Category Archives: Community

The Collaboratory: Rich Soil for Social Change

by Robin Boland

 

John Collab
Co-Founder John Helmiere speaking to Collaboratory members.

The Collaboratory (http://hillmancitycollaboratory.org/ ), quietly blooming on the corner of Rainier Ave S. and S. Orcas Street, is, even in its infancy, an enormous idea. South Seattle is indeed fertile ground for the seeds of change being sown by founders John Helmiere and Ben Hunter.

Open for only 6 months and already achieving its intended goals of building community and equipping change makers, the Collaboratory was originally envisioned as an “Incubator for Social Change”. Composed of co-work office spaces, the Mixing Chamber (a large, open, multi-purpose area), a learning kitchen, backyard community garden and drop-in center the Collaboratory is serving the community’s needs in a variety of ways. Perhaps the rarest aspect of the endeavor lies in its self-defining nature.

Non-profit organizations, start-ups and individuals join the Collaboratory as co-work partners, utilizing the essential office resources of a mailing address, conference room & office equipment. Additionally this space serves as a gallery for artists to display their available work. The Learning Kitchen, currently under construction, will offer cooking classes and other educational resources devoted to feeding a diverse community, focusing on healthy, local food fit for many palates. The backyard garden, which is open to all, hosts a community BBQ every Sunday.

The Mixing Chamber area, available both for one time or ongoing events, hosts a monthly featured artist’s exhibit as well as a variety of social justice organizations, neighborhood groups and community gatherings. Continuing use of the space or close proximity to the Collaboratory earns partners a special rate for use of this resource. Drop-in hours in the Mixing Chamber are from 10-2 on weekdays. This is a time when all are welcome and invited to have a hot meal (offered daily), peruse the free library, or obtain toiletries and household goods as needed. This is also an ideal time to meet with Collaboratory staff, discuss opportunities and get a feel for the environment of community connection.

Overall, the Collaboratory is the very embodiment of partnership. It is an environment built of our community’s experiences, goals and best intentions. One hopes that it continues to flourish, blossoming in the rich soil our area provides.

Robin Boland is a contributing columnist, South Seattle Enthusiast, and often is referred to as “little bird” by her friends who have heights over 5 ft 7

Two South Seattle Non-Profits Receive Community Awards

by Staff Writer

Two South Seattle area non-profits have received “People Helping People Awards” from Boeing Employee’s Credit Union (BECU).

CIty Fruit
City Fruit’s Terri Iverson receives their People Helping People Award.

Both City Fruit – which is located in the Beacon Hill neighborhood and harvests fruit from residential trees to donate to those who are food insecure – and the Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition (RBCEC) received $5000 apiece as a part of BECU’s Community Benefit Award program.

The program asked BECU members to vote for their favorite area non-profits that they felt had made a profound impact within their communities.

City Fruit and the RBCEC received enough nominations to beat out over 500 other Puget Sound area non-profits to be recognized as 2 of only 16 total organizations that were honored for that distinction.

Votes were tallied over a three month period beginning on  May 1st and recipients were honored with a ceremony at the Museum of Flight.

“The People Helping People award from BECU will help City Fruit harvest additional fruit from residential properties and Seattle parks, and in turn, help feed more of our neighbors in need. On an average day, City Fruit harvests around 500 pounds of fruit – pears, plums, and apples – that will go on to feed more than 2,000 families throughout Seattle.” said Catherine Morrison, City Fruit’s Executive Director.

Our Guide to The Seattle Summer Streets Party and Rainier Valley Heritage Parade

South Seattle’s streets will be sizzling this weekend, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the blistering summer temperatures as this Saturday kicks off the joint celebration of the 6th Annual Seattle Summer Streets Party and 22nd annual Rainier Valley Heritage Parade.

Rainier Avenue South will be closed starting at 10:00am tomorrow as festivities commence at noon on the avenue -from S Alaska to S Brandon St- with a parade that features as wide an array of entrants as you would expect to be unearthed from South Seattle’s overflowing chalice of diversity – which include dancers, marching bands, elaborately costumed entertainers, and one of a kind floats that must be seen to be believed.

Immediately after the parade’s conclusion, event goers will be treated to the Summer Streets party that will commandeer more than 5 blocks of Summer StreetsRainier Avenue, and which promises to be the biggest extravaganza that South Seattle residents have been privy to. To quote event organizer Susan Davis: “Over the last five years the parade and street party have grown exponentially! We keep raising the bar year after year and exceeding expectations!”

