by Susan Fried
Judkins Park, located in the heart of Seattle’s Central District (CD), is the home field of the CD Panthers football team and cheer squad, and even though many of the player’s families no longer live in the CD, they come to Judkins three times a week for practice and to play their home games. It is their little piece of the CD.
On Saturday, Sept. 25, with a few minutes left in the 9U team’s game, shots were fired on a street adjacent to the field ending what was supposed to be a Saturday celebrating grandparents. The game abruptly ended and the two games scheduled for the 11U and 13U teams were cancelled. It was a traumatic event for the kids and their families.
Local activist Wyking Garrett wrote the following in a social media post shortly after the incident:
“Youth sports such as CD Panthers, Rotary Styles, high school football, and basketball have endured as a primary place of Black community gathering in Seattle post gentrification. It is the place where children and grandchildren play, learn, and form lifelong relationships on the same fields and courts that their parents and grandparents did. It is one of the few places we still gather across generations and get glimmers of the beauty of what community looks like. In other words this is SACRED GROUND that we must treasure and protect as sanctuaries of Black love.”
Garrett called for the members of the community to join him on Saturday, October 2, for the CD Panthers Homecoming and Teacher Appreciation Day. He also called for a Peace Rally. Many people answered the call, including the Seattle Police Department (who provided free ice cream), former players, members of Seattle’s Black Panther Party, teachers, and community members, including mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell.
Judkins Park once again became a place for friends, family, and community to celebrate being together and to watch their children having fun.
The CD Panthers are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. During that time, hundreds of boys and girls have been positively impacted by their participation as an organization dedicated to teaching teamwork, respect for your coaches, teammates, and the opposition, and love for family, friends, and community.
Terrell Elmore got involved with CD Panther football 24 years ago when his nephew played for the team and someone asked if he was interested in coaching. He’s been there ever since. Elmore says the CD Panthers give the kids and their families something to do together and that the friendships made through participation in the CD program translate to lifelong relationships.
“They’ll meet these friends later on in life and lock in and have relationships that are long lasting. It brings parents back into the community and now it’s not just about their kid, it’s about the other kids and knowing those kids.”
Friends D’Vonne Pickett and Dejuan Newton started playing for the CD Panthers in 1996 and now they’re coaching their sons’ 6U team. Pickett says that he and Newton grew up together playing football with the Panthers, and they played basketball together at Central Arizona College. Pickett, who along with his wife KeAnna Rose, owns The Postman on Martin Luther King Jr. Way and East Union Street, said he had always wanted to give back to the community he grew up in.
“Personally [CD Panther football is] a bigger scale of community. I’ve always envisioned, like, being a big part of it — something bigger than me. So for our kids to be playing football and for us to be coaching, it’s fulfilling in a way that money and other things don’t bring.”
Susan Fried is a 40-year veteran photographer. Her early career included weddings, portraits, and commercial work — plus, she’s been The Skanner News’ Seattle photographer for 25 years. Her images have appeared in the University of Washington’s The Daily, The Seattle Globalist, Crosscut, and many more. She’s been an Emerald contributor since 2015. Follow her on Instagram @fried.susan.
📸 Featured Image: Mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell (purple sweatshirt); Elmer Dixon, a founder of the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party; Wyking Garrett, president of Africatown Community Land Trust; and Na’eem Shareef, an original Seattle Black Panther, joined dozens of others at the CD Panthers homecoming on Oct. 2, 2021, at Judkins Park. (Photo: Susan Fried)