By Carol McCracken
Culture Days got off to an enthusiastic beginning this morning when singers and dancers from Africa and Southeast Asia dressed up in their finest and danced their hearts out before an appreciative audience at Portland High School. The day marked the start of the 12th annual International Show put on by members of the International Club.
“Some of us are in this country because of war in our countries,” said the Portland High student announcer. “We come from unstable countries. We are lucky to live in a country where Obama was elected president. We are united by hope,” she added.
The chorus opened the performance with three songs. Next there was a fashion show by co-eds dressed in gorgeous native gowns. Then the dancers took over the stage with grace and dignity and smiles from ear to ear. There were groups from Etheopia, Sudan, Somali, Rowanda, the Congo and many more. Each performing a native dance with skill and poise beyond their years. One of the many highlights of the morning was the young rapper from the Sudan. His lyrics were: “I was raised without a mommy or daddy – life is tough, but I gotta keep at it. Do the right thing. Keep my mind on school. That’s how it is. That’s how it’s gonna be!”
“Because Portland High School is the most diverse high school in Maine, it’s only right to show the beauty in our culture here, ” said Suad Hassan, 18, and a senior. She sat beside MHN during the hour long performance. Next fall Suad plans to attend college in Massachusetts where she’ll study political science. Steve Norbet, a social studies teacher, said he loves teaching at Portland High. He attended Portland High himself. For a brief time, after his marriage, he lived on the Hill. It was his dream to come back and teach here after college.
Culture Day participants were scheduled to put on another show this afternoon and two tomorrow until many of the younger grades in the Portland area had an opportunity to enjoy the performance. There are currently 27 different languages spoken at Portland High.
Portland High School was originally established in 1821 on Exchange Street in the Old Port. In 1863 it was moved to its present location on Cumberland Avenue. It was the third public high school in the country to be established and remains the second oldest continuing high school in existence – second to Boston Latin in Boston.