The Skokie Festival of Cultures
Growing up in New York, one of my favorite activities was visiting the United Nations. I loved watching the Security Council meetings or any other meetings so that I could press the buttons on the headphones to hear people speaking in all the official U.N. languages. There were six buttons – for English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and the language of whoever was speaking. Even though I didn’t know the other languages, I loved hearing the sounds of people speaking them. It was music to my ears.
Now that I’m an adult and living in Skokie-Evanston, Illinois, I no longer have to press buttons. All I have to do is attend the Skokie Festival of Cultures. This year was the Festival’s 29th. This year’s theme was music. People from 38 countries had organizations participating in the Festival.
We were there for the opening ceremonies. People marched with their flags from Armenia, Assyria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belize, Bulgaria, Cambodia, the Cameroons, People’s Republic of China, Chinese Republic of China, Circassia, Croatia, Cuba, Estonia, the Filipines, Finland, Greece, India, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, Sweden, Thailand, Tibet, Turkey, the United States, and Uzbekistan.
When each one came to the stage, “Welcome to the Skokie Festival of Cultures” was said in that language and a few bars of their music was played. When they were finished, we all sang the “Star Spangled Banner” together and said the Pledge of Allegiance. It is on our currency E Pluribus Unum. From many one. The anthem and pledge reminded us all of our origins as immigrants. It is always a joy to watch things going right. I wished that I could invite the rest of the United States to see how it’s done.
After the opening ceremonies, we went to see the booths of each country to admire their crafts and talk to the people there. Where else can someone meet people from all these countries in less than an hour?
We were going to return to the outdoor venue to watch the different groups dance their dances or sing their songs. Unfortunately, the sky darkened and rain was imminent. We went indoors to see some other performances. Humanity followed us in from the four corners of the world. Together we watched dancers from Arabia, Japan, and Uzbekistan. Outside, the rain came down in torrents and we almost needed to build another Ark to get home. The dancers were beautiful. Despite the deluge, the day was a ray of sunshine.