Co-Chair of the International Food & Art Festival
Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady. Photography by Woody Woodard.
Dr. Sandra V. Dee is an interventional cardiologist at the Jackson Clinic. She has lived in Jackson for 10 years. She moved to Jackson in September 2006 from Florida where she practiced cardiology. Dr. Dee is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. She graduated cum laude in Medicine at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines in 1987 and in her 2012 medical school homecoming she was awarded the Most Outstanding Graduate of her class. She completed residency training in internal medicine at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago, Cardiology Fellowship at the University of Tennessee Memphis and Interventional Cardiology Fellowship at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
Dr. Dee has been actively involved with the American Heart Association Go Red for Women, Circle of Red and Breast Cancer Awareness programs. She has been a speaker about heart health in women and breast cancer awareness.
Even with her busy practice, Dr. Dee finds time to engage in civic-oriented activities. She is the immediate past president of the West Tennessee Filipino-American Association (West TN Fil-Am) in Jackson. 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 the Philippine cultural heritage as well as raise funds for scholarships and assist members in times of need, including the devastating super typhoon Haiyan. She was part of the 34-member medical mission team from the United States who went home to the Philippines and spent time treating 3000 victims of the worst typhoon in Philippine history.
Dr. Dee is a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Unity formed by Mayor Jerry Gist. She was the lead chair for the successful Jackson’s Inaugural International Food and Art Festival held in October 2014 and is still the co-chair for this year’s event on October 1.
She is not only passionate about her work as an interventional cardiologist and community activities. But music and playing the piano have always been closest to her heart. One of her most cherished possessions is her 7-foot model B Steinway baby! Dr. Dee has played for benefit concerts for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Make A Wish Foundation and Alzheimer’s Day services of Memphis among others. She has participated in the 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 various causes in Jackson and Memphis.
Last year she was the recipient of the Sterling Award for the 20 Most Influential Women in West Tennessee.
She enjoys living and working in Jackson. “It’s small enough that there is not much traffic, but it’s big enough for me to visit various restaurants, do a little shopping, and I’m 1 ½ hours from an airport,” said Dr. Dee.
VIP: What is the origin and history of the International Food and Art Fest?
Dr. Sandra Dee: This is the third annual festival. It grew from the Citizens Commission on Unity, which was formed in 2013. Mayor Jerry Gist invited community leaders to a meeting. At that time I was president of the West Tennessee Filipino-American Association.
Five or six meetings were held to discuss and develop strategies and solutions to promote unity and non-violence in Jackson. It was mentioned that Jackson had not hosted an international festival. My co-chair, Eduardo Morales of Mexico, and I were really enthusiastic about Jackson hosting an international festival.
I am originally from the Philippines and I represent the Filipino community, but I am half Chinese. My dad is from China, and my mom is Filipino. (My sister, Josefina Go, is the chief of Neonatal ICU at the Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. She has been in Jackson for 10 years.) I’ve lived in big cities like Chicago where there are large events that celebrate a variety of cultures. Eduardo, who moved here from California, also wanted a festival in Jackson.
Initially Mayor Gist was not thinking about a festival in Jackson. He was more focused on education, safety in the neighborhoods, the beautification of downtown Jackson and so on. But out of these discussions came the festival. It is a way to engage and educate the community and involves an exchange of ideas and understanding of the cultural diversity of Jackson. The festival serves as the opening ceremony of the Season of Unity.
VIP: What is the theme of this year’s Festival?
SD: One Jackson, Many Flavors has been the theme every year since the festival’s inception.
VIP: Why did you become involved in the International Food and Art Festival?
SD: I believe in making the city where I live a better place. I have a busy medical practice. But that’s the medical side of me. I was president of the West TN Fil-AM, and I was given an opportunity to get involved in the Food and Art Fest. I enjoyed my participation in this event. This is my third year to be lead chair of this event.
VIP: Why is the International Food and Art Festival important to Jackson-Madison County?
SD: This event is a way for those of us who are not from this country to have a sense of belonging and share the beauty of our culture and promote our cultural heritage. By embracing our differences, this event gives us an opportunity to be more tolerant of others and in so doing we overcome barriers because of miscommunication.
VIP: Describe some of the features of this year’s event.
SD: First, a bit of history. At our first festival in 2014 we had a Parade of Cultures, performances in the form of music or dance, storytelling and food and cultural booths. The second year, in 2015, we had more vendors and food trucks. Also, we added a Kids’ Corner. The Jackson Fire Department collaborated with us and sponsored that area furnished with inflatables, Dandy Jumps and computer games.
This year there are more performances including a marching band. And Gwen Yvette, described as the Best Female R&B Artist in South Carolina, representing the Gullah Geechee culture of South Carolina, will perform. She has two new songs. There will also be five Hispanic performances this year from five groups: two from Memphis, two from Jackson and one from Friendship.
Each year we prepare more food and have more food vendors including Filipino, Indian, Brazilian, Syrian, Nigerian, Korean, Mexican and more. And we got the Chinese Dragon from the Confucius Institute in Memphis that will perform the Chinese Dragon Dance.
The festival is definitely growing. This year the West Tennessee Artisans Trail will join us in a large tent. All of the First Responders are coming, and they will bring computer games for the kids. Characters will walk around the festival in costume and will be available for photographs with the kids.
Participants from universities and the Jackson Arts Council will offer storytelling, puppetry, dance, arts and crafts , maps and posters for the kids in the Fox lot at the corner of Main and Liberty Streets.
“There are about 40 international vendors at the Farmers’ Market,” said Tammy Buchanan, liaison for the City of Jackson. “The City of Jackson is pleased to have community volunteers like Dr. Sandra Dee and Eduardo Morales co-chair the festival,” said Buchanan.
VIP: How does one become a participant or a volunteer in this annual festival?
VIP: Will this festival become an annual event?
SD: Yes it will. We did not know what to expect our first year, but we are getting bigger and stronger.