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Unity in the Community reflects commitment to diversity in the Inland Northwest

Ben Cabildo at Unity in the Community

Ben Cabildo, right, at Unity in the Community

 

For organizer Ben Cabildo of Community-Minded Enterprises, Unity in the Community shows that “there’s a sentiment to come together and celebrate one another.”

Involved in many community efforts to build racial, ethnic and cultural understanding over the years, he’s aware that some programs have come and gone.  The continuation of Unity in the Community for 18 years is “a reflection of the support of people in the community for such events.

Unity in the Community Micronesia women

Two Micronesian women shared about their country and culture in the Global Village.


“It brings value to Spokane,” he said, referring not only to the event itself, but to the consistency of people working together and the ongoing support of organizations and sponsors.

With the intense heat on Saturday, Aug. 18, fewer people may have attended the event at Riverfront Park, but Unity in the Community distributed a record  1,000 backpacks of school supplies to children who had their “passports” stamped at the booths of different cultural groups in the Global Village section of the event. 

Each year, the event showcases and celebrates the many cultures in Spokane and the wider region, countering the stereotype that the area lacks diversity.  Opening remarks and a prayer given by Spokane Tribal leader Michael Spencer helped set the tone.

Thai Dancer at Unity in the Community
Thai dancer at Unity in the Community

In 1995, the Rev. Lonnie Mitchell, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, observed that there was more ethnic diversity than people realized, so he and the church began organizing the first Unity in the Community, held in Liberty Park, as a neighborhood and networking celebration. 

The idea has been that as people know about the diversity, they can come together in unity to understand each other.

The event grew each year, and in 2004, AHANA, the African, Hispanic, Asian and Native American business education and training program, took responsibility for organizing the event.  After AHANA, which Ben heads, became part of Community-Minded Enterprises, that overall organization took over responsibility for organizing the event.

In 2007, it was first held in Riverfront Park to increase accessibility for people with disabilities, address crowd management and reduce traffic congestion.

Beyond the goal of promoting unity through showcasing diversity, Unity in the Community seeks to build education and awareness as a resource to enhance diverse communities in the Northwest.

This year, Unity in the Community celebrated German, French, Hmong, Iranian, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Thai, Hawaiian, Marshall Islands, Filipino, British, Columbian, Ethiopian, Scandinavian, Japanese and African American cultures.

About 125 community groups, nonprofit organizations, churches, educational institutions and businesses shared information about who they are and what they do at booths set up in the field near the Clocktower. 

An added feature is 2012 was holding Unity in the Community in conjunction with Youth Day, organized by Spokane’s Youth ‘N’Action program of Passages Family Support. Youth Day, for children ages four through young adults aged 21, featured music and activities in the Runners Meadow, including a Where’s Waldo Scavenger Hunt sponsored by the People to People Ambassador Programs.

Unity in the Community entertainment included drumming, belly dancing, awards, speakers, hula, singers, zumba, Native American flutes, acrobatics, the Spokane Community Gospel Mass Choir and hip hop.

“Unity in the Community empowers those of us in different cultures,” said Ben, who is Filipino-American.

For information, call 444-3088.