June 10, 2022
Transformative power of uplifting diversity is at work in Whatcom
Mike Sato

Contributions across a full range of community life by Black, Indigenous and People of Color will be highlighted in a “Day of Uplifting” presented by the League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County this Sunday. The event is offered as an opportunity to learn more about ways to be truly inclusive, and recognition of BIPOC contributions in areas such as education, commerce — and art, such as work by painter Zaps, who participated in last year’s Juneteenth event. (Salish Current file photo)

June 10, 2022
Transformative power of uplifting diversity is at work in Whatcom
Mike Sato

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Shovia Muchirawehondo aims to transform her local League of Women Voters chapter — and the community it serves.

She’s the lead planner of the Racial Equity/Healthy Democracy Committee of the LWV of Bellingham/Whatcom County, which is bringing to the community this Sunday’s “Day of Uplifting Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Within Whatcom County.”

“I’ve been five years with the League,” Muchirawehondo said, and laughs when she says she’s taken it upon herself to transform the organization itself as well.

She said she wrote her thesis on the subject of transformation when earning her master’s degree in adult higher education from Western Washington University. Her LWV committee’s upcoming event is a part of that transformative work.

Transformation away from systemic bias requires replacing negative stereotypes with positive images, says Shovia Muchirawehondo, who is leading a local League of Women Voters event this weekend that aims to advance that change. (Courtesy photo)

The event will run 2 to 6 p.m. at Bellingham’s Market Depot Square and is billed as “an opportunity to learn ways to be truly inclusive of Black, Indigenous and People of Color in our community.” The event features live performances, music, dancing, food and information tables to promote discussion.

“The purpose is to uplift the BIPOC community,” said Muchirawehondo. “You only hear the bad news about that community, crime, jail … always on the negative side.”

Muchirawehondo says there is systemic bias built into that negative stereotype that has to be transformed by showing the positive images of contributions made by the BIPOC community in farms, stores and performances in Whatcom County. The county is about 80% white, per 2021 census reporting, so having BIPOC groups in the spotlight makes it easier to see them as part of the Whatcom community.

As to whether there has been social progress made since the Black Lives Matter movement started and George Floyd was murdered, Muchirawehondo said that George Floyd-type murders haven’t stopped. “Now there are hate groups rising up, carrying guns and driving around,” she said.

Bellingham in its last election elected two Black city councilmembers when there are few Black voters in the city. Muchirawehondo attributes that to the change in national dialogue reflected locally. “Kristina Michele Martens [who is Black] talks about equity. We have to make the change, we can’t wait,” said Muchirawehondo. For her, the current issues are not just about race; they are about the environment, homelessness and wages that will never catch up to the rich.

Preceding the LWV Sunday event is a Saturday march in Bellingham, themed “A March for Our Lives,” protesting gun violence. Will the burgeoning menu of causes result in social fatigue? Not according to Muchirawehondo who brings her energy to “A Day of Uplifting” which she sees as bridging and bringing together the many social issues both her LWV’s chapter and her community face.

— Reported by Mike Sato

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