Downtown Olympia Banner Project Honors Community’s Diverse Leaders

Submitted by Olympia Downtown Alliance

On July 1, the Olympia Downtown Alliance (Alliance), with support from the City of Olympia (City), unveiled the “Honoring Our Diverse Leaders” street pole banner project. A culturally diverse group of honorees, spanning from hundreds of years ago to the present day, were chosen due to their contributions and leadership in the region. The twenty banners adorn street poles in the core of downtown, centered around Capitol Way and 5th Avenue.

The banners offer visitors to downtown Olympia the opportunity to take a self-guided tour to learn more about the heritage of the community. Accompanying content can be found on the Olympia Downtown Alliance website. 

Honorees were selected using a deliberate and inclusive process that engaged a diverse set of stakeholders in the region. The Alliance worked with Olivia Salazar de Breaux, the City’s Equity and Inclusion Coordinator, to establish a panel of eight “Cultural Ambassadors” to develop recommendations for honorees.

“What an important and powerful project to be part of! Every one of the banner honorees has made a lasting impact on our community and paved the way for those behind them. Representation is crucial” Salazar de Breaux said. “When community members from marginalized groups can see themselves culturally represented within the fabric of our leadership and our history, it affirms that we all belong here in our great city.

This panel presented its recommendations to a group of Olympia High School students, who selected honorees, conducted research, and developed content for the banners and accompanying webpage.

“When learning about the history of our community, the names and faces we see often aren’t ones of color. It has been an honor learning about and speaking to the underestimated, powerful, and diverse heroes of Olympia. I hope these banners not only bring recognition to their work but do them justice as well” said Tina Tran, Olympia High School Class of 2021. Tran co-authored content for the banners of Doug Mah and Merritt Long and Marsha Tadano Long.

The Alliance invites is inviting the community to celebrate the project and honorees at noon on Saturday, July 10 in front of the Capitol Theater at 5th Avenue and Washington Street. This celebration will also serve as the kickoff of the 2021 LoveOly Summer Fest, a summer festival series in downtown Olympia. More information regarding Summer Fest can be found on the Summer Fest website.

“One of the Alliance’s organizational values is being inclusive. We’re thrilled to celebrate this project, embracing our diverse roots while also adding to the vibrancy of our downtown. Love Oly!” said Amy Evans, Alliance Board Member.

The following individuals are honored on the banners:

  • Ramona Bennett
  • George Washington Bush
  • Reiko Callner
  • Joyce Simmons Cheeka
  • CIELO Project
  • Bill Fishburn
  • Billy Frank Jr.
  • Katherine Baros Friedt
  • Shawna Hawk
  • Rebecca Howard
  • Dr. John Ishii
  • Toy Kay
  • Suey Gim Locke
  • Gary Locke
  • Merritt & Marsha Long
  • Doug Mah
  • Les Purce
  • James Rideout
  • John & Mary Slocum
  • Gene Tagaban

Who: Olympia Downtown Alliance, Olympia High School students, the City of Olympia, Cultural Ambassadors, and Banner Honorees
What: “Honoring our Diverse Leaders” Banner Project Celebration
When: Saturday, July 10, 2021 at 12 p.m.
Where: 5th and Washington.

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