Lans­dale Bangla School cel­e­brates In­ter­na­tional Mother Lan­guage Day

North Penn Life - - Front Page - By Michael Alan Gold­berg mgold­berg@jour­nalregis­

Through h songs, s sto­ries, st smiles sm and solemn ob­ser­vao­tions, nearly near 100 mem­bers of o the area’s Ben­gali Beng com­mu­nity gath­ered g at the Lans­dale Lan Bangla School — es­tab­lished in 2011 in­side the Zion Pres­by­te­rian Church on North Line Street — Sun­day evening to mark In­ter­na­tional Mother Lan­guage Day.

A world­wide cel­e­bra­tion of mul­ti­lin­gual­ism and re­spect for cul­tural di­ver­sity, In­ter­na­tional Mother Lan­guage Day, which ac­tu­ally falls on Feb. 21, was for­mally es­tab­lished by the United Na­tions in 2003 to honor the dozens of Ben­galis who were killed by Pak­istani forces in 1952 as they were demon­strat­ing for the right to speak the Ben­gali (or Bangla) lan­guage in the re­gion now known as Bangladesh.

“This is the day where we can ob­serve that ev­ery eth­nic group has the right to speak their own mother lan­guage, at least at home to ex­press their feel­ings and com­mu­ni­cate more closely, but at the same time honor the sin­gle com­mon lan­guage, which in this coun­try is English,” ex­plained Partha Deb­nath, founder of the Friends of Bangla School, who opened the Lans­dale Bangla School to teach K to 12 chil­dren Ben­gali lan­guage, his­tory and cul­ture.

“We want our chil­dren to as­pire to be good ci­ti­zens, so in or­der to help them un­der­stand di­ver­sity and tol­er­ance for all eth­nic­i­ties, we help them learn their own mother lan­guage, be­cause un­less you know your own tra­di­tions and her­itage, you will not be able to re­spect oth­ers,” he said. “And this coun­try be­ing the most beau­ti­ful coun­try in the world, we can have the melt­ing pot here. It’s unity in di­ver­sity — we’re all united un­der the same Pledge of Al­le­giance, but we all have our own char­ac­ter­is­tics that con­trib­ute to the fab­ric.”

Sun­day’s cel­e­bra­tion be­gan with the play­ing of the na­tional an­thems of Bangladesh, In­dia, the United States and South Korea — when Ben­gal was par­ti­tioned for the sec­ond time in 1947 (along re­li­gious lines, Mus­lim and Hindu), West Ben­gal be­came part of In­dia and East Ben­gal, later Bangladesh, be­came part of Pak­istan. (The Korean an­them was played be­cause Zion Pres­by­te­rian is a Korean Mis­sion church.)

“Here, we are try­ing to stay above re­gional bound­aries, coun­tries and re­li­gions — it’s all about the lan­guage,” said Deb­nath. “Some are from Bangladesh, I am from West Ben­gali in In­dia, but we are all Ben­gali by heart.”

Then, all of the men, women, boys and girls — most dressed in tra­di­tional saris and dKoWLs — lLnHd uS Ln sLnJlH filH and one by one placed a sin­gle floZHU DWoS D UHSlLFD oI WKH me­mo­rial mon­u­ment in Dhaka (the cap­i­tal of Bangladesh) that pays trib­ute to those killed in 1952. They’re con­sid­ered mar­tyrs in the Ben­gali lan­guage move­ment, a pre­cur­sor to the na­tion­al­ist move­ment that led to the for­ma­tion of the in­de­pen­dent Bangladesh in 1971.

Lans­dale Coun­cil­man Jack Hansen, one of the evening’s guests, also took part in the somber ob­ser­vance by plac­ing KLs oZn floZHU on WoS oI WKH pile.

“It’s very im­por­tant for their lan­guage and cul­ture to con­tinue, be­cause they may live in Lans­dale now but they can­not for­get where they came from,” he said. “This school is so im­por­tant both for the Bangla com­mu­nity and the rest of Lans­dale be­cause in other parts of the world, peo­ple don’t un­der­stand one an­other and so they’re killing each other. Here, we want to bring all the com­mu­ni­ties to­gether to make our com­mu­nity even stronger.”

A fivH-PLnuWH vLdHo Hx­plain­ing the back­ground of In­ter­na­tional Mother Lan­guage Day was shown, and then a small group of stu­dents from the school pre­sented more his­tory about the oc­ca­sion in both Ben­gali and English. Then, about two dozen stu­dents — ac­com­pa­nied by adults play­ing Bangla per­cus­sion in­stru­ments — sang tra­di­tional songs. And, of course, there was plenty of de­li­cious Bangladeshi and In­dian food to go around.

Deb­nath said that the Lans­dale Bangla School, which started out two years ago with 12 stu­dents, has swelled to more than 60 stu­dents. They meet in­side the church ev­ery Sun­day for classes in Ben­gali lan­guage and cul­ture as well as Amer­i­can cit­i­zen­ship. He hopes it can be a model for other groups in the area.

“We wanted to use In­ter­na­tional Mother Lan­guage Day as a sym­bolic day to come to­gether, to spread the mes­sage and have other eth­nic­i­ties do some­thing like this,” he said. “This is the be­gin­ning of a long jour­ney, and of course there are al­ways chal­lenges in bring­ing peo­ple to­gether. But be­ing Amer­i­can means we’re a col­lec­tive of all the good­ness of many dif­fer­ent peo­ple and cul­tures. If we are able to un­der­stand that, then many of our prob­lems will go away.”

At top, mem­bers of the area Ben­gali com­mu­nity cel­e­brate In­ter­na­tional Mother Lan­guage Day Sun­day. Above, stu­dents from the Lans­dale Bangla School wait for the cel­e­bra­tion to be­gin.

Left, Lans­dale Coun­cil­man Jack Hansen, right, cel­e­brates In­ter­na­tional Mother Lan­guage Day with the Ben­gali com­mu­nity Sun­day.

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