International Club’s Parade of Nations celebrates international culture, community members

Wuzee, a Chinese fusion dance group, performs at the Parade of Nations on March 3, 2018. Courtesy Kirt Thorne

Members of International Club held their annual Parade of Nations event in Cohen Auditorium last Saturday evening, March 3. After months of hard work — planning outreach, filming promotional videos, organizing logistics and communicating with the International Center — club members, performers and audiences came together for a show that celebrated international culture and community at Tufts.

With performances by Tamasha, Bhangra, Wuzee, Full Sound, sophomore Lydia Ra, Turbo, ROTI and RUM, Essence, Envy and Kiniwe, the Parade of Nations continued its long tradition of multicultural learning within the Tufts community. Performances were dynamic, ranging from the somber and sweet to the energetic and vibrant. Packed with friends and family, Cohen Auditorium lit up, with high levels of audience engagement and participation. The lively annual Flag Parade closed the show, with student volunteers performing brief coordinated movements and dances with flags of nations with which they identify.

Song and dance were not the only forms of celebration on Saturday night. Before intermission, sophomore and International Club President Nidhi Rao presented the Oliver Chapman Award to senior Sopuruchukwu Augustine Ezenwa for contributions to the international community at Tufts as an International House Manager, host advisor for Global Orientation and Tufts African Student Organization president, among Ezenwa’s many other accomplishments.

The Oliver Chapman Award is presented annually at the Parade of Nations to commemorate Oliver Chapman (E ’92), a Tufts student from Panama who passed away in 1992, and recognizes a senior “who has made notable contributions to the international community at Tufts, the Greater Boston Area, or elsewhere around the globe,” according to the program brochure.

When senior Shana Merrifield became involved with International Club during her second semester as a sophomore, she saw Parade of Nations as an event that not only celebrated international culture, but also built recognition for its community presence at Tufts.

“From what I saw, it was a lot about trying to make visible the international community here at Tufts,” she said. “I think a lot of times [the international community at Tufts] can be quite segmented, in terms of who people hang out with or their communities within the international community. [Parade of Nations] is our statement saying, ‘We have a presence on this campus, and we are open to anyone who identifies as international or has that experience.’”

Rao also spoke to the organization’s efforts to make the event inclusive.

“I think that this show is actually unique in that it attempts to cater to the wide cultural diversity on campus, and though it can be difficult to capture and represent every single culture and nation represented on campus, I think it’s inspiring in the sense that Parade of Nations at its very heart is meant to be an inclusive celebration on campus,” Rao told the Daily in an email. “We’ve worked to help more people get involved by getting the word out about our flag show and our community video that we will showcase during the event.”

Rao, who was born in Mumbai and has spent her upbringing in Shanghai, Baltimore and New Delhi, gravitated toward the international community during her first year. To Rao, the Parade of Nations is a “celebration of the home” she has found at Tufts. Although international identity is highly personal and fluid for many people, Rao says that International Club will continue to work to promote that sense of home she found.

“I think generally speaking, the word ‘international’ has a plurality of meanings, which can cause many misconceptions,” she told the Daily in an email. “For some, ‘international’ means holding an international passport, for others it means having family abroad and sometimes it means to simply have a global mindset. So, in that sense, I think I-Club is an umbrella organization that seeks to serve and celebrate the many different international identities.”

Sophomore Ansh Nemali also recognized the diverse experiences and cultures represented in individuals within the international community at Tufts. For Nemali, celebrating that diversity offers an opportunity to build strength in relationships with his peers.

“When we come together to celebrate, we demonstrate what it means to us to be a part of a culture, but we are also joining in and binding to that international community, which is something great,” he said. “For a lot of nations, there isn’t a lot of representation [in comparison to other demographics] on campus. I think that entire community can kind of be a safe, inclusive space to feel comfortable on campus.”