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Cincinnati Rhythm

SEPTEMBER 13, 2024  |  6PM - 10PM
Cincinnati Museum Center

JOIN US each fall in celebrating the new Americans who contribute to a strong regional economy and a diverse, vibrant community.

COMMUNITY  •  MUSIC  •  FOOD  •  DRINKS
COMMUNITY  •  MUSIC  •  FOOD  •  DRINKS
Band performing
Band performing

Let’s Celebrate!

Cincinnati Rhythm is our highly anticipated, multicultural annual event.

There’s something for everyone who attends including plenty of food, music, performances, and special awards. Every year we hold this special event for the immigrants and refugees who call our region home. The event is a celebration and an opportunity to connect with friends, old and new.

Thank You to Our 2023 Sponsors

Shakila Ahmad
& Dr. Masood Ahmad

Dr. Tariq Sultan
& Sufia Sultan

International Food

Enjoy local food with an international flavor. Food-based entrepreneurs from immigrant and refugee communities will serve delicious meals from all over the world. Feel at home with a traditional dish from your country or try something completely new.

Ijo Ugo Performing Arts Company at the kick-off to Welcoming Week.

Music + Performance

The sights and sounds of an international stage make our celebration truly unique. Come see traditional dance, listen to lively music, and watch special performances. Cincinnati Rhythm is always an unforgettable experience.

Son del Caribe

Awards

We also come together to hear the success stories from our immigrant and refugee communities. What accomplishments were realized? What challenges were overcome? And for the most memorable achievements, we’ll present the Legacy Award, Rising Star, Community Leader, and Business Leader.

Past Award Recipients

Mariam Elgafy

Associate Director, Philanthropic Stewardship,
University of Cincinnati Foundation
Recipient of The 2023 Rising Star Award

Mariam Elgafy is an educator at heart with a strong desire and passion for social change, advocacy, and policy making. Equipped with fundamental education in politics, communication, and social change, she believes in the power of intentional mentorship and understands the importance of using one’s voice and education to instill change. It is evident that her journey for personal growth is a based on her commitment to serve the community and bring social change so everyone may thrive.

A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, where she began to take off as a leader, she is now the Associate Director of Philanthropic Stewardship at the UC Foundation. Also, at the University of Cincinnati, she is an adjunct faculty, teaching Public Speaking, Business Communication, Interpersonal Communication, allowing her to connect with students to help them on their own professional and academic journeys.

Her commitment to mentoring the next generation of leaders is seen through her work with youth groups, professional networks, and community-based organizations. Mariam currently serves as the President of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati’s (ICGC) Cincinnati Muslim Professionals Network, and is also a dedicated mentor teacher for youth programs. Her dedication to uplifting and supporting college students is also seen in her role as the Advisor for the University of Cincinnati’s Muslim Student’s Association (MSA). She also serves as a Next Gen Advisory Council member for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU)

Mariam’s work is consistently propelled by a community-centric vision of innovation, empowerment, investment, and strong belief and desire of change. She would rather give others the platform to speak and ignite their personal stories, because the power of storytelling and personal narratives is unparalleled. She strives to and encourages others “To speak louder. Challenge more. Give more. Browse more. Think bigger. Love harder. Achieve the impossible.”

Diana Jaime

Operations Manager, Mi Cozumel Inc
Recipient of The 2023 Business Leader Award

Mi Cozumel Restaurant, created in 2018 and led by a dynamic Hispanic-family team, has demonstrated unparalleled growth and success within the Cincinnati community. The family’s dedication to quality, authenticity, and customer satisfaction has resulted in a restaurant that not only delights the taste buds but also captures the essence of Mexican cuisine. The family now leverages its platform to lift up other aspiring business owners across the Cincinnati region.

They’ve played an active role in reshaping the Mexican restaurant experience in the Cincinnati metro area, mirroring the authenticity found in Mexico. The family’s innovation and creativity have resulted in a culinary journey that transports patrons to the heart of Mexico, all while staying true to their Hispanic heritage.

What truly sets Mi Cozumel apart is the unwavering commitment to fostering a vibrant ecosystem for Hispanic-owned businesses. Mi Cozumel has embraced their role as innovators and supporters, actively participating in initiatives that uplift and empower the Hispanic business community. From collaborating with the Latina Entrepreneur Academy to sharing inspirational stories through the Tan Latina Como Tu conference, Mi Cozumel has made a significant mark in fostering growth and diversity within the business landscape.

