International Night presents artifacts from countries represented on campus

Katherine Dodson, Correspondent

“I came to this school very excited but not sure that I was going to find that Ghanaian culture or find any Ghanaians here,” says freshman biology major Adoma Yeboah.  “So when I found out about the West African Cultural Alliance, I decided to join early on.  They told me that there was going to be an International Night, which I was very excited about.”

Yeboah represented Ghana at this year’s International Night, an event that allows students of all nationalities to celebrate and share their heritage with others with homemade food, artifacts, or performances, and which occurred on Saturday, Oct. 29.

Two of the co-founders, Assistant Director of International Students Felixa Wingen and Amy Mbye, an administrative assistant in the engineering department, discuss the origin of Wilkes’ new annual event.

“The original idea came from Amy Mbye and Dr. Evene Estwick,” Wingen says.  “They started talking about it about a year and a half ago.  We sat down and planned it for last year and thought, ‘We should do this every year.’”

Mbye says she spoke with Estwick, an associate professor of communication studies, and members of other departments, all of whom were supportive.  They held the first International Night last year and were pleased by a turnout of  120 students  and 28 countries represented.  Wingen and Mbye say this initial success motivated them to continue.

The concept of the event itself is simple.  “Everybody signs up for a table, and with that table you can do whatever you want,” Wingen says.  “Some people go all out.  They bring artifacts, activities, lots of food.  Some people just bring in one dish.

Though it is simple, the event offers a multitude of delightful distractions.  Students cover tables with items such as traditional homemade food, pictures of or artwork and crafts from the country they represent, national flags, currency, posters and pamphlets containing facts about the country, maps and traditional jewelry.  Many wear traditional garb to the event.

Although some are more enthusiastic than others, all participants seem willing to explain the contents of their tables, recommend food, or simply converse with visiting students.  Some participants offer demonstrations.  For instance, Wingen says that this year was the first year that some participants offered to perform native dances.  Additionally, this year’s Saudi Arabian and Chinese tables offered to write students’ names in the national languages of their countries.

All the while, a playlist crafted by participants plays authentic music from each country represented.  Students occasionally become so enthused that they burst into spontaneous dancing.

Co-founders and participants alike feel that the multicultural awareness represented by International Night is important and deserves recognition by the campus community.

“I think it’s great to take a moment to really celebrate all the diversity we have at Wilkes,” Wingen says.  “A lot of times people think that Wilkes is not very diverse.  An event like this kind of highlights what’s out there.”

Culture is of high importance Adoma Yeboah, who says she was delighted by the chance to share her heritage with others and cook one of Ghana’s staple foods; jollof rice, a red rice with beans and chicken.

Countries represented at this year’s International Night included the United States, Mexico, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, India, Bangladesh, China, Barbados, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, St. Lucía, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and Gambía.