Cully Community Celebration

Written By Kristen Albertson

On October 17, 2021, Cully residents gathered for the Cully Community Celebration held at Kʰunamokwst Park. During the pandemic, Cully has witnessed a tragic increase in gun violence. Over the last several months, Cully residents along with the staff at Living Cully, Hacienda CDC, Verde, Habitat for Humanity, Cully Association of Neighbors, Cully Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET), Morningstar Church, and Commissioner Jayapal’s office have collaborated to respond to this issue. Together, we decided that a community gathering could be a way to memorialize those lost, and at the same time, support healing and connection among Cully neighbors. The theme that arose for this celebration was water and fire: fire, for the rise in violence; and water, for healing and renewal. This event was open to Cully residents and neighbors of all ages and backgrounds to provide a space to come together and celebrate the community while connecting with each other.

Commissioner Jayapal addresses the crowd expressing what the event meant to her.

The day began with a land acknowledgment read by Andrea Vernae. We recognized the Indigenous people who have made their lives in Neerchokikoo, which we now call Cully, for thousands of years. Everyone learned that “Kʰunamokwst” [pronounced KAHN-ah-mockst] is a Chinook Wawa word that means “together.” To emphasize this spirit of togetherness, La’Tevin Alexander Ellis, the event emcee, continued to perform call-and-responses of the name “Kʰunamokwst!” with the crowd throughout the rest of the day. Following the land acknowledgment La’Tevin Alexander Ellis and Dr. Kenneth J. Ransfer, Sr., the reverend of Morning Star Church, shared stories about their experiences with community violence and resilience. Commissioner Jayapal also said a few words about the importance of coming together as a community and what the event meant to her. A moment of silence was held for those lost. Then, the festivities kicked off with delicious food from local vendors Cully Central and Miss’ipi Chef and great music mixed by DJ Maxed Out (Curtis Maxey), and everyone began to explore the various activities and tables at the event.

Event attendees help put together a bottlecap mosaic that spells out Cully.

The event provided opportunities for Cully neighbors to learn about community safety, build relationships, and reflect with one another. Community resource booths provided information, training, and resources on community safety and mental health. In a bottle cap mosaic activity that merged creativity with sustainability, participants used recycled bottle caps brought from home to create shared art pieces that represented their community. Meanwhile, community memorial tables provided space for reflection and expression. One table featured a memorial note box for everyone to submit their thoughts, stories, and emotions anonymously. Another table featured a community water fountain into which attendees poured water from their own homes. The water fountain also contained water from other community sources, including both the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. These memorial tables were made particularly beautiful by the floral arrangements provided by Stephanie from Beaumont Florist, including roses that attendees took home with them at the end of the day.

The event closed with final words from the event speakers and a special memorial ceremony. The notes from the memorial note box were read aloud to everyone in attendance. Then, each person was given a small cup with water from the community water fountain to return that water to the community in whatever way felt natural to them. Some poured the water right back into the earth, while others poured the water into a nearby tree or a flower vase at the park memorial. When everyone came back together, the Cully Community Celebration ended with a dance party for all who wanted to join.

The Cully Community Celebration would not have been possible without the help of our partners. We want to give a special thanks to Commissioner Jayapal’s office for providing funding and supporting community listening sessions for the event; the Multnomah County Health Department for providing resources around grief and trauma; and the City of Portland Office of Community and Civic Life for providing food for the event. We would like to thank Verde for helping to plan the interactive elements of the event; Hacienda CDC for providing COVID information and family resources; and Habitat for Humanity, the Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET), and Cully Association of Neighbors (CAN) for providing a community safety demonstration. We would also like to thank the local food vendors who showed up at the event. We thank Cully Central for the delicious Laotian food and Miss’ipi Chef for the amazing soul food options that they provided. Finally, we would like to give a special shout-out to all the volunteers and participants who made this event happen. It would not have been possible without all of you!

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