Groton began the school year with its annual Convocation, including a bright processional of flags from countries representing students’ native lands and family heritages.
This year’s parade of flags was the largest since the school began the tradition three years ago: students carried flags from forty-two nations—a visible symbol of globalism in a school of 383 students. Included in the mix was the Groton School flag, representing one homeland shared by all.
Last year, students carried thirty-six flags, and the year before, twenty-eight. Because more than one student asked to carry the flag for some countries, fifty-three students participated in Sunday’s processional. In some cases, single flags were carried on behalf of numerous students—including the American flag, which represented Groton School students from thirty-two states.
“The flag procession, introduced in 2017 by Mr. Maqubela, is a way of showing the diversity of our student body and the importance of globalism to the school,” said Associate Head of School Andy Anderson, who coordinated the processional.
The students carried the flags from St. John's Chapel, where Convocation began. The opening service was the community’s first formal gathering as one, with new students, returning students, and faculty joining in the Chapel, as they will several times a week throughout the year.
Mr. Maqubela shared words of welcome at the opening service, honoring the memory of lives lost over the summer. He then described a joyous moment at a game reserve in South Africa, during a Global Educational Opportunity (GEO), when Groton students burst into spontaneous dance with students from South Africa and Botswana. “It was visible inclusion by natural light from the African stars,” he said. “From Boston to Botswana and America to Africa, we watched contrasting styles of physical and rhythmic movements—dancing under the African sky.”
Mr. Maqubela also shared an important change coming to Groton’s iconic Schoolroom: trustees have approved the addition of four new busts, adding diversity to a room designed in 1904, when the school served only white boys.
Immediately after the chapel service, the flags bearers assembled. In the weeks before school began, students were asked to share which flags they would like to carry. Sunday night’s processional included flags from Armenia, Australia, Bermuda, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, North Korea, Palestine, Peru, the Philippines, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Uganda, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam. The flags will remain on display in the Schoolhouse's Sackett Forum throughout the week.
Nii-Ama Akuete '96, a current faculty spouse who was born in Ghana, remembers how he felt arriving at Groton in the nineties, and pondered what a display of global flags might have meant to him. "The flag processional is beautiful. I wish that we had it when I was at Groton,” he said. “When you come from a different culture or country, you sometimes feel alone in your diversity, as if you are the only one. The processional is great because it celebrates all of our cultures and helps us realize the beauty and importance of diversity as a community. It is a time when we are all united in our diversity.”