One of Tabo Bo’s favorite memories of his time at Thomas R. Proctor High School was the international night, where students could come together and learn about other cultures.
Bo, 22, said the event no longer takes place at the high school, but a few months ago, he got together with fellow Proctor graduates Kay Klo, 25, executive director of the Midtown Utica Community Center, and Hawa Juma, 25, organizer for the Utica Somali Bantu community, to bring the event back.
MUCC’s first International Night will go from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 at its 43 Scott St. location.
What to expect at MUCC International Night
The event will feature international food from different countries, workshops, arts and crafts, and a fashion show.
Among the diversity of foods, there will be dishes from the Karen community, Somali Bantu cuisine, Bosnian, Palestinian biryani or rice, flavors from South Sudan and Sierra Leone, Latin American empanadas as well as Thai food.
Restaurants such as Taj Mahal Indian Restaurant in New Hartford or the Somalian restaurant Jibril’s Kitchen also will bring trays of food. For dessert, Wisk Baking Company will prepare cupcakes with different international flags and Holland Farms will bring sweet treats, Bo said.
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Hanka Grabovica, president of the Bosnian American Community Association, will also be there and will bring burek, a baked filled pastry made of phyllo dough; sirnica pita, a Bosnian cheese pita also made with phyllo dough; and other Bosnian snacks.
Hawa Tholley Peters from Utica Royalties will make the traditional dish from her native Sierra Leone: cassava leaf stew, which is made with cassava leaves and meat and eaten with rice.
The event will also have several workshops going from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and from 6 to 7 p.m., which will feature henna painting, an afro-hip hop performance by Utica Royalties, MUCC’s robotics team, and a “Time Capsule Project” workshop.
Why it’s the right time for international night: ‘We have to stick together’
But most importantly, International Night will be a space of cultural exchange and community building, said Bo, who is a K’nyaw Refugee and the founder of the multicultural poetry and creativity group Nomadic Voices.
“I hope it brings more awareness, specifically more cultural acceptance and show that there’s a lot more positive than negative,” Bo said.
While the community center is a lot smaller than the high school’s gym, where the event used to take place, Bo said the organizers are going to try and look forward to the event: “It’s something that’s needed.”
For Juma, the event is a “celebration of culture,” and to showcase food and clothing from some of Utica’s biggest communities who have called the Mohawk Valley their home for years.
“We have to stick together, we went through the same struggles and stuff like that and I feel like when we had international night, it was a way for us to come together because there’s a large population of so many different communities,” Juma said. “You’re also bringing a piece of your home and sharing it with others in the community who are outside of the people you usually see.”
Maria M. Silva covers food, drink and culture in the Mohawk Valley for the Observer-Dispatch. Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter.