Brightening spring in PhinneyWood with Holi
Neighbor brings Indian cultural festival to Seattle and the Phinney Center
by Laura Silverstein
Last March, on a gorgeous, warm day, the sky over Phinney was, yes, blue. But it was also yellow, green, orange, and pink.
That afternoon, 600 people came to the Phinney Center to celebrate Holi, the Hindu spring festival of color and love, throwing powdered color into the air and at each other.
They feasted on Indian food and chai, and listened to Shruti Balakrishnan’s Bollywood singing. The day was bright and beautiful, and let us know that spring had finally arrived.
This year’s Holi festival will be held March 23, 1-3 pm in the lower parking lot of the Phinney Center.
It’s great fun for kids and grownups alike. The Roll Pod food truck will be selling delicious Indian food, the Chai Lady will be there again, and Shruti will be sharing her vocal talents.
How did the Phinney Neighborhood Association (PNA) come to host a traditional Hindu celebration?
Neighbor and community member Avanie Trovato was the driving force. The previous fall, Avanie asked the PNA to partner with her to do an Indian cooking class and Bollywood movie night at the Phinney Center. It was so popular, PNA staff was thrilled when she proposed another idea.
As a child in India, Avanie celebrated Holi with people from all religions, and believes that being exposed to those perspectives made her more open minded and successful in a diverse, global economy. It also helped people find commonality.
Avanie believes that sharing delicious food, and celebrating the welcome arrival of spring, brings people together for conversation. It creates bridges.
But there was no Seattle-side Holi, which was shocking to her. In Seattle, despite the liberal politics, she couldn’t find opportunities for cultural exchange. She had to go to the suburbs to experience diversity. So she took the initiative and approached the PNA. Instead of putting up roadblocks, staff welcomed the opportunity to support a community effort.
It can be daunting for one person to take on such an enormous task, but with the PNA behind her, and with a diverse group of volunteers, Avanie made it happen.
Avanie wanted the PNA to help her with the festival because it wasn’t just for the Indian community. Having a place close to home to celebrate was important, but introducing the broader community to her culture was more important.
She explains, “Just because [this community is] predominately white doesn’t mean people aren’t ready for cultural diversity.”
Even more exciting than the upcoming Holi celebration is the possibility of deepening our relationships in the community—creating space within the PNA for people to have an impact.
As part of our initiative to increase the equity, diversity, and inclusion of the organization, we will be looking for ways to engage people deeply and over time—not just once per year.
We want to have conversations, broaden perspectives, and explore new possibilities. And we will start by laughing, dancing, and throwing color. And eating kathi rolls. Washed down with chai.
If you have ideas for how we can engage our diverse community, contact Krissie Dillin, PNA Program Director, at [email protected].
Top photo by Fiona Remley