Featuring a beer garden, contestants vying for the crown of Rainier Valley’s Best BBQ, young and old alike disregarding all practical dieting advice so they can stuff their stomachs with whole pies in the span of a few minutes, and a DJ booth spinning tunes throughout the day to keep everyone energized,  the event is expected to attract over 5000 parade goers this year, including Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. With all eyes in the 206 area code (that aren’t blood shoot from a center other festival going on this weekend) gazing on the south end this weekend, we provide you with a guide to the celebrations various activities.

 

Parade: The theme for this year’s parade is Heritage and will feature participants with pageantry and costumes that harken back to the Rainier Valley’s storied history. Judges will keep a watchful eye as they vote for the entrants who best captures the area’s deep seated roots. Between: 12:00pm – 1:30pm

Re-Imagining Your Streets Activities: With the obvious attention that has been given to public safety concerns in recent weeks, there will be several events that attendees can participate in throughout the Street Party that will provide an opportunity for south end residents to envision what they would ideally love to see the community become one day soon.

Bicycling & B!kecitement Street: Rainier Avenue will get a temporary makeover as pop-up bike lanes will be stretched along the avenue allowing bicycle enthusiasts a period of nirvana as they get to glimpse what a cycle friendly road just might some day look like.

Beer Garden: There is a designated swath of land called the “garden”. There is beer there. The latter is served at the former all day long. There are no more words that need be written. (Well okay, here’s the location: Behind the Royal Room and Royal Esquire Club just off Hudson Street.)

BBQ Contest: Everyone who has ever muttered that Texas has the best barbecue has done so only because they have never once ventured into South Seattle. With barbeque in this area ranking somewhere between coffee and religion, amateurs will compete against each other in a no-holds, bare knuckled, sauce-bath contest for the taste buds of south end residents. When this is over, only one hickory splattered contestant will be able to lay claim to having the best BBQ in the Rainier Valley.

Art in the Alley: Absolutely no event is complete without some sense of refinement, and this one is no exception as the Columbia City Gallery exposes works of local area artisans to the masses in the alley ways of Rainier Avenue. Event goers will be treated to original artistic productions and will be able to return home feeling like a member of high society. Warning: The Gallery takes no responsibility for those who begin wearing a monocle after the event is over.

Pie Eating Contest: Diets were made to be broken, and what better place to lose count of calories than at a pie eating contest. Open to anyone who attends, this contest dares you not to woof down as much insulin spiking, crusted cake as possible during a given time span. Only those free of cavities and who happen to have a stomach that won’t quit need apply!

Chess Tables: As we’re apparently still searching for Bobby Fisher, there will be plenty of chess tables placed throughout Rainier Avenue, so that anyone looking to become the next grand master can try their hand at high stakes chess. No one leaves the table until the King falls! Location: Between Ferdinand and Hudson. Note: There will be instructors stationed at each table to teach newbies how to play.

 

After Party Festivities: Because the party isn’t over, until it’s over!!!

Blues Fest: Actually kicking off a day before the party officially gets underway, the Columbia City Blues Festival welcomes an assortment of local and national talent who will be channeling the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Hank Williams and Jimmie Rogers. A delight for area audiophiles. Runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night at The Royal Room.

Cinema Under the Stars: The day finishes up with a movie that has countless stars attached to it (not the botox infused ones, but the actual balls of flaming gas kind). Columbia Park will undergo a metamorphosis into an open air movie theater for one night as it presents a viewing of the Fantastic Mr. Fox. The movie will begin at 7:00pm.

 

Bash at the Beach: Event Brings Out Rainier Beach Community

Proving to be every bit the party that its title intimated, the Rainier Beach Back 2 School Bash – put on by Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalitioncommandeered the plaza of the Rainier Beach Community Center this past Saturday.

Replete with a DJ Booth (DJ Uncle Guy) that blasted out a diverse mixture of hits that inspired an impromptu group dance to Pharrell Williams’ song Happy, sequined frolicking lion-dragons of Vovinam that enthralled the hundreds of children and adults in attendance with a lively performance that spilled out all over the plaza, and dozens of pop up tents with animated host- which included Seattle Parks and Recreation, Seattle City Light,  Bikeworks and Got Green amongst others – it appeared that the Champs-Elysees had been transported to the corner of Rainier and Henderson for a few hours.

RB Moving Forward
Photo by Tady Williams

However, the Bash – in its eleventh year- wasn’t all fun and games. As it also functioned as a school supply giveaway for area youth, who were required to visit several resource tables stationed at the event – which provided everything from information on public safety to higher education- in order to receive a back to school package which included notebooks, backpacks, calculators, and other necessary, and increasingly costly, school items.

