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An African experience comes together in song, dance and word

All things Africa came to one place with The Banin Experience, a house concert for Grand Rapids Public Schools teachers and staff recently held at GRPS University, 1400 Fuller Ave. NE. The evening was presented by Motherland Cultural Connections of Grand Rapids, which aims to “bridge the cultural divide between Africans and the rest of the world.”

The event gave two dozen guests a literal taste of Africa with a three-course meal, as well as poetry, a presentation on an African country and dancing to African music. It also provided GRPS staff a better and more nuanced understanding of where their students come from, why they behave the way they do, and how to better connect and relate with them. Banin is a Lamnso word spoken in Cameroon, West Africa, which means “come together.”

Looking over a language chart are, from left, Julian Ramirez, assistant principal at Southwest Community Campus; Mulonge Kalumbula, supervisor of Social Studies and World Language Curriculum; Van Do, an English-language learner teacher; and Kay Smith, district ELL coordinator
Looking over a language chart are, from left, Julian Ramirez, assistant principal at Southwest Community Campus; Mulonge Kalumbula, supervisor of Social Studies and World Language Curriculum; Van Do, an English-language learner teacher; and Kay Smith, district ELL coordinator
Getting down with the Afro-beat are, from left, Kay Smith, Marissa Ruehl and Pamela Hamilton-Hull
Getting down with the Afro-beat are, from left, Kay Smith, Marissa Ruehl and Pamela Hamilton-Hull
Event participants included, from left, Pamela Hamilton-Hull, counselor at Burton School; Micky Savage, district director of HR and Labor Relations; and Maggie Malone, district director of Fine Arts
Event participants included, from left, Pamela Hamilton-Hull, counselor at Burton School; Micky Savage, district director of HR and Labor Relations; and Maggie Malone, district director of Fine Arts
Burton School counselor Pamela Hamilton-Hull enjoys a Q&A about Africa
Burton School counselor Pamela Hamilton-Hull enjoys a Q&A about Africa
Reouhidi Reuben Ndjerareou of Motherland Cultural Connections gives away CDs to the audience if they answered questions about Africa correctly
Reouhidi Reuben Ndjerareou of Motherland Cultural Connections gives away CDs to the audience if they answered questions about Africa correctly
Maleika Joubert Brown, GRPS director of Equity and Inclusion, helps herself to dessert after an African cuisine meal that included a vegetable pepper soup, jollof rice and tomato stew
Maleika Joubert Brown, GRPS director of Equity and Inclusion, helps herself to dessert after an African cuisine meal that included a vegetable pepper soup, jollof rice and tomato stew
English-language learner teacher Van Do, left, and ELL coordinator Kay Smith celebrate answering a question about Africa correctly
English-language learner teacher Van Do, left, and ELL coordinator Kay Smith celebrate answering a question about Africa correctly
Esui Umenei, a Grand Haven engineer who manages the Motherland Cooking Experience, talks about the Democratic Republic of Congo
Esui Umenei, a Grand Haven engineer who manages the Motherland Cooking Experience, talks about the Democratic Republic of Congo
Burton Elementary third grade teacher Teeoncey Sanders feels the African groove
Burton Elementary third grade teacher Teeoncey Sanders feels the African groove
Banin Experience performer Myra Maimoh enjoys talking to GRPS staff members
Banin Experience performer Myra Maimoh enjoys talking to GRPS staff members
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Dianne Carroll Burdick
Dianne Carroll Burdick
Dianne Carroll Burdick has worked as a photojournalist in the West Michigan area since 1991. A graduate of Western Michigan University, she has photographed for The Grand Rapids Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, Detroit Free Press, Advance Newspapers, Grand Rapids Magazine, BLUE Magazine and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting and thought provoking stories of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2016.

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