In retrospect, the Eureka City Schools Board’s decision last school year to ban new murals on the district’s campuses may have been exactly the motivation needed to inspire members of Eureka High’s various minority clubs. Well, that and the community’s response.
As you may recall, the mural project was the brainchild of student Naomi Doherty, who received a $2,500 grant from the Humboldt Area Foundation and recruited help from clubs representing Eureka High’s BIPOC students, including the Black Student Union, the Native American Club, the Asian and Pacific Islander Club and the Latinx Club.
With guidance from the Ink People Center for the Arts, the EHS students launched an initiative to produce culturally relevant murals, but they encountered some unexpected roadblocks. First, the project was delayed by the COVID pandemic. Then, Doherty was asked to develop official mural-approval procedures for the district, something that had never been required previously. Finally came the school board’s decision to simply scrap mural projects altogether, allegedly in an attempt to avoid controversy.
But the community rallied to the students’ defense, pressuring the school board to reconsider and ultimately overturn its mural ban, which cleared the way for four new murals created by Eureka High’s minority student clubs. The artwork was unveiled last June.
“We couldn’t have had the murals without the community backing us up,” said Jenica Huddleston, a Eureka High junior and co-president of the school’s Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Club. “Having something for the cultural clubs and the minority clubs in Eureka High is so important to us.”
Huddleston and her fellow co-president, Sidney Caampued (also a junior), spoke to the Outpost by phone yesterday afternoon. Caampued agreed that the community’s support was inspiring, and she said another member of their club came up with an idea to build on the momentum. The idea was to have “a gala, like a cultural ball as part of the mural project — like an after-party,” Caampued said.
Alas, there wasn’t enough time to organize the event before the mural unveiling, but this year’s AAPI co-presidents held onto the idea, Huddleston said.
“And so me and Sidney were like, ‘We should do something bigger, like a multicultural night market that we hosted so it’s at our high school. And we can invite other clubs and organizations not just from Eureka High.’”
That’s exactly what they’ve organized. The Asian and Pacific Islanders Club will host Eureka High School’s inaugural Multicultural Night Market on Sunday evening in the Jay Willard Gymnasium from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Caampued and Huddleston couldn’t be more excited.
“I feel like it’s just so empowering to see all of the different and diverse communities coming together … and to be able to appreciate and acknowledge the cultural traditions that we have,” Huddleston said.
In addition to performances from Eureka High student clubs, including the K-Pop/Hip Hop Club, the LatinX Club (who will perform baile folklórico) and the YEAH (Youth Educating Against Homophobia) Club, the event will feature demonstrations from Humboldt Taiko, Capoeira Azania and other outside organizations. Plus, there will be close to a dozen food vendors offering everything from homemade egg rolls to esquites, gumbo and more.
The mission of the event, according to a press release written by Caampued and Huddleston, is to do something for underrepresented groups while inviting the community “to experience this event filled with cultural and traditional foods, try new things and watch eye-opening performances.”
The performances will include a drag show from the YEAH Club, and given the recent political freakouts about drag, both nationally and locally, Caampued said the performance ties into the themes of diversity and inclusivity.
”I really feel like we should start acknowledging that this is something in our culture, this is something in our community, and we need to stand up for it,” she said. “We need to make sure that people know we are with this; we’re not against it. We’re not going to try to hide it anymore. I think that we need to really make more of a stand for our Youth Educating Against Homophobia group because they are part of a community for the new generation.”
Huddleston believes it’s important for the local community to be introduced to new experiences, “which is why I feel like multicultural night is a really big step towards that,” she said. “It’s truly empowering.”
Caampued chimed in: “It’s the first one that we’ve ever done at Eureka High School, so it’s kind of a historical moment.”
And yet she’s already looking to the future.
“Maybe next year could be even bigger,” she said. “We could invite even more people.”