Students celebrate International Mother Language Day with multiple events
The University of Houston celebrated International Mother Language Day on Wednesday with events held throughout campus.
International Mother Language Day was announced Nov. 17, 1999, by the United Nations to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity, according to the Student Government Association’s website. SGA decided to celebrate Wednesday because the Houston Room, where the celebration concluded, was not available prior.
“It started in Bangladesh when their government did not allow them to speak their language,” said co-MC and Speaker of the Senate Kim-Briana Lorine, who was one of the main students who helped organize the event. “A group of college students marched in protest and they were executed as a result, and so the United Nations declared Feb. 21 International Mother Language Day.”
The activities began in the morning with a tabling event held in the Student Center Plaza where students could learn more about the holiday that was officially recognized Feb. 21. Students also had the chance to watch the French movie “Amélie” in the Student Center Theater later on in the day. The events concluded with a showcase of student performances along with a free international food court.
The event was originally started by the Bangladeshi Student Organization in 2013 with the help of Tanzeem Chowdhury, a Student Government Association senator at the time who eventually became vice president of SGA. He is now an alumnus and was the guest speaker at the event.
“It started with only Bangladeshi Student Organization doing it, it was a really small event,” Chowdhury said. “The first event we actually did was on a Sunday because we couldn’t book the Houston Room on any other day, and not many people even knew about the event. Now we have a few of the biggest organizations and departments on campus behind it.”
SGA has been a part of the event since 2016, joining the ranks of multiple culturally centered organizations who help put on and perform at the show.
The show opened with an upbeat, synchronized dance by the Hallyu Club, a club that promotes the Korean culture through popular entertainment. The club is not limited to those of Korean descent, and anyone interested in Korean culture can join. The group of about 20 students performed multiple dances to different songs while the crowd screamed their approval.
“When we perform, we really just want to show our love for K-pop and its choreography because for most of the team that’s what drew us in and got us into it,” said management information systems junior Sky Edward. Edward is also the director for Cypher, the dance team under the Hallyu Club.
The event was peppered with dance routines, martial arts exhibitions and speeches by SGA President Cameron Barrett, Director for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion Niya Blair and Chowdhury. Chowdhury celebrated the diversity the event brought and reminded the students and staff in attendance to not be ashamed of their identities.
“I encourage everyone not only to hold onto all the beautiful things their culture offers but to share it with everyone,” Chowdhury said.
The night ended with a song from a brand new alumna who graduated in December, on behalf of the Venezuelan Students Union. Maria Smith Gonzalez is the former vice president of the union and prefaced her song with an acknowledgement of the current humanitarian crisis going on in her home country before wrapping up the night.
She shared that her family sent her to America in 2013 to try and achieve a better life for herself and said the majority of her family is still in Venezuela.
“The socioeconomic situation in my country was kind of difficult, it was kind of difficult to find food, medicine, and my family wanted a better future for me,” Gonzalez said.
Students enjoyed every act, even the ones they could not understand. They could feel the passion in the performances.
“It takes a lot of courage to go up there and represent your culture,” said nutrition junior Heeba Ahmed. “You could feel (Gonzalez’s) culture, even though I couldn’t understand any words we were still getting emotional, my friends were crying, and it’s a good thing to go and represent your culture, especially in a time it might not be so welcome.”