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SKC helps local children remember MLK, celebrate diversity

PABLO — For elementary students in Lake County, keeping the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. alive became an interactive, hands-on experience last Thursday. 

More than 400 children came to the Diversity Fair at Salish Kootenai College, which was part of the week-long program “Celebrate the Dream.” 

Children swarmed the tables set up with diversity-themed art projects, including quilt-making, drawing, print-making and weaving. Some children even left with their very own prints of Martin Luther King Jr. and God’s eye crafts.

“For the kids, it’s a good opportunity to really see and understand that there are different cultures in the community,” Diversity Fair co-organizer and MLK committee member, Co Carew said. “People can express their culture through the arts.”

America Nieves Morale came to the “Diversity Fair” armed with the knowledge of an interesting tradition and the willingness to pass on her craft. Morale, who originates from Puerto Rico, has spent most of her life in the United States, but she still keeps her family traditions alive and teaches others how to bobbin lace. At the Diversity Fair she taught Phylicia McDonald her ancient craft, creating an intricate edge of white lace. 

“My tradition comes from Spain,” Morale explain.

Her oldest aunt learned how to make the lace and taught her five sisters, she continued.

“It has been our tradition to make lace,” Morale said. 

The Diversity Fair also hosted tables devoted to Chinese culture, Community Health and Development and a table that played videos of different cultures celebrating diversity. 

Carew, co-organizer Maxine Garcia and a team of 25 volunteers started working on the fair just before Christmas and with a little less than a month to prepare for the event, Carew was overjoyed that the elementary school teachers were flexible and so many first and second graders attended the event.

“I think just to keep the Martin Luther King vision and (his) accomplishments alive is a goal,” Carew said, enthusiastically.

“I want to make sure that this story is continually told because it’s an important one.”

Later that evening, members of the Martin Luther King Committee posthumously honored tribal elder Thomas “Bearhead” Swaney for his work in social justice. Swaney, who passed away in May, was a tribal leader known for being politically active and passionate about environmental protection and social issues.

“Really when I think of the things my dad accomplished … what I think he was most proud of was the prevention of dams on the lower Flathead River,” Bearhead’s son Bill Swaney said. 

One of his most recent and memorable political statements was a “Peace Pasture” along U.S. Highway 93. In 2005, Bearhead decided to build crosses for each member of the U.S. Armed Forces who died in Iraq. The political move sparked interest locally and internationally. 

Despite the attention, Bearhead never wanted the recognition, Bill said. But he never stopped talking about the issues that concerned him. 

“As much as anything I try to remember the times I spent with him (and) what we should be doing,” Bill said. “Your obligation as a human being is to contribute to this being a better world. I think that’s why the Martin Luther King Committee wanted to honor him.”


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