Hibak Latifah, one organiser of Black History Month event One Britain, Many Cultures, stood before the crowd in Parliament Hall last night and declared that “especially for such an international community like St Andrews, it is important to acknowledge our diversity.” She and her performers did just that in a night of exciting cultural celebration.
With wine in hand, attendees were encouraged to explore a photo exhibition recognizing the contribution that ethnic minorities have made to British society over the course of history; and as the last students filed into Parliament Hall, the show began.
Centred around the music, dance and poetry of Africa and Asia, a host of talented individuals took to the stage. The words of famous African-Caribbean writers were spoken; dances from the Congo were performed to traditional music; and Indian melodies were strummed out on guitar.
Three poets also took to the microphone to read their own work, focussing on the subjects of diversity, equality, and as student poet Harshad Sam put it “the reconciliation of one’s association with oneself.”
No matter what ethnicity a student belonged to, as an exhibition of art and entertainment the program flourished. Latifah organized her performers masterfully; their individual acts were conducted with both the confidence and skill to hold the audience’s attention, allowing them a glimpse into the cultures that the performers call their own. Essentially, the event was a snapshot into the 160-country diversity that the University of St Andrews delights in.
Above all, though, the evening appeared to inspire pride in being part of an ethnic minority in the St Andrews community, as Joe Makangu, a student-poet originally from the Congo, summed up: “a place like Africa, there is no other… Our continent is beautiful, our continent is ours.” In what Latifah hopes to be the first of many Black History Month events to come, she and her performers brought to the table an hour of collective pride in one’s heritage and an awareness of its role in history.