An International Night to remember

Nicole Guillen, Managing Editor

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The colorful flags of countries from around the world hang proudly in the atrium of the UC. Students and faculty see this as mere decoration, but events like International Night expose UNO’s intentional emphasis and encouragement of diversity. On March 23, students, faculty and the greater New Orleans community gathered at the Human Performance Center for a night filled with food, entertainment, and most importantly, culture.

Past the ticket booth, the atmosphere transformed into a mecca for conversation. The gym swelled with the voices of various cultures. Event-goers were directed to a section dedicated to cultural exhibits. Each exhibit displayed traditional clothing and an assortment of relics associated with a certain country. For example, the booth dedicated to Chinese culture had carefully placed clay teapots and beautifully draped guohua traditional Chinese handscroll paintings. Some of the objects that represented the countries were recognizable, while others were pleasant surprises.

“Knowledge of other cultures outside of one’s own will lead to respect,” said Mohammad Khairul Habib Pulok, Vice President of the International Student Organization. Pulok was in charge of the entertainment of the event, including group dance performances, solo singing acts, and live instrumental gigs. As a member of the organization since last year, Pulok noticed a significant amount of positive differences in the putting together of this year’s International Night.

“In previous years, there were no performances to represent America,” said Pulok. While showcasing the multiple cultures within UNO is the goal, he thinks it is just as important to represent the culture of UNO’s unique community. Pulok was able to host a professional singer from New Orleans with American backup dancers.

Beyond the bleachers of the HPC, people found themselves following the aroma of falafel, fried plantains, and chow mein. A total of six countries were represented in the multicultural buffet, with foods bought from local restaurants. A few feet away, a rotating assembly of families and friends from various ethnic backgrounds sat to eat together at three long communal dining tables. People made new connections and conversation, and judging by Pulok’s remarks, it was all part of the plan.

“People are learning experientially about many cultures by watching performances, eating food, and taking part in activities like getting a henna tattoo,” Pulok said. The minute people walk into the HPC, they’re immersed into the melting pot that is UNO.

The international fashion show awed the audience with intricate designs exclusive to certain cultures. The elaborately embroidered accents of traditional sarees shined under the spotlights. A line of men and women walked proudly down the catwalk as they wore the clothing of their countries.

“We hope those who came to the event realized the beauty of their culture and other cultures. We provided the opportunity for people to choose love over hate, tolerance over resistance to … the diverse cultures reflected in the students of UNO,” said Pulok.

With more than 200 people in attendance, it is evident that people were led by their open minds and had a night that potentially changed their perspectives on unfamiliar cultures.

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