Clark-Moores Middle School Cultural Night
Countries from around the world filled the gym at Clark-Moores Middle School on the evening of March 5 for the school’s Cultural Night. Faculty, students and their families from CMMS, along with some students from Berea College, arrived early to set up booths that represented their home countries. Japan, Korea, Kenya, Iraq and Ireland were among the 15 countries represented.
The night began with Mexican and Chinese food served in the school’s cafeteria. Outside was a table full of desserts, like rice pudding from India, a form of donuts called Mandazi from Kenya, sushi from Japan, banana bread from Guatemala, scones from England, trifle from Finland and Costa Rican smoothies.
At any time during the event, family members could sign up for items in the Silent Auction. PeaceCraft, a shop selling Fair Trade merchandise from around the developing world, provided many of the items in the Silent Auction. Participants wrote their names and how much they would be willing to pay for an item they liked on the auction sheet. Whoever would be willing to pay the most for an item could buy it at the end of the night. All proceeds from the Silent Auction and the dessert table went to the Prince of Peace Home for Girls in San Cristobal, Guatemala.
After dinner, CMMS students and family members performed dances in front of the cafeteria, beginning with a choreographed routine to the song “Waka Waka (Time for Africa).” Contra dancers followed this show, clapping and spinning to traditional Appalachian music. Young cloggers between the ages of two and seven then danced to the popular song “Gangnam Style.” Older and more experienced cloggers continued the show, dancing to the song “Party Rock Anthem.”
Between 6:30 and 7p.m., a bellydancing group called “Jewels of the Nile,” gave lessons in the cafeteria. Heather Green, one of the group members, explained that “Bellydance comes from Middle Eastern Dance and it’s a tradition that’s thousands of years old. It’s a way for females of the society to get together, let their hair down and just relax and have a good time with each other.” The group then offered lessons for tribal style bellydancing. “Tribal bellydance is a lot more technical. You’re actually focusing on the moves, and in other forms of bellydance you focus on the moves too, but with tribal it’s a lot less actual aerobic movement and it’s more stationary, isolating one part of your body and doing something with that,” said Jasmine Rutherford, another member of the group and a 4th-grade teacher.
Between dances, students were encouraged to explore the 15 booths in the gym that represented different countries. Students got their “Passport” packets signed by country representatives once they felt the student had learned enough about their country to earn the signature. If a student had a signature from every booth they were entered for a chance to win a prize. “The kids were very interested,” said Solomon Tesfamichael, a Berea College sophomore who was in charge of the booth that represented Eritrea, a country from East Africa. “I showed them the animals and culture, and I asked them about geographical locations like ‘Where is Africa?’ The atmosphere of that event was excellent.”
Some students were not excited to visit every country, as Mohammad Jaber, another Berea College sophomore, discovered. He was in charge of the booth that represented Iraq, and many students who approached him only knew about the war. He used this opportunity to teach about Iraq’s culture and history, but one talk with an eight-year-old girl stood out among the others. “I asked her, ‘Do you want to know anything about Iraq today?’ She said, ‘No, I know everything about Iraq.’ In the beginning she kind of refused to listen,” Jaber said. “Her brother worked in the military and told her all the bad stuff about the war and the death.” Jaber asked for two minutes of her time so he could show her more about Iraq. The two minutes turned into five or six. “I’m happy that she wanted to listen and she did, because I was able to change her mind.” At the end, this little girl got her Passport signed by Jaber and, like many other students, walked away with a fuller understanding of another country.
The Cultural Night ended with a bang, literally, as students lined up for their turn to hit a Piñata. Afterwards, the students gathered their candy, crafts, and any items bought in the Silent Auction and headed home with a new appreciation for other cultures.