North American Bengali Conference
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The North American Bengali Conference (NABC) is an annual conference held in North America to celebrate Bengali culture. It is usually held around the weekend of, preceding, or following July 4. It was one of the first annual conferences for people of South Asian descent in North America. Since starting in 1980 in New York City under the sponsorship of the Cultural Association of Bengal, it has spread to several cities all over the United States and Canada. The conference has attracted participants numbering in the thousands each year. This has brought in an influx of advertisers and merchants who promote their products and services to attendees by giving support of the conference. At the Silver Anniversary event in 2005, the budget from contributions of commercial and private donors grew to US$1 million. During the event, people discuss issues affecting the Bengali and Bengali-American community including cultural identity and issues, the future of the community, addressing unique issues affecting the community, networking opportunities, social gatherings, class re-unions, movie showings, literary readings and cultural performances dealing with Bengali culture.
Created in 1980 by the Cultural Association of Bengal, the North American Bengali Conference began as a cultural event that brought together the growing Bengali diasporas of North America. The conference has grown from a gathering of local and regional Bengalis to include attendees, speakers, and performers from all over the world. The purpose of the conference is to create a resurgence in Bengal's role in the Indian sub-continent and establish a role in the North America. Its goal is to shift the paradigm of the conference from a focus on socialization and entertainment to more of an emphasis on the exchange of ideas to create a cohesive Bengali identity. The annual conference attempts to have Bengalis organize themselves in a single voice to put forth and execute the community's goals for current and future generations alike.
NABC Youth and Next Generation
NABC Youth is a sub organization of NABC that tries to bring together the youth participating in the conference to help promote a common identity and cultural awareness for the age group. It is unknown when exactly a formal youth organization was set up, but events geared toward the younger generation have been around since the beginning of NABC.
In 2005 at its 25th anniversary, the NABC decided to create the NABC Next Generation as an evolution of NABC Youth. The thought among the organizers was that the second generation of Bengalis had grown beyond the age to be considered "youth" anymore. Thus, they created the Next Generation program to reach out to the unique issues faced by 1.5 or second generation Bengalis born in North America.
Criticism of NABC
Despite its rather large gathering, many feel that there is a lack of understanding of Bengali heritage within the second generation of the community and beyond. First generation programming has been criticized to not reach out to the second generation to entice them to learn more.
This divide among the generation has been prevalent as both generations differ considerably with the definition of Bengali culture. Much of the second generation do not pursue traditional or modern Bengali performers but rather elect to follow the better marketed Bollywood movies and Punjabi bhangra dances.
On the contrary, today the first generation of Bengalis welcome foreigners of all nationalities because the second generation is blending with other cultures due to inter-racial marriages. In other words, the first generation appreciates foreigners for admiring the Bengali culture, from wearing the traditional clothing to learning the language.
To this day the Bengali community strives to reach out to the world to get the Bengali culture to be as common as other cultures.
Past and future NABC venues
- 1980: New York City, New York, U.S.A.
- 1981: New York City, New York, U.S.A.
- 1986: San Francisco/San Jose, Bay Area Auditorium at the School for the Deaf, Fremont, California
- 1987: New York
- 1988: Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.A., Atlantic City Convention Center
- 1991 Boston area, Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
- 1992: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- 1993: Los Angeles, California, U.S.A., Cal State Fullerton
- 1994: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A., Hyatt Regency O'Hare
- 1995: New York Metro Area, White Plains, New York, U.S.A.
- 1996: Houston, Texas, U.S.A., Adam's Mark Hotel
- 1997: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. area, King of Prussia
- 1998: Toronto- Regal Constellation
- 1999: San Francisco area, Santa Clara, California, U.S.A.
- 2000: Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.A., Atlantic City Convention Center/Kolkata, India, Gubilee
- 2001: Boston area, Lowell, MA
- 2002: Atlanta, Georgia World Congress Center
- 2003: Long Beach, CA, Long Beach Convention Center
- 2004: Baltimore, Baltimore Convention Center
- 2005: New York City, Madison Square Garden
- 2006: Houston, George R. Brown Convention Center
- 2007: Detroit, Cobo Conference/Exhibition Hall
- 2008: Toronto, Metro Toronto Convention Centre
- 2009: San Jose, McEnery Convention Center
- 2010: Atlantic City, Atlantic City Convention Center
- 2011: Baltimore, Baltimore Convention Center
- 2012: Las Vegas, Paris Las Vegas
- 2013: Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Metro Toronto Convention Centre
- 2014: Orlando, Florida, USA, The Peabody Orlando