For a couple of hours Saturday, April 8, St. Francis High School hosted a festival of cultures so the community could sample foods and learn traditions of people from all over the world.
The fourth annual St. Francis Multicultural Festival showcased Hmong, Muslim, African, Native American and Scandinavian culture.
“We honor our diversity and want everyone to feel welcome in our district,” said Carline Sargent, the multicultural diversity liaison for the St. Francis School District.
Approximately 87 percent of students in the St. Francis School District are white, 4 percent reported being two or more races, Asian and Hispanic students each are 3 percent of the student population and African American and Native American students are each at around 1 percent, according to Sargent.
“The more people learn about different cultures, it breaks down barriers,” Sargent said.
A group of Hmong students from St. Francis stayed up for many hours to prepare steam rolls and Nab Vam for guests to snack on. The Vang family created a board to show facts such as that Minnesota has the second highest Hmong population in the United States, only behind California. They also talked about how the Hmong helped the United States during the Vietnam War and that the staple foods are white rice, chicken, beef, pork and steamed vegetables, for example.
Bob Olson brought homemade maple syrup as one of the highlights of Scandinavian culture.
The performances included 10th grader Keinkuw Vue and his 8th grade cousin Maika Vue singing a Hmong song called “Siab Nyob Ua Ke.”
Sam Odumakin, 12th grade; Glenn Gbakoyah, 11th grade; Christbell Odumakin, 8th grade; and Amen Odumakin, 6th grade, improvised their own rhythms on a type of African drum called a Djembe.
Ranad Ghalban, a Blaine High School student, and Eden Prairie residents Nausheen Malik and Sabiha Khandwalla spoke about their Muslim culture and what it is like for them to live in the United States.
Not all Muslims around the world live under the same set of rules. Malik grew up in Pakistan and was able to drive when she was 16 years old. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.
“It’s important to understand the difference between Islamic culture and Islamic beliefs,” she said. “Different countries portray the religion in different ways. This is where the confusion comes. The Islamic beliefs are steady all across the board, but culture plays a big role in how we perceive it.”
Malik praised the United States Constitution for giving Muslims the right to openly practice their religion and wear hijabs, which she said is a personal choice and not a requirement.
“The First Amendment gives each of us the right to free speech and follow our religion and wear our religious symbols freely,” she said.