With their involvement in the Hispanic Business Awards in Columbus, Mi Cozumel has showcased the range of remarkable businesses flourishing in Ohio. Their commitment to supporting fellow entrepreneurs resonates deeply, and their actions exemplify the true essence of a Business Leader.

Fatou Souare

Sr. Specialist, Talent Acquisition,
Cincinnati Children's
Recipient of The 2023 Community Leader Award

Fatou Souare, a seasoned Senior Specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, has devoted 7 impactful years to transforming lives through her work. By guiding students and potential candidates, she steers them towards fulfilling careers at the hospital. Beyond her professional role, Fatou is a co-founder of the Kentucky African Women Association (KAWA), a vital support system for immigrant families, assisting them in adjusting to the United States through job placement, education, and healthcare resources.

A dedicated advocate for workplace diversity, Fatou strives to foster an inclusive environment at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. She adeptly links diverse communities to the institution, ensuring a rich pool of candidates. Recognized by American National College with the 2014 Leadership Award, Fatou’s achievements shine. Her time at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has been marked by numerous accolades for collaborating with ERG groups.

Outside work, Fatou prioritizes family and volunteers with local organizations, nurturing her community. Her collaborative spirit and infectious smile stand as her invaluable assets, shaping her into a beacon of positive change.

Raja Rajamannar

Chief Marketing & Communications Officer and President, Healthcare, Mastercard
Recipient of The 2023 Legacy Award

Raja Rajamannar is chief marketing and communications officer for Mastercard and founding president of its healthcare business. He serves as a member of the company’s executive leadership team and management committee.

Over the past decade, Raja has transformed Mastercard into one of the fastest-growing brands in the world. At the helm of the iconic Priceless platform, he and his team are on the cutting edge of experiential, multisensory marketing programs for consumers and customers around the world. Raja has extended the reach and impact of the brand by embracing artificial intelligence and Web3 technologies while pioneering new standards in inclusive design.

A Wall Street Journal-bestselling author, Raja is a frequent speaker and media commentator. His book, “Quantum Marketing: Mastering the New Marketing Mindset for Tomorrow’s Consumers,” has become a touchstone for marketing leaders and academics around the world and is now available in nine languages.

As President of Healthcare, Raja focuses on driving value for healthcare industry stakeholders through innovative Mastercard assets such as data analytics, AI and cybersecurity solutions. Prior to Mastercard, Raja was chief transformation officer for the health insurance firm Elevance (formerly Anthem) and chief innovation and marketing officer for Humana. He’s held senior management roles with Unilever and Citibank.

He is president of the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and on the boards of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), The Ad Council and Yale School of Management Consumer Insights Council. He serves on the board of PPL Corporation, a U.S. Fortune 500 company (NYSE: PPL), and is also on several not-for-profit boards including Bon Secours Mercy Health, Cintrifuse, and New York City Ballet.

Originally from India, Raja received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Osmania University and Master of Business Administration from the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore. He currently resides with his wife and younger son in the United States.

Alfonso Cornejo headshot

Alfonso Cornejo

Owner, AC & Consulting Associates,
International Development Consultant
Recipient of The 2021 Legacy Award

Alfonso Cornejo is a business consultant for companies doing business in Latin America. Mr. Cornejo has a well-rounded background in all facets of business with particular expertise in Manufacturing and Human Resources.

Before entering the consulting field, Mr. Cornejo worked for a total of 30 years with several Fortune 500 Companies, i.e., Procter & Gamble, Clorox, Chiquita Brands. Mr. Cornejo was born, raised and educated in Mexico. He holds a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from University of Mexico.

Mr. Cornejo has been in a large number of Boards of Directors in our community. He is also representing Cincinnati on the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. He received an honorary degree from The Cincinnati State and Community College and has also received awards from the country of Mexico.

Mr. Cornejo has been the President of the Hispanic Chamber Cincinnati USA for the last 18 years, and is also the founder of Hispanics Avanzando Hispanics (HAH), a non-profit entity that among many other social service activities, also organizes the Cincy-Cinco Latino charity festival each year in Cincinnati. This charity festival has distributed more than $510,000 among organizations supporting Hispanic initiatives since its startup 17 years ago.

