Highlights of the history and development of the Ethnic Heritage Council over the years.
September 1978 – Sixteen enthusiastic people gathered at the home of Kristian, Ingeborg and Randi Hansen to discuss an offer from the Folklife Center of the Library of Congress to help a multi-ethnic group stage a conference on preserving local histories and traditions. This pioneering discussion group included: Ole Brahe-Pedersen, Veronica Walker, John Kovtunovich, Rosanne Royer, Bud Bard, Julianne Kumasaka, Irene Nishimura, Sylvia Summerland, Leo Utter, Sirrka Wilson, Anne Marie Steiner, Karoline Morrison, Aspasia Pulakis, Bill Nikinovich, and Elena Bradunas of the Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.
September 1978 – August 1979 – The “rolling stone” gathered increasing numbers of ethnic representatives at monthly meetings in different ethnic halls each month to plan a three-day conference at Seattle Center. Seattle Public Library became a major force in the effort, through an NEH grant and the creative management of Jean Coberly. Rosanne Royer, Aspasia Pulakis and Bud Bard took the lead in conducting meetings.
September 28 – 30, 1979 – Over 200 representatives of over 40 Puget Sound ethnic organizations attended the “Ethnic Heritage Workshop and Festival” at Seattle Center, co-sponsored by the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress and Seattle Public Library. The organizers decided to stay together and form a permanent organization.
January 1980 – EHC is incorporated as a membership-based, educational, non-profit organization with a challenging mission: To advance communication among ethnic communities; facilitate documentation of local ethnic history and cultural heritage; be a clearinghouse of information about ethnic groups; sponsor educational, cultural, and other exchanges among ethnic groups; provide support to organizations in their start-up phase; and organize ethnic and cultural events that inform the general public.
Fifty seven certified representatives of ethnic organizations began participating in the meetings of the new organization. First elected officers were: Bud Bard, President; Aspasia Pulakis, Vice President; Rose Gonzales, Secretary; Ole Brahe-Pedersen, Treasurer. Through the generosity of Bud Bard, then President of American Cultural Exchange, EHC was given a home in the ACE office for 13 years. In 1993, EHC moved its office to the Seattle Center.
The dedicated individuals who have served as Board President are: Bud Bard, Ole Brahe-Pedersen, Jeri-Marie Bennett, Karoline Morrison, Alma Plancich, Cleo Molina, Joann Nicon, Marianne Forssblad, Sue McNab, Yasemin San, Martha Cohen, Lynn Winslow, David Serra and JoAnne Lee.
Executive Directors who have served EHC over the years: Bud Bard (volunteer) 1984-88; Sandy Bradley (1989-90); Peter Davenport (1991-94); Fred Capestany (1995) and Alma Plancich (1995-2014).
Karoline Morrison – Events Genius. There is hardly an event in EHC’s early days that did not have its origins in the creative and enterprising mind of Karoline Morrison, EHC pioneer. Included in those events are: “Liberty Fair” in collaboration with Bud Bard and the accompanying EHC Spirit of Liberty Award, EthnicFest (later WorldFest), “Let’s Eat Ethnic” coupon book, “Ports of Call” progressive dinner, and the Statue of Liberty fundraiser.
“Spirit of ’86” – EHC fundraiser in 1984 for the Statue of Liberty Restoration Project. The event was headlined by the chairman of the national campaign, Lee Iacocca, and raised $25,000 for the Statue of Liberty Fund.
Liberty Fair – A multi-ethnic festival highlighted by the 4th of July Naturalization Ceremony at the Seattle Center. Over 500 people from more than 75 countries are sworn in as new citizens. The ceremony is produced with Seattle Center and United States Citizenship & Immigration Services.
Worldfest – (originally EthnicFest) brought music and dance festivals into the contemporary marketplace-the shopping center. The first took place at Northgate Mall in 1982 and continued for 20 years. EHC’s fall festivals, Cultural Crossroads at Crossroads Bellevue and Winter Worldfest at the Seattle Center featured hundreds of performers, exhibits and booths.
An “umbrella” and co-sponsorship service to other groups – Over 100 groups who are not registered non-profit organizations used the umbrella of EHC to stage events important to their development. Over the years, the Council offered numerous workshops to its diverse membership on such mutual concerns as fundraising, membership and leadership development, public relations, and youth involvement.
A vital clearinghouse – EHC responds to requests from individuals, organizations, government agencies, and businesses seeking contact with ethnic communities. EHC has assisted schools in identifying individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds to make classroom presentations.
Awards – EHC has been proud to honor community leaders at the Annual Meeting by establishing the Aspasia Phoutrides Pulakis Memorial Award in 1983 and Gordon Ekvall Tracie Memorial Award in 1990. The Council presented the Spirit of America Award in 1999.
Publications – The first newsletter, Ethnic Connection, was replaced in 1984 by Northwest Ethnic News, a monthly newspaper distributed region-wide. Editors included Yasemin San, Susan Auerbach, Nancy Stone-Nilsen, Allegra Berrian, Jim Walters, Mathew Mullins, Kent Chadwick, Allan Swensson, Ramona Gault, Sarah Sarai, and Mari Herreras-Zinman. In 1981, the Council published CONTACT: A Directory of Ethnic and Cultural Resources in Washington State. It was coordinated by the Seattle Public Library through a U.S. Office of Education grant with Seattle and Bellevue School Districts and EHC contributing entries.
25th Anniversary Celebration – To celebrate this important milestone EHC presented, on March 11, 2005 “Telling Our Stories-Ethnic Heritage in Washington State”. The full day of workshops took place at the Port of Seattle Headquarters, Pier 69, and was co-sponsored by the Museum of History & Industry. Honorary Chairman for the event was Washington State Governor Gary Locke and co-chairs of the conference were Joann Georges Nicon and Rosanne Gostovich Royer.
Washington Stories, a 2006 project – EHC joined with Humanities Washington to produce a collaborative exhibit through an NEH “We the People” grant. History panels representing chosen organizations traveled to various venues in Washington State.
30th Anniversary Celebration was held on May 15, 2010 at the Nordic Heritage Museum, a special collaborator of EHC over the years.
Ethnic SpringFest – EHC created this celebration in 2011 to honor individuals for significant contributions to ethnic and international communities. The Cultural Treasure Award was established at this event.
35th Anniversary Celebration – On May 30, 2015, EHC celebrated at the Northwest African American Museum. Most of the 100 guests, representing 30 years of EHC activities, were visiting the museum for the first time, fulfilling an EHC goal to acquaint one another with our diverse cultures and activities.
Photos courtesy of Jal Schrof.