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Coming Together

Coming Together: 2023 Multicultural Fair Celebrates Differences and Similarities

By Sarah E. Murphy

 Children and parents dancing together on a stage

Native American song and dance, Celtic fiddlers, and authentic French bread were just a few of the sights, sounds, and tastes of the 2023 Multicultural Fair, held at Mullen-Hall School on May 20. 

Now in its fourth year, the event is a collaborative effort between the Coalition for Children and Falmouth Public Schools, with participation from the four elementary schools - Mullen-Hall, East Falmouth, North Falmouth, and Teaticket. This is the second year Mullen-Hall has served as host, following a one-year hiatus due to Covid. For the first two years, the fair was held at St. Barnabas Church. 

The goal of the event is to showcase the diversity of the Falmouth community and its schools in an accessible and interactive way, by providing an immersive educational opportunity. To that end, the free event was open to Clipper families, with participation from volunteers representing 13 different countries through art, games, literature, food, and music.  

Presenters at each station provided a brief synopsis of their country, explaining the significance of items on display. Attendees also had the chance to learn about some of the culinary staples of each culture by sampling offerings courtesy of the Falmouth High School Culinary Art Program and local businesses including Slice of Italy Gourmet Italian Foods, Maison Villatte, Casa Vallarta, Stop & Shop, and Shaw’s. 

Students received a booklet to serve as a “passport,” and collected stickers at each “country” as they made their way “around the globe” in the packed cafeteria, decorated with flags, banners, and other colorful decorations. 

Cameron Greendeer, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, and his brother, David Greendeer of the Ho-Chunk and Narragansett Nations, both work for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, and their wives are members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. 

Cameron Greendeer explained the Mashpee Wampanoag are a matrimonial society and the Ho-Chunks are patriarchal, one of the differences in Indigenous Nations across the United States. He further elaborated that there are more than 570 tribes in the US, and most have different cultural practices and languages, while the similarities in tribes is their connection to land and water in each different region. 

They kicked off the festivities by singing and playing traditional songs on handmade drums, which Cameron Greendeer described as more than musical instruments but also sacred objects. They accompanied their children, who performed sacred dances representing the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. The performance culminated in a circle dance for which Mr. Greendeer picked individuals out of the crowd as the group joined hands in unity.

Other performances and interactive experiences included the Sonnay Fiddlers of Falmouth, Family Zumba with Lawrence School Guidance/Special Education Secretary Lillian Lomba, African drumming with Falmouth chiropractor, Dr. Lisa Esperson, and folk dancing with Mullen-Hall Music Teacher, Teresa Jazo. 

Students also had the chance to follow a Storywalk featuring “Finding My Dance,” the debut picture book by Ria Thundercloud, a professional Indigenous dancer, in addition to a “Book Tasting” staged by Mullen-Hall Media Specialist Elizabeth Do. 

Shea Brown-Kirlew came to the United States from Jamaica twenty years ago. The owner of Falmouth Beauty Supply, located on Teaticket Highway, she is also a Clipper parent. Dressed in the vibrant yellow of her native land, her eyes lit up as she greeted students and their families, discussing various items at her table, such as jewelry, personal care items, and the iconic music of Bob Marley and the Wailers, some of which she sells at her shop. She also displayed soft drinks, sauces, and snacks popular in Jamaican culture, and encouraged attendees to explore Falmouth’s Jamaican store, Hillside Caribbean Market, also located on Teaticket Highway, in addition to the International aisle of Stop & Shop and Shaw’s. 

Ms. Brown-Kirlew appreciated the chance to participate in what she believes to be an important event. 

“This brings people together to see what everyone’s background is like, and it’s wonderful to see everyone come out just to learn about each other,” she said with a smile. 

Coalition for Children Coordinator Bethany Gay, who has been with the organization for the past decade, agreed. 

“It’s so cool that everyone comes together, and we celebrate all these amazing countries and learn so much about everyone’s cultures and values, in a celebratory way,” she said. 

The Coalition for Children is a grant-funded education and support program spanning Falmouth and Mashpee, serving families with infants, toddlers, and school-age children, offering resources such as play groups, parenting classes, and community events. 

Ms. Gay is the facilitator of a family engagement grant, which covers Falmouth and Mashpee, for which Falmouth Public Schools is the lead agency. She underscored the collaborative nature of the fair. 

“We all work as a team to put on this event, and we all bring different strengths,” she said. 

“This is such a great opportunity for the kiddos to learn about everyone’s differences and similarities.” 

Mullen-Hall School Principal Rose Moran also stressed the significance of the event. 

“This has been an amazing partnership between the Coalition for Children and the four elementary schools. We’ve all worked together to try to provide this fantastic community event,” she said. 

“It’s so important for our families to be able to display their cultures and have the understanding that we are all in one place, we all live together in a beautiful community, and we can all get along and be kind.” 

Barbara Burgo offered her input as a cultural anthropologist and the co-founder of the Cape Cod Cape Verdean Museum and Cultural Center. located at Emerald House, next to East Falmouth Elementary School. This is the second time Ms. Burgo has participated in the fair, and she has observed firsthand the positive impact. 

“It’s just what Falmouth already knows -  it’s a sense of belonging, inclusion,” she said.  “None of us want to feel like we are outsiders anywhere, and this helps the children learn that we are really all one.”

*This text was updated on June 13, 2023 to reflect corrections submitted by Cameron Greendeer. Ms. Murphy respectfully apologizes for any errors and appreciates the corrections. 

Sarah E. Murphy