Cowboys and West Hillians: West Hill Youth Venture to Cowboy Camp

Photo courtesy of M-Bar-C Ranch
Photo courtesy of M-Bar-C Ranch

For one unforgettable day wide open frontiers, mammoth steeds that galloped directly out of a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western, and stagecoaches loaded to the brim with cowhands who made liberal usage of the expression “Yee Haw,” delighted the children of R.A.Y’s West Hill Family Center’s Youth Counseling and Therapy Program as they made the Wild West their playpen.

Last Wednesday over 60 mostly elementary aged youth and their families joined with the counselors and therapist of the Center – located in the Skyway/ West Hill neighborhood-  in venturing to Whidbey Island to experience Cowboy Camp at the M-Bar-C Ranch.

The ranch, owned and operated by The Forgotten Children’s Fund, specializes in supplying a full Old West Adventure – complete with Wild Frontier era replica town that includes a jail, vintage cowboy costumes for anyone who left their spurs and chaps at home, and horseback riding on full size stallions – for groups of children with special needs who rarely deviate too far from the confines of city life, so, as the ranch’s mission statement reads: “They can have the opportunity to be the most kid they can be.”

This opportunity appeared to be welcome by the Center’s children as all are currently undergoing some form of counseling for reasons that include physical abuse, parental neglect, and anxiety issues, as it acted as  a much needed respite from the heaviness of many of their personal situations.

It was with this context that the young city slickers unabashedly embraced the country atmosphere according to Center Director Morgan Wells, who was decked out in full cowgirl regalia for the day and at one time found herself locked up in the town’s prison by a five year old deputy. (She would not reveal what she had done to warrant such an act.)

“The kids really had a blast! They were really excited about everything they did during the day – from getting on  these large horses, as the ones who had ridden before had only ever done so on ponies, so they kept commenting about how big they were.They also loved dressing up as cowboys and doing all the arts and craft activities that the volunteers led them in. At the end of the day I asked what everyone’s highlight was and there were just so many. The kids loved their time at the ranch!”

The trip was made possible by a generous local benefactor who paid all expenses associated with the children, their families, and the Center’s staff attending the day long camp. A gift that amounted to several thousand dollars and was made primarily because the donor wanted the kids to share in the unique experience he felt the ranch afforded.

Though the trip to Whidbey provided an opportunity for the youth to venture out from their familiar urban surroundings, possibly the biggest, and most enduring, benefit of the day was that it provided a much needed bonding experience for them as they often times face feelings of alienation and ostracism that come from participating in therapy at such a young age.

“The coolest thing about this event was that during the year we mainly work with kids one-on-one, so much of the time they never meet each other, or even see each other, unless they’re passing by in the waiting rooms. Otherwise, they don’t get to build relationships.” Wells said.

“However, by the end of the day today I watched some moms exchange phone numbers so they could do playdates because their kids really hit it off. I saw a grandmother invite some of the other families to her church for an activity that she’d doing this week. There was just some really nice relationship building between the families who come here, and I think that’s really special, because it gives kids the feeling that they aren’t alone. Now they can think: ‘I’m  not the only kid around here who needs counseling or needs someone in my life.’ Everybody on the trip needs counseling for one reason or another, and yet today no one could tell them that weren’t just a bunch of typical kids.”

Woman Robbed at Gunpoint in Rainier View Neighborhood

by Staff Writer

A woman was robbed less than an hour ago at a Metro bus stop on the corner of Beacon Ave S and 57th Street in the Rainier View neighborhood.

Seattle Police are looking for the suspect, identified as being an African-American male in his late teens.

The woman had just finished her in home caretaker shift  and was waiting for the 107 bus when a young man brandished a gun – pointing it directly in her face- and demanded that she relinquish her purse. He then fled without further incident once the woman obliged.

The suspect is still at large and it is advised that you contact the Seattle Police Department immediately should you have any information as to his whereabouts.


