July 1, 2002
Celebrating diversity: People of all ages, races, religions gather at park
SPRINGFIELD - Six-year-old J'Lynn Cates said she wanted to attend the sixth annual Race Unity Celebration because she'd heard that the event would feature a clown and some balloons.
The highlight of 7-year-old Felisha Bauman's Sunday afternoon at Island Park was when she got her face painted.
More than 150 good people of all ages, races and religious beliefs showed up at the Springfield park. With the help of a picnic-style spread and some tunes, most in the crowd spent the afternoon simply relaxing and enjoying each other's company.
But the event's underlying theme was evident in celebrants' ready-to-wear messages. Some wore T-shirts with the words "One Planet, One People ... Please" while others slapped on a sticker that read "No Room in My Heart for Prejudice."
"We've gotta get everybody to come together," said Jessie Hamilton of Eugene, who roamed the park inviting visitors to sign a guest book. "The adults understand why we're here, and the kids seem to get into it, too."
With the help of several community organizations, Sunday's event was planned by members of the Baha'i faith, a worldwide religion promoting racial harmony and understanding.
Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken wrote a letter in support of the celebration, saying organizers' efforts are "not only commendable, but a necessity in today's world. ... Discrimination has no place in the world today and you have made it a priority to educate people to that end."
Retired University of Oregon professor Edwin Coleman and his wife, Charmaine, took home the 2002 Race Unity Award. Past winner Sarah Ross presented the couple with the honor, calling the Colemans "wonderful, caring people who bring others together."
Other attractions included drumming by Lane Community College teacher Don Addison, who heads up the school's summer academy for American Indian youth, and dancing led by Baha'i youth.
"So powerful is the light of unity, it can illuminate the whole earth," a dancer announced just before moving into a stomping performance with six other youths.
As for Felisha, she spent most of her afternoon running around and playing with balloons, joined by a younger sister and their 3-year-old friend, Zada Day.
While the idea of promoting unity among all people may have been a bit beyond their level of understanding, the girls already know how to get along with others, which was the point of Sunday's festivities.
"She said it was a surprise," said Felisha, who didn't know at first why her mother wanted to take her to the park. "This is fun. I made a mask and did some other things. Now, I'm going to get my face painted."
"I'm going to get my face painted, too!" exclaimed Zada, as she trailed the much-older Felisha, searching for that darn clown.
©Copyright 2002, The Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon)