LANSING, Ill. (October 22, 2023) – Nathan Hale Elementary School promoted diversity and inclusion at its first-ever Nigerian Independence Day celebration on October 17.
The two-hour celebration featured a DJ, a live performance, traditional African food, and games that helped students learn about Nigerian culture and arts and crafts.
It has been 63 years since Nigeria gained its independence from Great Britain. The country celebrates its independence every year on October 1.
Over 100 people attended the event to learn about and celebrate the school’s Nigerian community, organizers said.
Celebrating diversity in culture
“I really want [my daughter] to learn about different cultures and how they operate,” said LaTasha Spencer, parent to a third-grader at Nathan Hale Elementary School. “[We learned about] a different kind of dance technique that is normal to the African culture but not necessarily [normal] to the African American culture.”
School officials created the event to celebrate Nigerian Independence Day but also to ensure all cultures in the school and community are recognized and celebrated.
“We have a huge Nigerian population in our school district. We love to celebrate cultural diversity, so we want to make sure we celebrate all our students,” said Dr. Lori Owens-Stranc, Assistant Superintendent and Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Sunnybrook District 171. “We want [students] to know that we appreciate their culture and love having it in our school system.”
“Everything [was] donated by the community to us to [help] represent the Nigerian culture,” she continued.
The school’s cafeteria and hallways were decorated with green and white echoing the colors of the Nigerian flag. The green symbolizes the nation’s abundant natural wealth, and the white represents peace.
The Nigerian anthem was played to signal the start of the event, while a student held the Nigerian flag high.
The first hour of the event consisted of DJ Reefo playing Afrobeat songs, which originated in Nigeria and comprise multiple genres that are uniquely fused together.
Next, Ms. Nche Onyema, a guest speaker from the GEANCO foundation, discussed all the work the foundation does in Nigeria to support the community with medical care. GEANCO also provides education to young ladies through its Girls Scholarship and Leadership program.
The foundation hosted an arts and crafts station for students at the event to make greeting cards that will be taken as gifts to sick patients in Nigeria next month.
A live performance by traditional Nigerian dancers from the Igbo Catholic Group Dancers was the highlight of the event. The girls graced the stage in traditional Nigerian dance attire to perform native dance moves.
Some people joined the dancers on stage to shower them with bills, symbolizing a showering of affection, happiness, and good fortune in the Nigerian culture.
Students and their families were able to participate in hands-on activities in the second half of the event.
There were tables set up for people to play Mancala, a traditional Nigerian game. Another station allowed guests to make bracelets using the colors of the Nigerian Flag. Also, students created bookmarks to use in the books they read as they continue to learn about Nigerian culture.
Emmanuel Iheonu, a teacher at Nathan Hale, read Amandi’s Snowman – a story about a young Nigerian boy who learns what a snowman is through a storybook. Afterward, students made fake snow in honor of the book.
A photo booth with a backdrop of the continent of Africa was set up so families could take pictures to commemorate the evening.
“We are a culturally diverse school; we celebrate all cultures, and we want to make sure the community is aware of cultures within our district, said Dr. Owens-Stranc.
Nathan Hale Elementary School is located at 19055 Burnham Ave in Lansing.
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