Submitted by Nicole Burke
The “Congo in Context” Cultural Dinner was a unique opportunity that brought the whole community together. Among the guests were refugee families, dedicated volunteers, board members, and newcomers—all of The Welcome to America Project’s family. As everyone mingled and explored the native handicrafts and linens on their tables, it grew apparent that this would be a special night. It would be characterized by Congolese tradition, music, and history.
The evening began with an exotic meal. Mouth-watering, traditional dishes such as spiced goat, curried rice, and bananas were served. Next, a Phoenix-based Congolese choir regaled us with stories of their heritage through song. The younger singers were friendly and all smiles. Colorful, flower-patterned wraps and beaded bangles decorated the girls as they kept in perfect harmony for every song. The crowd was mesmerized by their gift of singing and dancing.
In addition to being entertained, the guests were also educated on the current state of affairs in the Congo. A university professor highlighted the past, present, and future of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, noting the resilient spirit of the Congolese peoples and their struggle for peace in their war-stricken country. It was a somewhat bittersweet moment for me that night, because despite the celebration and happiness of the peoples’ extraordinary culture, I knew there were still many issues to solve in the country overseas before there is truly peace.
In the end, I really enjoyed all the elements of the evening, because it felt like a well-rounded look at the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s people, tradition, music, and history. I would not have wanted to spend my Sunday night anywhere else!
Photography by Nicole Burke