by Lauryn Bray
On Saturday, Aug. 27, Rainier Beach Action Coalition (RBAC) will hold their 19th annual Back2School Bash at the Rainier Beach Community Center Plaza from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Led by community organizer and founder of Changing Habits and Motivating Personal Self-Esteem (CHAMPS) Danielle Jackson, the 19th annual event will give out free backpacks full of school supplies and other educational resources to students as they enter the 2022–2023 school year. Food and entertainment will also be provided.
This year’s Back2School Bash has partnered with Fathers and Sons Together (FAST), an organization that promotes and supports the empowerment of Communities of Color through increased involvement of fathers in the lives of their children. FAST will be bringing their biannual Barbershop Chat, Chew, & Play to the Back2School Bash and will be offering participants free haircuts from a selection of 12 different barbers. While receiving their haircuts, participants can listen to and engage in conversations about anti-violence, building family relationships, and prevention not intervention.
Danielle Jackson, who has coordinated the Back2School Bash for eight years and worked with Rainier Beach Action Coalition for over a decade, has a strong background in family and community services.
“I got into this work because I wanted to see families thrive,” said Jackson. “I was a teen mom at 17 and really wanted to be able to help families with the resources and services they needed. Because I know how it was for me, and I always hoped that there was someone there for me.”
She has been involved with RBAC since she met their managing strategist Gregory Davis in 2010. At the time, CHAMPS was doing a “For Youth by Youth” anti-violence conference, and Davis was one of the event sponsors. After she saw the work of RBAC, she began volunteering with the organization.
“I liked the work that they were doing. So I went to one of his [RBAC’s] Back2School Bashes, and I had a booth there for CHAMPS, which is my nonprofit organization, and I’ve just been there ever since,” explained Jackson. “So in 2014, he asked me if I would take over the Back2School Bash.”
The event will also host more than 50 groups and vendors including: Child Care Resources, Rainier Valley Leadership Academy, H.O.P.E. Center Resources, Alliance for Gun Responsibility, Rainier Scholars, Woodland Park Zoo, Rainier Beach Emergency Community, and Empowering Youth and Family Services. Safeway will also provide free shoes to students in need, the Seattle Fire Department will be present with a fire truck, and The Seattle Public Library will give out free books from their mobile book van.
“Everybody that’s there is either around education, public safety, economic development, health and wellness, [or] food and justice,” said Jackson.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, participants of last year’s Back2School Bash were broken up into groups of 10–15 in an attempt to reduce transmission of the virus and to comply with past mandates that prohibited large gatherings. This year, with widespread vaccinations, the Back2School Bash is back in full effect and participants can once again convene with the community and celebrate the upcoming school year as one group.
“[In the past,] we’ve had as many as a thousand [participants], but with COVID, it has gotten a lot smaller,” said Jackson, who estimates there may be around six or seven hundred people present, from not just Seattle, but also Snohomish County and Tacoma.
The Back2School Bash is a free family event and will take place on Aug. 27 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Rainier Beach Community Center Plaza, 8825 Rainier Ave. S.
Lauryn Bray is a writer and developmental editor at the South Seattle Emerald. She has a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from CUNY Hunter College. She is from Sacramento, California, and has been living in King County since June 2022.
📸 Featured Image: 2019 Rainier Beach “Back 2 School Bash.” (Photo: Susan Fried)
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