Culture Day at GSAL was a cultural reset

Weza – Year 13 Student & Student Editor, The Scribe

There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”

Margaret J. Wheatley

This year at GSAL, we held a jam-packed Prefects Week as this year’s theme was celebrating culture, diversity and difference at GSAL. Many events took place including Miles for Refugees, Staff versus Students football match, Staff Dress Up Challenge and many other events. One event in particular was new to GSAL, an event created by the Culture Day Organising Committee (shout out to Iliham, Elpida, Lihem, Johanna, Abraham, Hanan, Hannah, Clyde and myself included). We all had one idea: Culture Day. A day to celebrate our identities and cultures. On this day, we wanted an event that would highlight this in a fun and exciting way. We wanted a fashion show. A show that highlighted and embraced student’s origins, embraced their traditional clothing and songs, and celebrated their culture! This event was not like any other as this was the FIRST student-led Culture Day fashion show here at GSAL and here is what happened…

Our Culture Day started off with a bang in the morning, as many students across the school were wearing their traditional clothing. The Year 12s and Year 13s were overjoyed with many already dressed up and ready to go on stage even though the event only started at 2:30pm! As well as this, in the morning music was playing (curated by the Cultural Organising Committee). Throughout the morning until lunch, all was well until the time arrived – the main event of Prefects Week. We told students who were performing and our fashion models to come down and get ready for the show at 1:20pm. Our models were thrilled, joy on their faces as they were getting ready for the biggest event at GSAL. Whilst this was happening, the Culture Day Organising Committee were frantically doing last minute errands which wasn’t visible to the public, but all of us were frightened that the show wasn’t going to be good – although we were all proven wrong.

I had the honour to start the Fashion Show and it was electric. All who participated were representing their own countries and took us around the world from: Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Spain, Bangladesh, Catalonia, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Tigray, Slovakia, Ghana, Italy, Pakistan, Iraq, India, Nigeria, Jamaica, Nepal, Thailand, South Korea, Poland, Ukraine, Greece, Syria, Palestine, Turkey, South Africa, Zimbabwe and China. That’s 32 countries! Many of our fashion models either strut a pose, danced to their own song and/or walked elegantly on the runway like no other. To all the beautiful fashion models, you guys were out of this world! The crowd were ecstatic as many joined to celebrate this wonderful day including the Year 6s who thoroughly enjoyed themselves. We had various performances of note: from the great Oliver Watson who sang Imagine by John Lennon, an incredible Armenian dance from Sofia Garapetian, an amazing dance performance including Hannah Yeboah and me, and to finish off the show a spectacular medley from Fredlin and his merry band of heroes. To finish the event, all of us (the fashion models, the performers and the Cultural Organising Committee) were on stage waving flags and singing Wavin’ Flag by K’naan. It was a brilliant way to end our unforgettable show filled with celebration and delight.

The reception that we, the Culture Day Organising Committee, received was immense. Many people were amazed by the show itself, and some described it to be the, “best event that has happened at GSAL!” Other statements included:

“Thank you for organising such a wonderful cultural fashion show. All your hard work really paid off and I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in it.” – Niharikia Year 13

 “Well done for creating an amazing platform for us all to celebrate our culture.” – Mrs Akhtar

Probably the best event I’ve seen at GSAL, and I’ve been a part of the school in one way or another since the 80s!” – Mrs Oman

 “Serious ratings for what you are doing.” – Anonymous

“Best event since I’ve come here.” – Anonymous

“In the 7 years that I’ve been at GSAL, this was the first time that I felt like I wasn’t the minority” – Anonymous

Words like “Heart-warming”, “Memorable”, “Enjoyable” were mentioned.

Others that did not catch the event wanted to desperately see pictures or videos of the Fashion Show. News of another potential culture day next year are already in the making, although it has set the bar high for the upcoming Year 13s. I also want to especially thank the Year 13s who showed us kindness of gifting the Culture Day Organising Committee presents: we thank you.

Why was Culture Day a cultural reset at GSAL?

I think that I can speak for many, that this was the first time that all of us collectively felt as though we were part of a community, a real community. The Fashion Show highlighted how culturally diverse our school truly is and demonstrated that when we all come together, that’s where the true magic lies. The Culture Day Organising Committee’s idea was to produce something that would leave our legacy at GSAL. It was an honour creating something that became solely beyond us enabling many to be proud of their own country, culture and embrace their identity. This was the response that we wanted. The response that all of us yearned for for a long time. I know many students in my year have longed for this moment to come together, to feel like a community despite our differences. We are a community filled with different cultures. This day was a celebration of all of this, an infusion of passion, tradition and enjoyment.This day marked the first event of this kind – and hopefully there are many more to come – to celebrate this diverse and extraordinary family. Culture Day was a cultural reset making people embrace everyone for who they are and where they truly come from!

What was an idea to begin with, to celebrate diversity and culture at GSAL, has become reality so real that all of us are embracing and celebrating everybody’s culture. The days after the event were incredible as during lunchtimes, the Sixth Form centre was filled with music. The Culture Day Organising Committee brought good vibes only, by dancing and getting every Sixth former to dance with us! It was amazing seeing all of us together. For me, Culture Day was absolutely fantastic. I wanted to write this solely to dedicate the wonderful memories of the Culture Day and Fashion Show. This story, our story needed to be told. The Culture Day and Fashion Show reminded me of how much all of us are able to represent ourselves in the best way possible. It also demonstrated to me that we, all of us, are the change. This day couldn’t have been possible without our fashion models, performers, tech production and our teachers who made this happen. On behalf of the Culture Day Organising Committee, I’d like to thank you all because without you, none of this would have been possible. To the Culture Day Organising Committee, I am so proud of you all, we were able to put forward our dream and it came to fruition. This day brought about change in ways that has energised and inspired others.  All of us were able to bring about this change, the change in the way we view what it truly means to be a community. Weza

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