The town of Puyallup recognized February as Black History Month for the first time, and some residents have planned a two-day celebration in honor of it.
The city council passed a proclamation Feb. 1 at the council meeting, at which Ronelle McGraw Jr. of Praise Chapel Church Of God In Christ accepted the proclamation. It was the first time the city recognized February as Black History Month.
Community members are hosting Puyallup’s first Black History Month observance on February 25-26 at the Puyallup Nazarene Church at 1026 Seventh Ave. SW. Friday’s event runs from 6-9 p.m. and Saturday’s from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
“We are creating a model for all the other cultures in the town of Puyallup,” said Puyallup resident Shellie Willis. “To use this plan as an opportunity to…change the narrative and flip the script of what our vacation is for.”
Friday’s lineup includes a COVID-19 presentation from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and a panel on Mental Health in the Black Community from Dr. JL Casteele of Casteele Williams & Associates Comprehensive Behavioral Health.
“One of our goals and efforts is to break the conspiracy of silence on mental health issues regarding African Americans,” Casteele said.
On Saturday, attendees can expect to see black-owned businesses and smell Creole cuisine from food vendors such as Velvet’s Big Easy. African percussion and storytelling from Adefua’s cultural education workshop will also be present.
The Adefua Cultural Education Workshop is a non-profit organization based in the Seattle area. Their mission is “to provide young people with options to enhance their growth, personal development, and academic achievement through the study of African culture, music, and dance,” according to the organization’s website. .
Puyallup resident Debbie Yoder said attendees can expect a “step-by-step experience” on Saturday as there will also be black history art, films and presentations shown during the event. ‘event.
“It’s not that you walk around like you’re walking through a museum,” Willis said. “The goal is for you to walk through, to embrace, to absorb, to learn, to gather information and to be thought provoking.”
Puyallup resident JMarie Johnson-Kola did not organize the celebration alone. The help of other community members such as Yoder, Willis and Linda Saarela paved the way for this event.
Johnson-Kola is a 10-year Marine Corps veteran who moved to Puyallup with her family in 2016. She is a small business owner of Diverse Community Connectors and is working toward her PhD in Transformative Social Change, focusing on marginalized and underrepresented communities.
Johnson-Kola said the idea of having the celebration began in October 2021 when she and other community members created the Puyallup Community Foundation.
The foundation is a group of volunteers that works with community leaders, stakeholders and residents of Puyallup to create “a culture where people work together for the common good”, according to the organization’s Facebook page.
“February was coming soon, so we said ‘Let’s do it,'” Johnson-Kola said.
Pain is what drove Johnson-Kola to organize the celebration, she said.
When Johnson-Kola watched Reverend Al Sharpton speak at George Floyd’s funeral two years ago, she realized she needed to be around people who looked like her and understood what she was going through, she said. she declared.
“At that point, I just thought I had to start these relationships personally,” Johnson-Kola said. “I started with the Community Foundation. »
Johnson-Kola said that in addition to other area residents, several community leaders and stakeholders also showed their support for the celebration. This includes people from the local school district, city staff, and the Washington State Fair.
Saarela hopes that participants will become more educated, aware and move forward in life differently after attending the celebration.
“It takes all of us,” Johnson-Kola said. “We need everyone.”
The event is free and more information can be found on Eventbrite at: eventbrite.com/e/celebrating-our-community-experiencing-black-puyallup-tickets-243110388717