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In Bellingham, six new ways to say ‘welcome’ to immigrants and celebrate unity

Generations after World War II camps, Bellingham monument honors immigrants

Carole Teshima of Bellingham and Pat Kawabata of Des Moines recall discrimination again Japanese Americans during World War II at the dedication of the Arch of Healing and Reconciliation in Bellingham, Washington on Saturday, April 21.
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Carole Teshima of Bellingham and Pat Kawabata of Des Moines recall discrimination again Japanese Americans during World War II at the dedication of the Arch of Healing and Reconciliation in Bellingham, Washington on Saturday, April 21.

“Welcome” in six new languages will soon be added to the Arch of Healing and Reconciliation, a granite monument that honors the sacrifices and contributions of Whatcom County’s immigrants.

The word will be etched into granite tiles in Polish, Croatian, Persian, Filipino, Arabic and Sesotho. The tiles are at the monument’s base.

They will join the existing 14 languages on the arch, which rises 12 feet and weighs 10 tons.

The arch acknowledges shameful periods in Bellingham and Whatcom County history, when the Chinese were pushed out in 1885, a mob came for East Indian mill workers in 1907 and Japanese-Americans were forced into internment camps in 1942.

The monument also honors those early pioneers from China, India and Japan, and all immigrants who have come to the Pacific Northwest since the 1800s to work and for a chance at new lives, according to a previous story in The Bellingham Herald.

And it’s a “welcome to all the different people of the world, which makes America,” Satpal Sidhu, a member of the Whatcom County Council and one of the driving forces behind the arch, told The Herald.

The arch was installed in April 2018 at Lottie and North Commercial streets, next to the lawn behind the Bellingham Public Library and across from City Hall.

Arch of Healing and Reconciliation.jpg
The Arch of Healing and Reconciliation was installed in April 2018 at Lottie and North Commercial streets, behind the Bellingham Public Library and across from City Hall. The granite monument honors the sacrifices and contributions of Whatcom County’s immigrants. Kie Relyea The Bellingham Herald

As for the new tiles, a ceremony for their unveiling is set to begin 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7, in front of Bellingham City Hall.

“This is a celebration of our diversity and recognizing there are people from so many different places, so many different languages, so many cultures in America. It is a symbol of our diversity and our unity,” Sidhu said.

These six new tiles aren’t expected to be the last.

The plan is to have more languages become part of the arch, according to Sidhu.

“Our aim is to keep growing this concept,” he said, “to have ‘welcome’ in a hundred different languages.”

As for the six being added to the arch, that came about after the organization behind the monument asked different communities to donate $500 to inscribe a language into each tile. The dollar amount is mostly for expenses, Sidhu said.

Just $1,000 came in, but organizers decided to proceed because they wanted to get the language project going, according to Sidhu.

The goal is to have the initiative for new languages come from different communities.

Sidhu said that communities with a small number of members may not be able to raise that amount of money. In those cases, the organization behind the arch could see what money it could pull from its funds at the Whatcom Community Foundation.

If people don’t care about what language is etched into the tiles but they want to donate to the effort, they can do so as benefactors, Sidhu said.

The ceremony for the tiles comes amid racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic graffiti and vandalism in parts of Whatcom County.

Most recently, flyers from a national hate group, the Patriot Front, were put up in Ferndale and the Fairhaven shopping district of Bellingham.

In response to what happened in their city, the Ferndale City Council on Monday, Aug. 19, approved a resolution denouncing “white supremacy, neo-Nazi groups and racism.”

And the group Riveters Collective has organized a “Hate Has No Home Here” event from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the Ferndale Library, 2125 Main St.

If you go

What: Ceremony for new tiles that will say “welcome” in six different languages will be inscribed at the foot of the Arch of Healing and Reconciliation.

When: 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7.

Where: Bellingham City Hall, 210 Lottie St.

Details: Archofhealing.org and on Facebook.

To contribute

People interested in having “welcome” inscribed in their language on granite tiles as part of the Arch of Healing and Reconciliation can go online to Archofhealing.org.

Doing so costs $500 per tile.

Tax-deductible donations can be made online at archofhealing.org.

Or make checks payable to Whatcom Community Foundation and write Arch of Healing and Reconciliation Project in the memo line. Mail to the foundation at 1500 Cornwall Ave., Suite 202, Bellingham, WA 98225.

As the fiscal sponsor, Whatcom Community Foundation accepts and processes donations for the organization.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.
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