Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

POC Population Increasing in Walla Walla

In the past decade and a half, the population of people of color (POC) has increased in Walla Walla and the surrounding area. Walla Walla’s POC demographic grew from 25% to 29% in the last 15 years. Hispanic and Latino communities grew the fastest, followed by people of two or more races.

Infographics by Payton Davies

While Walla Walla’s total population is declining by an annual rate of -0.8%, Whitman and the Walla Walla community has a history of being predominantly white, but over the past few years, efforts by Whitman to foster a POC community and generate more inclusivity have been effective. Whitman’s Intercultural Center has been holding events and providing resources to promote inclusivity.

Quin Nelson is Whitman’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Antiracism Project Specialist. Nelson has seen an increase in different identities in his time at Whitman.

“There has definitely been an increase in engagement in the past couple of years centering different identities, especially for POC,” Nelson said.

Whitman has been focusing on improving campus inclusivity and diversity, but the Walla Walla community has also been making efforts to connect to other communities, like the Latinx community.

One significant contributing factor to this change is the growing number of events such as Festival de Cultural Viva, which celebrate and center on the identities of people of color. These events offer opportunities for residents from diverse backgrounds to come together, share their experiences and forge lasting connections.

Whitman’s affinity group Latinos Unidos, which has been actively involved in community outreach, expressed their enthusiasm about connecting with Walla Walla’s Latinx community.

Andrea Diaz-Garcia is the president of Latinos Unidos. She has been working with her team to connect with POC in the Walla Walla community through Whitman.

“We have loved being able to connect with the Latinx community of Walla Walla. All these opportunities that were presented to us as soon as the semester started were absolutely mind-blowing. As a group, I think we’ve been doing a great job so far in terms of getting out there into the community and creating connections,” Diaz-Garcia said.

Similarly, Nelson is also excited about the growing community.

“An increased sense of belonging and a space where they can share their identity is important. It’s exciting to see that there are more events that center POC. I’m glad awareness has spread more in the past few years,” Nelson said.

The outreach by Latinos Unidos and other Affinity groups extends to creating communities outside of Whitman College as well.

“I think we’ve created communities outside of Whitman with these events that were put on for Hispanic Heritage Month. We are fortunate enough to have had a great turnout in these events. We are very grateful for the connections we have made with external Latinx leaders and organizations, especially starting off as a new group this year,” Diaz-Garcia said.

Diaz-Garcia also sees overlap between Latinx communities on campus and in the surrounding community.

“It’s also great for students here at Whitman to have exposure to the Latinx community out in Walla Walla to feel a sense of home and to learn from one another. We are excited to continue reaching out, creating more connections and fortifying the ones we had the pleasure of coming into contact with,” Diaz-Garcia said.

Tebraie Banda-Johns is the Director of the Intercultural Center at Whitman College. 

“The Intercultural Center has been mainly focusing on growing awareness and promoting the celebration of other cultures on campus. All of our support goes to students,” Banda-Johns said. 

This demographic shift has brought about a wave of positive change, fostering a sense of belonging and community engagement for residents with various cultural backgrounds both on campus and throughout Walla Walla.

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