Hammond Elementary gets ready to celebrate multiculturalism


Dressed in a long, flowing authentic Nigerian robe and multicolored head dress, David Larner, assistant principal at Hammond Elementary, might have raised a few eyebrows last school year when he walked the halls on any other school day.

But during the school's annual multicultural event, Larner, who is of Irish and Russian descent, fit right in as he wore his ethnic garb.

Hammond Elementary will resemble a United Nations gathering at 7 p.m. Wednesday when pupils from 23 countries participate in "A Taste of Culture." Booths and food will be set up in the cafeteria, while performances will take place in the gymnasium of Hammond Middle School, which is connected to the elementary school.

"It's advantageous," Larner said of the program. "It gives students a chance to shine. It gives them the opportunity to show things that they wouldn't be able to in a school setting."

Sixty pupils will perform, usher or work at 15 booths. More than 275 people have signed up to attend, said Iby Ikotidem, committee chairwoman for the event.

"In a time like this, where there is so much going on around the world, we are celebrating diversity," she said. "If we take time to teach our children [about other cultures] ... what a good thing."

The evening will start with a parade of nations where pupils dressed in their traditional ethnic garb will march behind their country's flag.

"It's going to be very colorful," said Ikotidem, who is Nigerian. "There will be traditional native costumes, different kinds of music and the smells of a lot of food. The food is going to cut across all borders."

Larner, who participated in the event's fashion show last year, enjoyed the experience.

"It was very colorful," he said. "They were short on men, and I was happy to be a part of it."

Larner said he planned to return to the catwalk this year - although he acknowledged that he didn't know what he was going to wear.

"Whatever they need me to do I will do," he said.

The night also will include the playing of several national anthems, including a teacher singing the anthem of the United States; the Nigerian anthem played on a violin and cello; and a pupil choir singing the Indian anthem.

Other performances will include a group performing a traditional Korean drum routine; and an African dance drama representing the graduation of a young bride from the fattening room.

"Thinness is not an in thing in Africa," Ikotidem said.

The school has been gearing up for the event for a few weeks. Trivia questions pertaining to cultural diversity have been read during the morning announcements, Larner said.

And from pupils painting backdrops to teachers working with pupils to perfect presentations and projects, the whole school is getting involved, he said.

"We have been meeting every Tuesday and Thursday for the past three weeks," Ikotidem said. "We've been practicing in the gym - dancing and singing.

"The sharing of what is not theirs gives them [the children] the ability to appreciate another culture and make them more secure and comfortable in their own. Nobody is left out."


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