Felicity Tao headshot

Felicity Tao

Business Development Director SBDC Miami Regionals
General Market Manager for La Mega Media, Inc.
Recipient of The 2021 Community Leader Award

Felicity Tao is the Sr. Director, Marketing at Greater Cincinnati Foundation. As the leader of the Marketing team, she is responsible for driving strategic marketing, integrated communications and brand strategies for GCF.

Prior to joining the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Felicity Tao was a Sr. Brand Strategist at Cincinnati Bell where she lead the company’s branding, content, and social media marketing strategy and execution. She has worked in the biotech and IT/Communications technology industries for over 15 years in various marketing and communications capacities, leading branding, content, and digital strategies as well as supporting new business/product launch initiatives. Her expertise includes strategic planning, digital marketing, social media, data analytics, and multimedia content development.

Felicity graduated from China Foreign Affairs University with a bachelor’s degree in English and International Relations. She received her master’s degree in Journalism from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

Felicity is a very active member of the Asian American community in the Greater Cincinnati area. She is the founder and current chair of the Greater Cincinnati Chinese Cultural Exchange Association whose mission is to celebrate Asian cultural heritage, improve cross-cultural understanding, and support regional diversity and inclusion initiatives. She also sits on the board of the Greater Cincinnati Chinese School and volunteers for a number of non-profit organizations. Her passion is to bridge cultural differences, connect people from different backgrounds, and make the voice of the minority groups heard.

Daniel Rajaiah headshot

Daniel Rajaiah

Director, Global Strategy & Operations at Mastercard,
United States Export-Import Bank Advisory Council,
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens Board of Trustees
Recipient of The 2021 Rising Star Award

Daniel Rajaiah serves as Director of Global Strategy & Operations for Mastercard, where he helps lead the company’s marketing, sponsorship & communications efforts in 210 countries.

Daniel previously served as Vice President for international public strategy firm Mercury Public Affairs and prior to that as an aide to Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, where he helped create and lead the City of Cincinnati’s Task Force on Immigration — which ultimately recommended the creation of Compass. He served five years as Executive Director of the Indian American Chamber of Commerce, where he helped build the organization into a leading advocacy group for the South Asian community.

Daniel was recognized by Forbes Magazine as a 30 under 30 honoree in 2015 and received the University of Dayton’s Young Alumni Award in 2019.

He resides in Downtown Cincinnati and loves good Samosas and Baklava.

Evans Nwankwo headshot

Evans Nwankwo

President, Megen Construction
Recipient of The 2021 Business Leader Award

Evans believes relationships are at the core of any successful construction project and Megen enjoys a reputation for accessible client relationships, proactive thinking and an unmatched estimating process. Under his leadership, Megen has guided some of the Greater Cincinnati region’s most important construction developments including the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the Fountain Square Revitalization. In addition, Evans mentors a minority-owned HVAC company, which he helped found, and a minority-owned electrical company. For Evans and his team, inclusion and diversity have always been part of Megen’s value system and certainly in their DNA – not just something they focus on when asked.

Evans is a lifetime member of the American Society of Professional Estimators, and his many awards include the John F. Barrett Entrepreneur Vision Award and the Spirit of Construction Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in Mason, Ohio, with his wife and business partner, Catherine, and their three children.

Evans was born in northern Nigeria, the seventh of 13 children. His family was nearly killed in, and subsequently uprooted by, Nigeria’s civil war in the late 1960s. Days before his tenth birthday, his father died. The family stayed together, and through sheer tenacity and hard work, all 13 children graduated from college, becoming: four doctors, two educators, two accountants, two engineers, a registered nurse, an attorney, and a priest. His parents’ faith, integrity, generosity and fortitude have inspired Evans throughout his life.

In 1978, Evans came to the U.S. to attend Texas A&M University. He worked part-time as a security guard at a Holiday Inn during semesters and as a cook on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico during summer and Christmas breaks. In 1982, he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Building Construction Engineering, and joined Turner Construction Company. In 1993, one week before marrying fellow engineer Catherine, Evans resigned from Turner and started Megen Construction Company in the basement of his home. The name Megen is a combination of a tribute to his mother Margaret (Meg) and his own initials (en). Today, Megen Construction is respected for its commitment to quality, integrity, diversity & teamwork.

