By Valerie Baldowski
Nations around the world, and the cultures they nourish, were celebrated Friday at Red Oak Elementary School in Stockbridge.
An All-Nations Parade capped off lessons teachers had previously presented to their students, who are studying the countries and cultures of the global community.
The annual event involved the entire student body. Those who were not marching, lined the hallways where the marchers trod, waving flags and cheering them on.
The parade began in the school gymnasium, and snaked its way down the halls and through the building. The school was cheerful and jubilant as the parade participants, from kindergarten through fifth grades, proudly displayed their flags. The ending point was near the administrative office, where some students gathered to play drums and bongos to add to the international atmosphere.
According to Lillie Butler, a fourth-grade teacher at the school and the parade coordinator, the event was held to celebrate diversity. Each flag represented the culture of someone at Red Oak Elementary, said Butler.
Some of the countries represented were: Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Iceland, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Egypt, Venezuela, Spain, Mexico, India, the Bahamas, and Peru.
The celebration was held as part of a county-wide, "No Place for Hate" campaign the school started in 2006, Butler said.
"We are a very diverse school," she said. "[It] lets the kids know that it doesn't matter where they're from, they're totally accepted at Red Oak Elementary."
What students learn from it, according to Butler, is a renewed sense of respect and tolerance for others. "You can be friendly to everyone and anyone," she added. "It doesn't matter what their race is. It doesn't matter where they're from."
Rhonda Ginigeme was one of the parents who participated in the event, along with her daughter, third-grader, Kambili Ginigeme. Both wore the native women's garb of Nigeria.
"I always help out with activities that are going on in school, especially cultural [activities,]" said Rhonda Ginigeme.
Ginigeme's husband, Charles, is from Nigeria, and Ginigeme and her daughter represented Ghana in the parade. Rhonda Ginigeme emphasized the need to be tolerant of others. "It's so important, because there are so many children here from different cultures," she said. "It's wonderful that we can come together, and they can see the different way they dress."
Third-grader, Tyler Britain, originally from Turkey, also marched in the parade. He said his favorite part of the event was seeing the different styles of flags presented and the differences in culture and dress. "It's good, because we can learn things about different people," he said.
Fifth-grader, A.J. Davis, marched, and represented the Bahamas. He said his class studied the Bahamas. Some of the facts he learned included information on the country's demographics and population, but the best part about the parade, he said, was seeing his classmates cheering him on.
"All my friends saw me," he said.