In its twenty seven years of existence, Unity in the Community (UIC) has transformed from a humble festival with a sturdy infrastructure into a regional bedrock that is able to bring its original mission of diversity to a broader audience.
In 2014 UIC was under the leadership of Mareesa Henderson and April Anderson, two long-standing committee members. After a very successful 20th anniversary year, Mareesa and April saw the need to find a permanent home for the festival and had the vision to form a non-for-profit organization whose sole purpose is to provide leadership and continue the twenty-year tradition of celebrating diversity in Spokane. In November 2014 NW Unity was formed as the umbrella organization for UIC. NW Unity gained its designation as a 501c3 corporation in April 2015
Unity in the Community shined in 2015, as it was a breakout year for the festival. Under Mareesa and April’s leadership, the 21st Annual Unity in the Community Festival was bigger than ever.
We welcome all community leaders, organizers, and businesses to join us. Be a part of UIC’s decision-making processes to shape our community direction for a prosperous present and abundant multicultural future.
Unity is a statement that represents “we are all in this together.” We as a community should never strive to restrict our resources, create boundaries by neighborhoods, or engage in actions that do not strengthen partnership or collaboration among diverse communities where possible.
Born out of a desire to bring together Spokane’s fragmented communities, Unity in the Community was founded in 1994 by Bethel AME Church. Under the stewardship of Pastor Mitchell, UIC moved forward with a mission to break down racial and cultural barriers that seemed to hinder development in Spokane. As Pastor Mitchell so astutely put, “We felt it was very important for people to know the strength of diversity in Spokane and for people of different cultures to know the strength of diversity in Spokane and for people of different cultures and races to understand each other.” It was from that the UIC festival at Liberty Park was born.
In 2004, at Pastor Mitchell’s urging, AHANA (African American, Hispanic, and Native American Association), under the leadership of Ben Cabildo, agreed to take on the responsibility of organizing the event and to continue UIC’s mission. It was under Ben’s capable leadership and a cadre of long-term committed volunteers that UIC was able to grow even further, expanding the festival to celebrate the diversity of our community and build a healthy and thriving future for all in our region.
UNITY IN THE COMMUNITY FESTIVAL
Over time, UIC has become an eagerly-anticipated signature multicultural event for our entire Inland Northwest- the largest in our region. However, as the event grew, UIC began to experience a few “growing pains.” After over a decade of annual UIC festival in Liberty Park, in 2006, UIC was faced with a fortunate problem: the event had grown too large for the location to safely sustain the increase in attendance. Moreover, the UIC event was met with wheelchair accessibility concerns. Unity in the Community was never intended to be restrictive on any level; it was designed by its pioneers to focus on outreach, education, and growth.
Because the very nature of UIC promotes inclusivity, in 2007, the organizing committee posed the question of changing the address of the event to confront the safety and liability issues. The committee came to the conclusion that Riverfront Park was not only a regionally-recognized park, but was also wheelchair-accessible and would effectively accommodate the growth of the UIC festival. The committee voted and moved to have the 2007 UIC festival at Riverfront Park, seeing this as a positive transition and a pivotal step in growing with Spokane’s ever-increasing diverse populations and demand for resources. After an unanimous vote and some further discussion, the committee addressed all potential concerns involving the location change and united around this decision as the next step in fulfilling UIC’s pioneer’s vision.
With the change of location, UIC was able to alleviate overcrowding and provide increased accessibility for citizens with disabilities. The increased user-friendly parking facilities further allowed the event to prosper for all communities.
Over the past 26 years, UIC has consistently grown and evolved to better serve our mission and accomplish our goals. It is our hope to continue to utilize our diverse group of organizers to continue to bring cultural information and unity to the Inland Northwest.