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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘We are a part of the community’: Crowd gathers in Spokane Valley to celebrate first Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Day

UPDATED: Sat., June 12, 2021

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

People turned out to the new west lawn at CenterPlace in Spokane Valley on Saturday for the first Asian and Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander Heritage Day as sun peeked through the clouds.

Event organizer Charity Bagatsing-Doyl was glad to see the sun at the inaugural event of multicultural advocacy group Spokane’s United We Stand. The goal of the event was to help educate people about the role Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders play in the community, she said.

“We wanted to remind Spokane that we have been a part of building Spokane since the 1890s,” she said. “The history of our contributions has been buried. We wanted to show we are a part of the community.”

The United We Stand group was founded in March 2020 as hate incidents against Asian Americans became more common.

“It was important for us to just come together,” Bagatsing-Doyl said. “The Asian community is very diverse. We’re also separated by language, religion and culture. It’s really good that everyone came together to stand as one group.”

The heritage day featured a variety of vendors and cultural groups. Singers, dancers and martial artists took their place at center stage to showcase part of their culture.

The crowd attending the heritage day grew throughout the afternoon, but not everyone who attended had planned to be there. Sue White brought her grandchildren to visit neighboring Discovery Playground and they headed over to the celebration when they spotted it. Her grandchildren quickly discovered the ferrets featured by a ferret rescue group and wanted to pet the small animals.

“I think it’s great,” White said of the event. “I really like it.”

The Starlight Project also was there to provide free arts and crafts for children and sold take-home paint and craft kits.

“We’re just looking to give the community free arts and crafts,” Samantha Boyd said. “We believe that arts and crafts can be very healing.”

The Starlight Project was founded by the friends and family of Kassie Lynn Dewey, a Spokane woman who police say was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend in April.

The vendors included several artists, including local Filipina artist Abrelli Firestone. The bright, vibrant colors in her artwork, most of which depicted scenes from the Philippines, were a draw to passersby. One work, which depicted the volcano Mount Mayon in the background and workers in a rice paddy in the foreground, includes bright orange, red and yellow that contrast with the blue sky.

“It shows resiliency and hard work,” Firestone said of the painting.

Most of her paintings include bright colors, Firestone said.

“For me, it helps your mood,” she said.

Firestone said she went to school to study architecture, but prefers the freedom that painting gives her. She said she’d never brought her work to a festival before, but wanted to promote Filipino art.

“I’ve been silent about my artwork,” she said. “I think it’s time I showcase it.”

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