“This was so fun and exciting! I was so glad for all the opportunities to speak to people at the (resource) tables, and get a ton of information that you don’t normally get.” Said Chris Smith, a young attendee who brought along his mother and younger sister and left with a new backpack and a stack of free books courtesy of the Bash.

Usually held in Beer Sheva Park, the event was forced to relocate to the plaza due to the construction currently taking place at the park. The new locale actually appeared to boost community attendance as close to a record number packed the square just outside the community center, including many who found out about the Bash through happenstance.

“I was just driving, on my way home, and I saw all this activity at the plaza. I didn’t know what exactly was going on but it looked public. So,  I made a U-turn and picked up two of my grandchildren from their place and said: Let’s go check this out!” Commented Patricia Newman, a 19 year resident of the Rainier Beach area who was attending for the first time.

With the huge crowds displaying the rich cultural diversity that the southend of Seattle has become identified with, Gregory Davis -who heads up the coalition- was ecstatic that the turnout flew in the face of what he feels is an unfair perception that brands the community as fragmented.

“I’m overjoyed at the number of people here! This is our eleventh year, so we knew that we’d get interest from the community and that’s what we’re trying to do – to  be a community building environment. We’re excited about it,  as a community we want to be able to support people with resources and information as they go back to school.” Davis said.

As hundreds flocked to the event right up until its waning hours, community solidarity seemed a theme latched onto by most attendees. “Rainier Beach really gets a bad rap. Yes, there are a few people who engage in activities that give everyone else a bad name, but everyone here, and there are a lot of us, are here to show support for this community we live in and that we aren’t going anywhere.” Said September Jewel an event volunteer.

In an area that has seemingly made headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent months, event participants hoped that besides school supplies and community socializing, the Bash would also provide a glaring counterpoint to the negative portrayal that the Rainier Beach area has received in much of the media .

“This is really what the truth is, what you’re seeing here.” Asserted Davis. “The diversity, the people cooperating with each other. This is what we’re about. Look, naturally we’re not responsible for the press that gets out there about us, but if people came here and saw this they would know what the real truth is in terms of what’s happening in South Seattle.”

Back to School Street Smarts

by Robin Boland

With school buses being cut and school start times skewed many of us working parents will be sending our kids to school on Metro or on foot in just a few weeks. If you’re within the 2-mile ‘walk zone’ of your child’s school then your child will not be riding a school bus this fall.  As many of us are not afforded the luxury of beginning our workday at 10 a.m. (can you say 9:30 start times?) our older kids will be in charge of locking up & getting themselves to & from school. Add that to the near daily reports of phone snatchings and home invasions and anxiety ensues. Here are some ways of teaching our kids to protect themselves while we’re not with them, both at home & on the road.

 

Somewhere to start:

  • Speak honestly with your child about being aware of their surroundings while using a phone or other electronic device. This includes while riding the bus or train as well as while waiting at the stop or station. The idea to convey is that being aware of your surroundings makes you appear to be less of an easy target.
  • Discuss plans of action if someone is acting aggressively or making your child feel uncomfortable.
  • Communicate some common sense rules about locking up around the house, including locking up bikes & not leaving expensive items near open ground floor windows.

 

Additionally the South Precinct Crime Prevention contact, Mark Solomon (mark.solomon@seattle.gov ), offers the following tips to share with your family:

STUDENT PERSONAL SAFETY

Violent crime in Seattle is one of the lowest for cities it’s size in the nation.  And “Stranger Danger,” one of the most frightening types of reports in the news, is actually one of the rarest types of crimes.  With that said, there are no guarantees that you will never become a victim of violent crime.  However, there are some basic, sensible and easy to follow precautions that can lessen your chances of this type of encounter.

 

GENERAL SAFETY TIPS

  • Follow your intuition.  Pay close attention to the uncomfortable feelings that often warn us of potential danger.  “Trust your Gut.”  If you feel that a situation is not right, move out of the situation.  Trusting your own instincts that a situation feels “wrong” can be the best personal safety tool you have.  Don’t be afraid to cross the street, return to a business or ask for help based on that “funny feeling.”  You may be right.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.  In social situations, be alert to places and situations that make you vulnerable.  Know who is nearby or who may be following you.
  • Walk confidently and alertly.  Avoid walking alone and using shortcuts.
  • Walk with others and stay on paths that are well lit where you can easily see and be seen.
  • Carry your valuables safely.  Don’t display items (e.g., I-pods, cash, phones), when walking to and from your destination.

