LEWISTON — When Mohamed “Doe” Mohamud broke into song in the Lewiston High School cafeteria Wednesday, a crowd rushed toward him.

Students circled him and joined in on the chorus. The energy was electric.

His was one of several performances during the school’s first International Day, when lunchtime turned into a celebration of cultures.

Everywhere in the cafeteria, students learning to speak English — one in every four — wore outfits representing their cultures.

Adela Kalilwa and Mwange Mulonda of the Congo wore bright-colored dresses with matching shoes and scarves.

White kids also showed off their culture. Music included “Born in the U.S.A.” and “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” Wearing a red top, Hailey Martlock sang Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke.”


Students shared ethnic food of the Middle East, Europe and Africa, including sambosa, a dish from Somalia.

One of the organizers was English Language Learner teacher Patty MacKinnon. The festival received incredible support from local businesses and restaurants that donated food, she said.

“And it has been truly heartwarming to hear the gratitude from our immigrant community for our holding this event,” she said.

Other teachers and students helped organize the event, including students Chirine Omar, Hana Mougin and Abdi Shakur.

“Today’s a great day,” said Omar, wearing a traditional outfit from Djibouti, consisting of a colorful flowing skirt and top. “We’re enjoying people eating different food,” she said as she passed out rice.

A native of Yemen, her native language is Arabic. She’s lived in Lewiston five years.


“I arrived not knowing English,” she said. “I had a hard time, but it goes fine.”

Hana Mougin was born in Djibouti, then lived in India before moving with her family to Baltimore. She later moved to Lewiston.

Mougin volunteered for the festival “because it’s really important,” she said.

Many consider Africa a nation instead of a continent and don’t understand it has many different languages and customs, she added.

Abdi Shakur said the outfit he wore Wednesday is typically reserved for special occasions, such as the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, a month of daylight fasting.

The outfit was made of a soft gold cloth with embroidered edges; the top hung past his knees, and his pants were the same soft gold color.


“I wear this to represent my country,” he said.

Shakur was born in Ethiopia after his parents fled war-torn Somalia. He arrived in Lewiston in the ninth grade in 2014, knowing little English. He hopes to become a doctor.

Shakur said he was happy to volunteer for Wednesday’s festival.

“I’m proud of it,” he said, adding that he hopes next year it will be celebrated all day instead of the four lunch periods.

It’s important to show through culture how Lewiston students are diverse, “but how we work together,” Shakur said.

In the back of the cafeteria, students performed Rwandan drumming rhythms often performed at weddings. Others danced fast-paced hip-hop.


Dancers included Mac Loris Mugisha, Djamal Maldoum and Marcelin Lontange.

“This is different, unique,” said Donovan Adams. “It brings life to our school.” Looking at the energetic dancers, Adams said, “I think they’re great.”

The master of ceremonies was Mohamed Mohamud.

“Everyone calls me Doe,” he said. “I was born in Kenya, but I’m 100 percent Somali.”

He arrived in Lewiston in 2002 as a toddler and speaks English with the ease of a native Mainer.

Mohamud was pleased with how all students, black and white, seemed to enjoy the festival.


“Today’s a good day,” he said. “We have a lot of diversity in the school, but many take classes in the basement and aren’t exposed” to everyone in the school. “This is a great day for everyone to see all the types of students we have.”

World Refugee Day 

The inaugural Lewiston-Auburn World Refugee Day Celebration will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, June 3, at Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston.

The celebration will include food, performances, games, music and other festivities.

Those interested in volunteering or learning more about the celebration can visit the website, www.lewistonauburn-worldrefugeeday.org.


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