Dorothy Ramon Learning Center’s new Gathering Hall opened Thursday with a Banning city luncheon.
Nearly 100 people attended the state-of-the-city luncheon at the nonprofit’s Gathering Hall, which is named for San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians.
Steve Oliver performed soft jazz music. Guy’s Italian Kitchen catered with lasagna, and Rio Ranch Market donated desserts. The Gathering Hall boasted a local and Native American art exhibit. Banning City Council members, wearing aprons labeled "Public Servant," served as the waiters and waitresses.
The luncheon followed Banning’s state-of-the-city address in which Banning leaders shared their vision and strategic goals for Banning, including fiscal stability, quality of life and community relations.
At the luncheon, Learning Center President Ernest Siva (Cahuilla/Serrano) of Banning sang an ancient Indian song about building the first house and explained that in the song cycle, the house becomes a place for community sharing and gatherings.
The nonprofit Learning Center plans to use the Hall for its mission of saving and sharing Southern California Native American cultures, languages, history, and traditional arts. The Hall also will be available for educational and civic events, according to Learning Center leaders Siva and his wife, June, who are the building owners and developers.
The Hall, which once served as Banning’s post office, features a large flexible space with a polished concrete floor, new rest rooms, and a kitchen. The old post office flagpole was fixed and on Thursday, flew its first U.S. flag in decades.