Culture Day Arrives

MBHS’s Long-Standing Peace & Diversity Day Celebration Evolves


Ms. Thomson

Members of the Student Cultural Committee prepare for Culture Day.

Marley Chazin and Rose Porter

At 11am on a recent Thursday in Ms. Preissel’s advisory, Freshmen students are researching the Caribbean origins of macaroni pie, designing posters with mouth-watering pictures of pozole, the traditional Mexican soup, and planning recipes for latkes, the star of any Hannukah table. The students are deep in planning mode for Millennium Brooklyn’s inaugural Culture Day, an updated take on the Peace & Diversity celebrations the school has held since its founding in 2011.

Peace and Diversity Day has historically been a day where, in lieu of classes, students attended workshops, presentations, and seminars to educate them on the identities, history, and experiences of various cultures. The day was also intended to create awareness and affirmation of the many identities within the MBHS community and celebrate the school’s diversity. But the event’s broad mandate and vague name meant its mission was unclear to much of the student population. Since seminars were typically organized by teachers and staff (though some had been planned by MBHS affinity groups), student buy-in for the event was far from universal. This year’s Culture Day will fall on Friday April 28th with a schedule of student-driven events, including a culinary gallery walk and a fashion show.

Why the name change?

Past iterations of Peace & Diversity Day seemed to suffer from a lack of coherence. In previous years, students have enjoyed performances by the disability inclusive Heidi Latsky Dance company and African drummer Sediki Conde, or sat in on sessions with student representatives from the Harvey Milk School. But students could not really explain what the point of the day was or how it connected to the MBHS student body. In an effort to rebrand the event with a clear identity, Community Director Ms. Beato-Davis and Assistant Principal Mr. Otto, the faculty planners, decided to rename the day as Culture Day. Additionally, they created a Student Cultural Committee and recruited MBHS affinity groups to help organize the event to create an inclusive, educational, and engaging day that all students would benefit from. “The name change was something that was necessary because in the school community, Peace and Diversity Day was…a day that wasn’t really taken seriously,” says Samiya Rubaiya, an MBHS sophomore and student leader from the Cultural Committee. Likewise, the programming focus has shifted to include more interactive activities as opposed to lectures.


What can you expect from Culture Day this year?

The planners have been working with student volunteers and outside organizations to create presentations including a workshops by led by the South Asian dance education non-profit Anja Dance, a martial arts demo and a performance by African Tap Dance. The Black Student Union, Millennium Latinx Union, Pan-Asian Students Organization and Jewish Student Union will be hosting workshops. Beato-Davis and the student planners hope to make the new and improved Culture Day more interesting and appealing to students. This year will be, according to Beato-Davis, “More hands on and focused on culture [in order] to be more interesting and more specific to what we’re trying to get out of the day.” Rubaiya says that the school will be retaining some of the original structure of Peace & Diversity Day by bringing in individuals and non-profits from outside of school to teach about the cultural diversity of the school community. Arts Horizon, for instance, has partnered with MBHS in years past to bring music and dance performers to the school; they are collaborating with the school again to showcase the African Tap Dance troupe.

For the first time ever, students will walk in a ‘We are the World’ fashion show. Representatives from each advisory will either show off traditional clothing from their culture, rep their culture’s flag or wear garments that represent their identity and background. Freshman Jacky Lu will be representing his Chinese heritage by wearing red, considered a lucky color.  Lu says, “By walking in the show, I can express my culture and heritage and show how China is represented at MBHS. It means a lot to me since China is a country that values teamwork and unity and Culture Day can show us that at MBHS we are all united.” 

In addition to the fashion show, students will participate in a culinary gallery walk where each grade will sample delicacies made by students and faculty representing their background. Each advisory will contribute two to four dishes and each booth, operated by student representatives, will provide background on the dish’s origins and feature a student-made poster or flag representing the country or culture the dish is from.