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City, county will mark 'day of healing' Tuesday

BELLINGHAM — City and county officials will mark Tuesday’s anniversary of the 1907 race riots with a joint proclamation calling for a “Day of Healing and Reconciliation.”

Organizers hope the noon event at the Whatcom County Courthouse Rotunda will give people a chance to think about what healing and justice really mean, said Barbara Rofkar, chairwoman of the Whatcom Human Rights Taskforce, and what people can do to ensure past acts of discrimination aren’t repeated.

“To me, that would be the use of history, instead of just repeating it,” Rofkar said. “If it doesn’t become our wisdom, it just becomes repeated patterns.”

Rofkar is part of the Human Rights Commemoration Project, formed to make sure people don’t forget the anniversary.

Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen and Bellingham Mayor Tim Douglas are scheduled to read the proclamation Tuesday. Other speakers will be on hand.

In addition to Tuesday’s short ceremony, the county’s main Sikh temple is planning a commemorative gathering Sept. 13.

And Paul Englesberg, who develops curriculum about Asian Americans for area school teachers, is putting together visual displays about the riots for the Bellingham Public Library and Wilson Library at Western Washington University.

Anniversaries are useful times to learn about events such as the 1907 riot, said historian Joan Jensen, who wrote a book about East Indian immigration. When people are calm and reflective, they can learn more about the event, she said, and learn to recognize warning signs before situations are repeated.

“Once something happens and it escalates,” she said, “it’s almost hopeless to try to deal with those issues.”

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