 

 

BEING SAFE ON THE BUS OR LIGHT RAIL

  • Maintain situational awareness on the bus, train and at transit stops.
  • While waiting for public transportation, keep your back close to a wall (or pole) so that you cannot be surprised from behind.
  • Don’t use or flash valuables like IPODS on the bus or train.
  • If there is a problem on the bus or train, notify the driver and/or call 911.
  • If someone is bothering you on the bus or train, notify the driver
  • If few people are on the bus or train, sit near the driver.
  • Use the transit schedules to minimize the length of time waiting for the bus or train.
  • Keep your purse, shopping bag, backpack, packages, etc., in your lap, on your arm, or between your feet — not by themselves on an empty seat.
  • Don’t let yourself doze off on the bus or train; it can make you an easy target.
  • If you feel uneasy about getting off at your usual stop, stay on until the next stop.
  • Guard transit passes like cash or other valuables (the school is not entitled to give you a new one if yours is lost or stolen).

 

 

BEING SAFE ON THE STREET

  • Know your routes.  Notice lighting, alleys, abandoned buildings, and street people.
  • If you are being followed or you see a person or group further down the street that makes you feel uncomfortable, cross the street, walk in another direction, or ask other people walking if you may walk a short distance with them.
  • Pick out places that you consider safer, places where you can either make a stand or reassure yourself that you are not being followed (i.e., lit porches, bus stops, stores, etc.).
  • Walk near the curb and away from buildings, trees, and shrubbery, which can hide potential threats.
  • When walking to your home or apartment, carry your house keys in your hand.  Don’t stand in a doorway and fumble in your purse or pocket for your keys.  Have them ready to use.
  • Always dress so that your movements are not restricted.

 

 

IF YOU ARE CONFRONTED

  • It may seem like a good idea to tell a robber that you have no money, but this technique may backfire. It is safer to give up a few dollars. Carry a little money separate from your other funds in an accessible place.
  • If someone demands your property and displays or implies in any way that they have a weapon, don’t resist.  Physical property isn’t worth getting injured or killed over.
  • If someone tries to grab you, make a scene. Scream, kick, fight . . . do what you can to get away and attract attention.

 

Robin Boland is a contributing columnist, South Seattle Enthusiast, and often is referred to as “little bird” by her friends who have heights over 5 ft 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Alajawan’s Hands: South Seattle Mother Keeps Her Son’s Memory Alive

by Marcus Harrison Green

 

Ayanna Brown
Ayanna Brown

“I still talk to him every morning. I say: Mama loves you.” Ayanna Brown shares as she delicately grasp a branch belonging to the Japanese Maple tree she and her husband planted in memory of her son Alajawan.

The 12 year old boy tragically had his life whisked away from him fours years ago walking from a bus stop near the Skyway 7-11 on Martin Luther King Jr Way  and 129th street, when Curtis Walker –  a member of the street gang The Bloods – mistook him for a rival and fired four shots directly at Alajawan. The only one to strike his body punctured his lungs, eventually leaving him dead in one of the convenience store’s parking stalls, just a few feet away from where the tree now flourishes in an adjoining enclosure.

“You know that tree isn’t even supposed to be here, that’s what the woman who dug the hole for it said. It’s some sort of miracle that it’s even there.” She says as she makes her way around the parking lot, retracing the steps from the  last few moments of her son’s life, coming ever closer to where she saw his body laying those four frightful years ago.

What is equally miraculous is how she is able to roam around the parking lot as if it were nothing but an extension of her living room. The site would more than likely trigger a hail of horrendous memories for most in her situation, but Ayanna has become a permanent fixture of the 7-11, so much so that her presence has become as synonymous with the store as its sporadically operational Slurpee machine .

“It says no loitering.” she chuckles, referring to the sign adhered to the store’s main window that is positioned just low enough for the cashier working inside to be able to acknowledge her with a wave and a smile as she journys around the former crime scene.“I’ve never paid any attention to it though.”

These frequent sojourns are her way of keeping connected to Alajawan, as she continues to cope with his passing. The time clock associated with the grief she feels for burying her youngest child, before he barely scratched life’s potential, has no hands attached to it.

“The Fourth of July is torture for me, all the helicopters, ambulances and fire trucks… it all makes me think back to that day when I lost him. My favorite show used to be CSI, but I can’t watch it anymore because of the autopsies. I just see his face every time. It never gets any easier for me. You just try to get acclimated to the feeling that he’s gone the best you can.”

While her son’s loss still haunts her, it also continues to resonate within the community of Skyway where her precocious 12 year old seemed the frontrunner for mayor had his age not prevented him from being electable.

