AUBURN — The community is invited to the first Culture Night at Edward Little High School on Wednesday, when students from different cultures will share who they are, why their parents came to the U.S., their dances, fashions and foods.

It will be held from 6 to 8 p.m.

Hosts are members of the high school’s Muslim Student Association. Student President Yasmin Farah is among those organizing the event. The night is not about the Muslim religion, Islam, or any other religion.

“It’s all culture,” said student Abdirahman Salah, who’s looking forward to being one of the fashion show models. He’ll wear his special occasion, all-white outfit.

The event is to raise awareness of some 24 cultures represented at the school. About 15 percent of students come families from foreign countries, including China, Russia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and India. Many also come from families from African countries.

Many people don’t realize there are so many cultures at Edward Little, students said.

The fashion show will feature styles from Japan, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Congo, Iraq, Togo, South Africa, Central Africa, China, Sudan and Russia. Muslim girls will wear hijabs and colorful skirts.

There are misconceptions about the head coverings, Farah said. Some people think it’s terrible that Muslim females have to cover up, but many girls and women are proud to wear hijabs, which show devotion to Islam and supports tradition that females are to be modest.

Hebo Ennaw said she wears hijabs, “because I want to. I feel better being modest.”

Another misconception is that Muslim students can’t do anything because their parents won’t let them, students said. Some families are stricter than others, but girls play sports and students hang out with friends.

“We have freedom like everyone else. We’re allowed to go to movies,” Muse Farah said.

Another topic explained will be Ramadan, a 30-day period when Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset. It begins June 18.

Fasting is done to promote empathy of others in the world who go without food. People eat after sunset, students said. And they play sports.

“I play basketball,” Samatar Iman said. Going without food or water during daylight “it’s not impossible,” he said. “Some kids exaggerate it.”

Today’s students from Africa are different than those teacher Erin Towns began working with 15 years ago.

In 2000, “a lot of my students were escaping war,” she said. Today’s student experience is completely different, she said. “Now my students were born in Georgia, Minneapolis. Their siblings were born right here.”

Farah’s parents were born in Somalia; she in Kenya. Her parents moved the family to Georgia when she was little for a better life. They came to Maine in 2001. She grew up speaking English.

“I was taught Somali,” she said.

Her father got a master’s degree and is a nurse. “I want to follow in his footsteps,” she said.

Iman’s parents escaped war in Somalia and fled to Ethiopia. They moved to Georgia and came to Lewiston when he was 4.

Most of the tension that existed in schools 10 years ago is gone, Towns said. Today’s minority students have great communication skills and single-handedly pulled together Culture Night.

“They found all these student cultures within the school system,” Towns said. “Yasmin’s done a tremendous amount of work creating posters, putting together different (fashions). They’ve even tracked down kids asking them to bring in different food,” Towns said.

The night will be an opportunity for the public to “see what they’re all about,” Towns said. “It’s free.”

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.