maintaining. This mission has now been bequeathed to the younger generation. The group has achieved a certain measure of success in this venture, developing many ways in which to sustain its cultural heritage and sustain its ties with Turkey while adapting to their new homeland as well. A recent example is the relief efforts for the August 1999 earthquake which claimed thousands of lives in Turkey. A car wash was held with the help of numerous children of Turkish origin at the Golden Corral Restaurant along with a benefit dinner at the same place organized by the Turkish American owner operator and the proceeds were donated to the earthquake relief. This exemplifies the best of Turkish-American culture.
Through the years, holidays have been observed, participation assured in various ethnic and international festivals, and gatherings of an informal nature occur on a routine basis. A Turkish folk dancing group formed in the early 1970s, reached its peak as the group traveled to other cities and universities in the midwest giving performances. This too exemplifies the best of what this association set out to do at its inception. The folk dance group and the Turkish Students’ Association which fortifies it, still exists today. The mission of these two organizations, TAACO and TSA, is the representation and celebration of Turkish people and culture within the city of Columbus, with a second unstated goal of preserving social ties within the community itself. The ebbs and flows of interest and participation as evidenced from the first female president of TAACO elected in 1995 having to serve two consecutive 3 year terms, does not discourage the most loyal of the community’s and the association’s adherents. The passing in the last few years of several pillars of the community, three of them past association presidents, has had a compelling effect on the group’s solidarity. The persistence of the association in the face of social change both within and outside their own enclaves is testament to its vitality and adaptability to further the cause of the Turkish people and culture in a new land.
From Left to Right : Ceyhun Uzak, Deniz Oker, Afet Kılınç, Sevinc Ongel-Erdal, Sedef Ardor, Serap Üstel
- HULUSI TUATAY 1969
- ALI ASLANBAYRAK 1970 AND Second Term 1977-78*
- HALDUN OKTENER 1971
- TAYFUR DURUPINAR 1972
- BURHAN DOGANGUN 1973-74
- NACI AKLAR 1975-76
- HASIP TEMIZER 1979-80
- MEHMETN SOZMEN 1981-82
- ACAR CANER 1983-84 AND Second Term 1993-94 *
- ERDOGAN GUNGOR 1985
- HAYRANI OZ 1987-90
- ALI ERKAN ENGIN 1991-92
- SEVIM TIN 1995-2000 * Continously for 5 Years
- TUNC ALDEMIR 2001-2002
- CEM OZMERALFirst Term 2003-2004, Second term2015- 2016
- BULENT BEKCIOGLU 2005-2006
- ONER KIRK 2007-2008
- BINNAZ LEBLEBICIOGLU 2009-2010 and second term 2011-2012
- UGUR OZER 2013-2014
- CEM OZMERAL 2015-2016
- SERAP USTEL 2016-2017
- CEYHUN EKREM UZAK 2017- 2018
- BINNAZ LEBLEBICIOGLU 2019 - present
To read more about our history see Nostaljik TAACO