Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 4
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Diversity Coalition promotes respect

Since 1994 the Walla Walla Diversity Coalition has been working to encourage diversity and acceptance in the area. The coalition “seeks to prevent discrimination against, and promotes cooperation among all members of the human community, regardless of culture, color, religion, gender, sexual identity, national or ethnic origin, age, handicap, or other differences” according to its mission statement on its Web site.Diversity Coalition promotes respect | Illusration by Avi Conant

“Small towns always have a tendency toward xenophobia,” said founding member Steve Rubin. “We just want people to respect people with differences.”

The majority of the Diversity Coalition’s public outreach takes place in October, which the coalition has deemed Freedom from Discrimination Month.
Rubin said that past speakers have included “Ghandi’s grandson talking about non-violence, the ambassador from the Arab states, Yolanda King, Edward James Olmos [and] Morris Dees: he’s the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

This past Sunday, Oct. 14, the Diversity Coalition brought Jose-Luis Orozco, celebrated Spanish children’s music artist to Cordiner Hall. The Diversity Coalition worked hard to get the word out to the Spanish-speaking community, getting Whitman’s Club Latino to go door-to-door promoting the event. “We thought that we would bring a family performer that would reach out to everyone: not just the intellectuals,” said Annie Capestany, the coalition treasurer who has been a member for 10 years.

Besides bringing speakers for Freedom from Discrimination Month, Rubin said that “the other thing [the Diversity Coalition does] is the multicultural arts fair: it really allows the community to come together.” The fair gets “a nice turnout” according to Capestany, and is held at Pioneer Park on the third Sunday in June and “features dance and music groups from a variety of cultures, along with food, craft, and information booths, and a variety of games,” according to the Diversity Coalition Web site.

The Diversity Coalition manages to bring such big-name speakers through generous private donations. They are supported by all three of the local colleges. “We are a small group, but we’ve been around, and we have strong financial support,” said Rubin.

The mission statement of the Diversity Coalition is to “promote communication, respect and understanding among all members of the human community,” which they do through events.

“We don’t do advocacy. The only advocacy we do is trying to let people know diversity is something to celebrate,” said Capestany. “I’m Cuban…[I have a] biracial family, so I want to make sure our community appreciates people like me and my family.”

“That’s why people go out of the country: they want to see something different,” said Rubin. “They don’t realize you can just go next door. That’s what we want to help with.”

The Walla Walla Diversity Coalition meets at noon on the first Monday of every month at the First Congregational Church. Meetings are open to everyone. For more information visit the Diversity Coalition Web site at promotediversity.org.

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