Alajawan
Alajawan Brown

“He gave up his Saturday mornings to tutor younger kids at a math academy. He would feed people he would see outside of the stores begging for food. He would actually go inside the store and buy food for them with his own money, so they would not go hungry. He would save up to buy his own school supplies so that me and his father didn’t have to. He loved Skyway, and said he always wanted to make a difference here” she says as her mind savors nectarous recollections.

While it would have been understandable for her to have departed the area immediately after Alajawan’s death, forsaking it in the wake of tragedy, Ayanna has credited the Skyway Community for gifting her with strength during ghastly times.

“The people of this community have really rallied around me. I believe in the people who live here in the Skyway/West area. As tragic as Alajawan’s death was, I really don’t think any other community or neighborhood anywhere would have given me and my family the love that we received here.”

She realizes the surprise her statement might cause those whose familiarity with the Skyway area is limited to what currently passes for news coverage on the neighborhood.

“I’m not saying that we don’t have our problems, but so does Bellevue. From my own experience, the majority of the (violence and crime) that happens in Skyway is perpetuated by people who don’t live here. They bring their drama from their respective communities and leave the residents here to deal with the consequences and take the blame.”

She hopes to return all the support that she’s received from the community, while keeping her son’s memory alive, via the Alajawan Brown Foundation- operating as Alajawan’s hands- which besides offering tutoring services to area elementary aged children, provides Thanksgiving dinners to those residents who would starve on the holiday, and organizes a back-to- school supply drive that will be kicking off later today at the Sam’s Club in Renton.

In addition, the foundation offers scholarships to those children who would otherwise be unable to participate in youth sporting activities – including football, Alajawan’s favorite sport- because of the often prohibitive fees associated with them. Of all the charitable enterprises that the foundation participates in, it is this offering that Ayanna seems most proud.

“Before he passed away he wanted to play football. The season was four months away and the  fee to participate was $160. Me and his father were going to try to scrape it together, but he told us not to worry about it. He would pay for it himself. The day after he died we found a budget in his room that he had worked out. He had figured out that he had needed to make $40 dollars a month, and he had planned out how many lawns he needed to mow in order to reach his goal.”

“All this work that we’re doing with the foundation is really nothing but continuing on with what he was doing with his life, giving people opportunities that he wanted for himself and others. He would always tell me, ‘Mom, I want to make a difference. That’s my dream, and dreams never die if you don’t let them.” She continues.

“I refuse to let my baby’s memory die. I refuse to allow him to be just another dead black male. He’s not going to be just another statistic as long as I’m breathing.”

As she passes the Japanese Maple one last time before she gets ready to depart from the 7-11 parking lot, only to reconvene there with it again tomorrow, she can’t help but reflect on the trees tenacity. “Yeah, they said that he wouldn’t survive because his roots were too close to the cement in the ground, but  look at him now. He’s thriving anyway!”

If you would like to donate to the Alajawan’s Hands back to school drive you can drop off school supplies today between the hours of 9:00am and 3:00pm  at the Sam’s Club located at 901 S Grady Way, Renton, WA 98057. You can also deposit your school supply donations at any Puget Sound area Wendy’s collection box until August 20th. You can contact Alajawan’s Hands directly at http://www.alajawanshands.com.

Jolly Greeters Invade Rainier Beach

Corner Greeters

Rainier Beach residents have been growing accustomed to the welcome sight of jovial  faces greeting them along their daily treks through the neighborhood.

Corner Greeters, a project initiated by the Seattle Neighborhood Group as a part of Rainier Beach: A Beautiful Safe Place for Youth, places pop-up greeter stations throughout the area in places that have been designated as high crime spots.

The objectives of the stations are to encourage social engagement amongst community members, and deter future incidences of crime.

Along with smiles, the Greeters- who include community volunteers- provide public safety and legal information to passers by in addition to trinkets that match the theme of a particular station. Last week’s “Kindness Blossoms” station at the Rose Street Mini-Park, saw over 70 curious community members depart with flowers in hand and a better appreciation for the steps being taken to promote peace and unity within the neighborhood.

Corner Greeter events will be taking place over the next four weeks between 3:30 and 5:30pm at the following locations:

Wednesday, July 30th: Peace Revolutions at Mapes Creek Walkway Plaza (Near Saars)

Wednesday, August 6th: Fold In Peace at Intersection of S.Henderson and MLK Way South

Wednesday, August 13th: Peace Putts at Rainier Beach Safeway Parking Lot

Wednesday, August 20th: Harambee Drumming Circle at Rainier & Henderson Plaza

For more information on becoming a volunteer greeter you can visit: http://doodle.com/4eenicqnzbznewkg