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April 20, 2007
By Guia Del Prado
Mingling bouquets of authentic foreign food and sounds of distinctive languages crowd the air. A group dressed in traditional ethnic garb takes the stage and a foreign rhythm echoes within the packed arena as they begin to dance.
This is the unique experience of the 25th annual Night of All Nations on Friday, April 20, where clubs representing their heritage and international alumni will gather to celebrate the diversity of cultures at the Lawlor Events Center.
The Night of All Nations will include about 50 clubs presenting cultural information and cuisine. The event will also host a variety of ethnic entertainment, according to Night of All Nations coordinators Navgeet Zed and Christina Wiesenborn, both of whom are also International Club members.
“There will be African dances, Indian belly dancers, Filipino dancers and fire dancers among others,” Zed, this year’s Night of All Nations emcee, said.
The event has undergone expansion over the past few years. The yearly celebration of international cultures will be breaking ground with new activity booths available for attendees hoping to learn about the different cultures at the event. The booths will offer such exercises as learning to write in Chinese or Hindi and crafting mosaics. The booths will also be available for children before the beginning of the event.
“We wanted about 25 activity booths to complement the 25th anniversary of the Night of All Nations,” said Wiesenborn, a Spanish major from Boulder City, Nevada. “We wanted to give the event a little bit more spice and at the same time give an educational experience.”
The expansion of the event also reflects the growing attendance from the community. More than 2,000 people attended Night of All Nations in 2005 and close to 4,000 people were present in 2006. Susie Bender, director of the Office of International Students and Scholars, said she expects more than 5,000 people to be present at this year’s affair.
“The event is reaching beyond the University and out to the community,” Bender said. “People increasingly understand that enhancing one’s intercultural skills is of utmost importance in today’s world.”
This year’s Night of All Nations will also be the first reunion for international alumni, some of whom have come from all over the world just to be present for the event.
“One benefit of the Night of All Nations is that it tends to be a hub for international alumni to come back and see their friends,” Bender said. “This year, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of this annual event, we are organizing an international alumni reunion as well. International alumni continue to be part of the global community at the University.”
The alumni celebration will begin at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 19, at the Welcome Back Reception, where alumni can meet, network and share their experiences since graduation.
The alumni can also take campus tours, led by Student Ambassadors. The campus tours can give them an opportunity to see the changes the University has undergone since their graduation, Bender said.
The Night of All Nations is still held for the same reasons as it was 25 years ago, when it began under the International Club presidency of Shahida Abdul-Samad, who now lives in Malaysia. At its inception, the event was actually a combination of smaller International Club events such as the International Food Fair—a dinner featuring ethnic food and entertainment—and the Costumes Around the World Show, Abdul-Samad said.
“Its objective was to foster intercultural exchange,” Abdul-Samad said. “Ultimately, we realized that by getting people to appreciate their diversities, they also begin to realize how similar we all are as human beings. Night of All Nations helped foster understanding between nations and its people—in a fun way.”
The reason for the Night of All Nations’ continuing growth may lie in the interest its entertainment and the food at the event, but it may also appeal to something much more complex in the human psyche.
“At a deeper level, I think the reason for its success is that there is an underlying need for us as humans to connect with each other in a positive way,” Abdul-Samad said. “No matter how diverse we are in our cultures and belief systems, deep down each one of us shares common values—the need to respect and be respected; the need to love and to be loved; the need to live in peace and harmony.”