Dr. Inayat Malik headshot

Dr. Inayat Malik

Past President, The Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati,
Member, American Urological Association
Recipient of The 2022 Legacy Award

A native of Pakistan, whose family had migrated from India, during the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, he graduated from King Edward Medical College in Lahore in 1963. After serving as a house surgeon for a year at Mayo Hospital, he moved to the US in 1964 for higher medical education, and came to Cincinnati in 1967 to specialize in Urology at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. He entered private practice in 1971 and during his career as a Board-certified urologist, served as Chief of Urology and President of Medical Staff at Bethesda Hospitals. He also served on Bethesda‘s Board of Trustees. Ever since taking up residence in Cincinnati, in the late sixties, he has been intimately involved with the development and organization of Muslim community, pioneering its integration into the larger American society and advocating for equal participation and rights.

In the seventies and eighties, it required institution of networking with other faith communities, institutions of higher learning and starting contacts in print and broadcast media. While serving as President of The Islamic Association of Cincinnati in 1993, he was charged, along with the late Ahmad Samawi, with the task of overseeing construction of The Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati, a one of a kind, multi-purpose campus on 18 acres in West Chester. The Center opened its doors in 1995 , aiming to counter stereotypes and misinformation about Islam and Muslims and to promote their full recognition and acceptance as part of the mosaic that American society is. There was conscious effort made to include all ethnicities and backgrounds, including the local African American Muslims, represented on the governing Board.

He served as President and Board Chair for the Islamic Center through 2013. He oversaw the development of community outreach, interfaith cooperation and programs to meet the religious needs of a growing Muslim community. This included the building of a full time pre-K through 8th grade private school on the Center premises. He represented the community in the media, writing articles for the press and appearing on television. Under his leadership and vision, the Islamic Center has, since its opening day, hosted regular open house events to encourage interfaith and interethnic familiarity and harmony. He has has stayed active in representing the Cincinnati Muslim community in the larger civic society, whether it be the dedication of National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, involvement with the FBI Citizens ‘Academy, rallies to draw attention to Climate change and doing hands-on work at Habitat for Humanity build sites, along with other members of the Muslim community. He cofounded the groundbreaking, local Muslim Jewish Dialogue in 2003, which later

evolved into The Bridges of Faith Trialogue, for interfaith communication and cooperation on issues of religious freedom, as well as, racial and social justice. He served as its founding Board Chair.

In 2017 the Trialogue adopted the name of EquaSion and broadened its reach to include all non- Abrahamic faiths also, to serve as a broad coalition, promoting social and racial justice. He stepped down as its Board Chair at the end of 2020, but continues to serve on its Board of Directors. He has served on several other Boards, including National Conference for Community and Justice where he served as Board Chair, Cincinnati chapter of American Red Cross, Bruggeman Center for Interfaith Dialogue, Cincinnati Health Improvement Collaborative and Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council. On the national level, he is a life member of the Islamic Medical Association, promoting worldwide, medical relief efforts on a non partisan basis. He is also a life member of the largest American Muslim organization working to promote Muslim rights and social justice causes, under thelslamic Society of North America, where he serves on their Founders’ Committee. He is a member of the Pioneers Club of Unity Productions Foundation, supporting their work in producing documentaries about Muslim life, issues and history, as well as acting as consultants in Hollywood in depiction of Muslim characters. He was the Founding Board Chair of National Federation for Just Communities, a nationwide coalition of likeminded organizations formed in 2006, to bring the values of diversity, inclusion, and social justice to our schools, workplaces, and communities. He served till 2018, as a Board member of

National Religious Campaign against Torture, a DC based organization striving to outlaw torture as a national policy.”

In 2005, he was the recipient of the “Connecting the People Award” of Cincinnati Human Relations Commission. In 2008 he was honored with the Distinguished Service Citation by the Bridges for a Just Community and in 2013 The United Way of Cincinnati awarded him the Joseph A Hall award for promoting diversity. In 2017, the local chapter of APPNA (Pakistani American Physicians’ umbrella organization) gave him their Community Service Award for lifetime of community service and civic engagement. He lives in Cincinnati with his wife Ishrat.

