• By Alyson Heisler

Minot State to host Mother Language Day event to showcase different cultures


International Mother Language Day is observed on Feb. 21 of each year to commemorate the Bengali Language Movement in Pakistan. In 1952, students of the University of Dhaka participated in a public protest against the Pakistan Government’s declaration to make Urdu the national language — at the time the country was separated into the East, where Bangala is the mother language, and West. Police opened fire during the protest, killing of five students and injuring hundreds more as they fought to protect their language.

Sayeed Sajal, assistant professor of math and computer science, started the event at Minot State to inform people about the actions of those students who protected their mother language and highlight the importance of multiculturalism in today’s society.

Sajal initiated the Mother Language Day event in the Fargo-Moorhead area in 2016 and brought it with him when he came to Minot State in 2017.

“In the first year, people didn’t know about the history or what International Mother Language Day is and this is when information is planted. The next year, they know and are more focused on observing and making connections with those around them,” Sajal said.

The event has grown over the years from being hosted in the Multicultural Center in 2017 to Aleshire Theater in 2018, and this year the event is planned to be in Ann Nicole Nelson Hall.

For this year’s event, Minot State’s Diversity Council partnered with Minot Public Schools to bring students of all ages from elementary to high school together to learn about different cultures.

“This year it’s (the event) bigger because Minot Public School is joining up, which is a good thing because small children who are learning their ABC’s can also have an opportunity to learn diversity,” Sajal said.

The event features a mix of performances — including dancing and poetry — from a variety of different cultural backgrounds to engage attendees in conversation about cultures that they wouldn’t otherwise experience.

“There is a lot less misunderstanding because we know why people act differently and all people have their own kind of expressions. Then we feel each other’s pain, we feel each other’s joy, and we also feel each other’s different ways of communicating,” Sajal said.

Learning about cultures outside of ourselves creates an understanding between people that fosters a connection between different parts of the world, and to learn how or why of different cultures.

“It’s always better to be more connected to understand that their (other nations’) strength is our strength. Every nation or culture has their own strength and how we know about those strengths and how we know about their weaknesses — so we can get rid of our own weakness and we can get the best thing from other cultures,” Sajal said. “Many people come her and try to integrate the system here at Minot State and create a blended culture. Locals learn a lot of things from them and they then have more awareness and people begin to know each other better. People may think that Minot is not that diverse and that people would not join this type of event, but in the first year I nearly 100 people were in attendance, so that means that people are there but someone has to initiate the event and believe in it.”

The musical or artistic elements of a culture can serve as a jumping-off point for people to learn about a new culture and peak their interests — even if they do not understand the language being spoken in any way.

“I’ve gotten some comments from people saying that the sound, though they do not understand it, it sounds good. Like you have the feeling but you don’t know what is going on — but the sound of the language is so soothing, but you’ve never heard that sound before,” Sajal said.

Minot State will host the third annual International Mother Language Day event Thursday at 5

p.m. in Ann Nicole Nelson Hall. The event is open to students and members of the community.


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