‘Culture Day’ Features Food, Fashion, and Friendship

Now in its second year, the Upper School festival has grown in size and popularity.

Juniors Ashlee Carpenter and Shirene Gehawi sample foods from the Asian Student Union booth, run by sophomores Mai Bolster and Louisa Sanchez, on Friends School’s second annual Culture Day.

On April 19th, the Friends quad was filled with an explosion of different cultures. Booths lined the perimeter, popular music played, students and teachers sampled new foods, and flags fluttered overhead. It was the second annual Culture Day. 

Juniors Kaya Garrison and Rebekah Muguleta, came up with the idea last year.

“I’ve always noticed that Friends has a very diverse group of both faculty and students, and I’ve seen other schools try something similar, so I decided to give it a shot and try it,” Kaya said at this year’s celebration.

Students set up booths around the Quad reflecting different areas of the world from which their families come, or cultures with which they identify. Here is a compilation of them all:

Juniors Noa Sachs-Kohen and Alexandra Isacson make Swedish flower garlands on the steps of Forbush Hall. (Sam Funk)

Africa table:

The booth closest to the Upper School building was titled “Africa,” with colors of red, yellow and green themes. Cofounder Kaya Garrison was behind the Africa table, wearing a two-piece dress from Accra, Ghana. Another student behind the booth was wearing an Ethiopian flag like a cape, and another wore a hat in the same colors. 

Asian Student Union table:

Scoping out the Asian Student Union booth, it becomes abundantly clear that the club excels in the food department. Sprawled across two tables lay many delicacies, ranging from Parathas to Nước chấm. 

“It’s been pretty crowded,” said Sam Wu, head of ASU and the Quills’ very own sports editor. “We’ve run out of forks multiple times already.”   

The booth was a huge success with students and teachers, who came to learn and sample new cuisines. 

Italian table:

The Italian table was chaotic, in a good way. A small wooden table had a large red, white, and green flag taped to the front of it. A small speaker played Italian-American songs from Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and more – along with the odd Italian folk song like Bella Ciao.

On the table sat a large flat bin full of various spaghetti and other pasta. It was constantly being refilled by students running to the faculty lounge to heat up pasta taken from a much larger bin. All in all, the Upper School consumed over five pounds of pasta!

Students brought different containers of pasta sauce – including some fantastic meat sauce made from Sam Principe’s father’s recipe. As pasta began running low, students at the Italian booth broke out cannoli shells and began filling them up for people to grab and enjoy. Soon the table was all out of its once seemingly infinite amount of pasta, and all its other baked goods.

Flags wave over the Friends quad on the school’s second annual Culture Day. (Sam Funk)

Black Student Union table:

The next booth was a table in the back corner of the quad towards the bushes; tucked in between the African and Italian tables. Surrounding the table, multiple members of the black community chatted amongst themselves and passersby. The energy of the table was similar to a social gathering. There was no one leader; rather there were several people pitching in to keep everything running smoothly.

Leaning on one of the table legs was a poster with different pictures of famous black artists and descriptions under the pictures. Scattered along the table were signs that read: “I BLACK MEN,” “I BLACK PEOPLE,” “I BLACK WOMEN,” and “BLACK CULTURE.” 

In the middle of the quad sat two loudspeakers, playing an array of music written or sung by black artists. From time to time someone around the table would yell: “You can skip this song” or “Put me on AUX” indicating that members were in some control of the music being played. 

Junior Jaden Green was helping to helm the table.

“We’re out here showing our culture,” he said. “We know how to have fun.”

Asked by a Quill reporter if black culture is represented at Friends School, Jaden replied:

“Kind of; not really. Yes, people might have [views based on] stereotypes. Some people think that all Jewish people steal or Black people are violent. We’re out here showing our culture to show how those stereotypes can be wrong.”

Attendees said they enjoyed Culture Day. Visiting the BSU table, freshman Barak Adeyemi, a first-time attendee, said he really liked it.

“I’ve thought culture day has been such a great day so far, and I’ve enjoyed getting to learn about the different cultures and try new foods,” he said.

Participants say that, compared to last year’s inaugural fair, this year’s was bigger and better. 

Junior Shirene Gehawi helped run a booth this year, but also said she enjoyed witnessing the fair. The fashion and music made the general atmosphere more fun, she said. There was a new table since last year – the Italian booth – and more people attended and helped with the setup of the day. 

“We were a lot more involved both with the fashion and bringing in traditional items,” she said. “I feel like a lot more people were open to experimenting with the cultures.”

Overall, student attendees proclaimed Culture Day a success and the continuation of a wonderful tradition.  Cofounder Kaya says she’s glad.

“I think culture is a big thing within a community and being able to express it with other cultures is very special to me,” she says.