Prince Ellis headshot

Prince Ellis

Founder of The African Professionals Network (APNET)
President/owner of PERN Learning Consulting LLC
Recipient of The 2022 Community Leader Award

Dr. Prince Ellis joined the University of Cincinnati community at the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year as an Assistant Professor of Economics and Finance. In 2020, he received tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor of Economics and Finance at the University of Cincinnati Clermont. Prince also serves as an adjunct faculty in Management at UC Lindner College of Business. His research areas include eLearning, International Business, and Technology. He authored a book focusing on “Corporate eLearning: Impact on Employees”. His passion from his college days up until now has always been serving our community.

In 2010, he co-founded the African Professionals Network (APNET) and now serves as the board president and interim executive director for APNET. The African Professionals Network brings community together to enhance the African diaspora experience through networking, business, professional development, and community engagement.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance and a master’s degree in Information Systems, both from Northern Kentucky University. He also completed a second master’s degree in Applied Economics from the University of Cincinnati’s Lindner College of Business. Dr. Ellis completed his doctorate degree in Business Administration with a concentration in International Business from Argosy University. His dissertation focused on the impact of corporate eLearning on employees. He also holds various certifications and licenses in business and technology. His professional experience includes higher education, economics education, information technology, and financial services.

He is also the president/owner of PERN Learning Consulting LLC. Prince is proud of his family – he is married to Ruth Nduta Ellis and together with three children [Prince Jr, Marie, and Asher].

Qorinah Wardhani headshot

Qorinah Wardhani

Senior Analyst in Finance Transformation at Fifth Third Bank
Recipient of The 2022 Rising Star Award

Ms. Wardhani immigrated from Indonesia to Starkville, MS, with her parents and two siblings at the age of 11. After one year of residency in Starkville, the family moved to Lexington, KY, where she grew up and obtained dual degrees of Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting and Economics with International Business minor, from the University of Kentucky. Upon graduation, Ms. Wardhani pursued a career in Public Accounting with Deloitte, which led her to transplant roots in Cincinnati, OH.

Ms. Wardhani’s interests in cultures and community naturally lend her towards service with the Asian American Cultural Association of Cincinnati (AACAC), a 501(c)3 organization with a mission to make Cincinnati a more diverse and inclusive city by centering the Asian-American experiences to increase Asian-American visibility and representation. Over the course of 10 years, Ms. Wardhani served and led various functions within the organization via the Asian Food Fest (AFF) Committee, Board Member, and as the Treasurer. Ms. Wardhani will be the future Co-Chair for Asian Food Fest 2023.

Ms. Wardhani’s professional experience includes Public Accounting, Retail and Financial Services as a Certified Public Auditor (CPA) within audit, SEC reporting, and Finance. She is currently a Senior Analyst in Finance Transformation at Fifth Third Bank. Within the Bank, Ms. Wardhani leads the Asian & Pacific American Business Resource Group (API BRG)’s community involvement efforts to create a stronger community and affect positive change for Cincinnati.

Karla Boldery headshot

Karla C. Boldery (Cardenas-Alvarez)

Business Development Director, SBDC Miami Regionals,
General Market Manager for La Mega Media, Inc.
Recipient of The 2022 Business Leader Award

Mrs. Boldery, Cincinnati Market Manager for La Mega Media, Inc. La Mega Media, Inc. is the largest Hispanic media platform in the state of Ohio.

Mrs Boldery was the former Innovation Services Director and Business Advisor for the HCDC Business Center. A not for profit organization that serves the Cincinnati Metro area in 3 areas: Economic development, business startup incubation and lending. Mrs. Boldery has helped over S00 Hispanic Businesses get started, connected to available resources and grow in the Cincinnati metro area.

Founder and facilitator for the Latina Entrepreneur Academy in Cincinnati, delivering startup business training for over 100 latinas who have either started or want to start their own businesses and creating a support network of resources and connections that will enable this latinas a better chance of business success. She was named 2017 SBA Partner of the year for her distinguished leadership and efforts with the Hispanic business community. 2018 Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan by the Ohio Commission of Hispanic and Latino Affairs (OCHLA), and 2015 Cincinnati Business Courier Forty under 40.