August 17, 2008 in City

Community turns out for unity

Annual event held at Riverfront
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Photos by Jesse Tinsley photo

Janet Samewell, 8, who is Micronesian, dances with Tere Graham, left, and Kerra Bower, behind Samewell, and dancers of various ethnicities while doing the “Electric Slide” at the Unity in the Community festival Saturday in Riverfront Park.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Christian Franz took a quick trip around the world while strolling through Spokane’s Riverfront Park on Saturday.

The 12-year-old visited Japan, where he learned the national sport is sumo wrestling. He learned how to say “hello” and “thank you” when he stopped at China.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Franz, adding he also learned some world capitals.

The Spokane boy, with his sister and dad, joined more than 8,500 others at the 14th Unity in the Community. If the temperature hadn’t been near 100, organizers believe, more people would have come out for the region’s largest multicultural celebration.

The event moved from East Central Spokane’s Liberty Park last year because it was getting larger. On Saturday, kids wriggled to live music while others visited information booths on colleges, health, careers, multicultural groups and organizations.

The Cultural Village, where children and adults learned about 50 countries, was popular, organizers said. Booths showcased Turkey, Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, Fiji and even the Kingdom of Tonga in the south Pacific, and cultures such as African-American and Hmong, an Asian ethnic group. The village booths grew to 47 this year, from 30 a year ago.

“Parents love it because it’s educational and fun for the kids,” which gets right to the focus of the event – diversity and children, said Ben Cabildo, Unity in the Community chairman and the director of AHANA (African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native Americans), the business education and training program of Community-Minded Enterprises.

“I learned each country has a different way of celebrating their culture,” said Garry Brar, 9, visiting Spokane from Victoria, B.C. “Almost every country has a different language.”

As a bonus, kids who received rubber stamps in their pretend passport from every country in the village picked up free school supplies. Thousands of donated items were given away.

Spokane resident David Herman, a graduate student, found the event refreshing. “Spokane doesn’t seem to have a lot of culture, at least not on the surface, so this is nice,” Herman said. “I wish more people could see it.”

Cabildo said Unity in the Community, organized by AHANA and Community-Minded Enterprises, was a great success this year. After some complaints last year that the move downtown meant a loss of a community celebration for East Central, feelings have smoothed over, he said.

“There’s no more controversy,” Cabildo said. “In fact, those who were opposed last year have joined us this year.”

Contact Jody Lawrence-Turner at (509) 459-5593 or jodyl@spokesman.com.


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