Sunday Brew: Perspective

by Matt Aspin

“You Left Me Alone” by Rokkur Rokkur, Creative Commons

Forty plus years and I’ve rarely been wrong

Betting that you would pen a similar song

Left and Right all doing their thing

Certain that theirs is the right song to sing

Denying the fact we’re all scared by the same

Could just acknowledging our frailty make us a little more sane?

A thin sliver of life in a dark empty zone

It’s no wonder we’re crazy- We’re scared and alone


Op-Ed: A Faith Reflection on the No New Youth Jail Movement

 Editor’s Note: This editorial is a response to the impending construction of the $210 million King County Children and Family Justice Center which will be located on 12th and Alder.

by Rev. Brandon Duran


Christians are called to listen for how the ancient scriptures speak to our contemporary circumstances. From Isaiah to Jesus we hear an exhortation to stand with those who are oppressed and imprisoned. This call to solidarity is a call to relationship, a call to offer comfort to those who suffer and a call to confront the powers and principalities that perpetuate such suffering. This calling, deeply rooted in the Christian faith, coupled with the voices of youth participating in the No New Youth Jail movement, compel people of faith to rise and testify.Constructing this “Children and Family Justice Center” without addressing the broken system upon which it is built through dialogue with those most affected will only perpetuate systemic racism that oppresses youth of color.

Those who seek to follow the way of Christ quickly discover that this way leads to a relationship of mutuality with those marginalized, oppressed and dehumanized by those in power. It is those with power who have who have created the plan for the new youth jail. Their hearts may hold the best of intentions but they will have a devastating impact if they don’t listen to the communities who are being oppressed by the criminal justice system. Youth of color commit crimes at the same rates as white youth, but are arrested, charged, sentenced and denied opportunities for alternative programs at higher rates than white youth. At every step in the process from childhood to inmate, the disproportionately harsh treatment of youth of color is amplified (Department of Health and Human Services, 2012).

This is an unjust system and this injustice does not happen by accident. As Michelle Alexander describes in her book, The New Jim Crow, the mass incarceration of people of color has become our nation’s way of continuing to oppress people of color. As slavery was abolished, the Jim Crow laws and fear of lynching took over as the mechanism of social control. As Jim Crow laws were outlawed, our policies and enforcement around incarceration became the new, more“politically correct” form of slavery (Alexander, 2010). Our juvenile justice system takes children who are already more likely to have had adverse childhood experiences from the poverty and racism that is embedded in our society and puts them into an environment that has been documented to create further trauma.In fact, the best predictor of who will be incarcerated as an adult, is whether they were incarcerated as a child (Gatti, Tremblay, & Vitaro, 2009). This means that incarceration is not a solution, but a last resort.

In order to change the root causes that lead to incarceration of youth of color, deep institutional changes in our criminal justice system need to be nurtured and fed at a grassroots level. In demanding change we must recognize that the vision must be shaped by those who are most affected by the injustice of caging youth. The Christian faith teaches that cultural privilege of any form, be it race, socio-economic status, gender identity, is not to be wielded as a right but released as means for uplifting the crushed. Power, in all of its forms is not to be hoarded and consolidated as a means of control but poured out so that the voices of all may be heard with dignity and respect.

The No New Youth Jail movement is one that is led by youth of color because they are the ones affected by racism in their daily lives and therefore have an expertise that no degree or research can match. The creativity and energy that I have witnessed on this campaign is transformative in the way that tells me that the sacred spirit of truth and wisdom is at work. My belief in what is possible for reforming systems of oppression is rooted in a faith that speaks of beauty from ashes and new life from that which is broken and reeks of death.

The No New Youth Jail movement is working within the context of a world that is often unjust, but people of faith and as anti-racist organizers are called to think beyond the banal possibilities sprung from false dichotomies and forced choices. I understand the concern for a facility falling into disrepair yet there lives a greater threat in the destruction created by the broken system the facility is built upon. We cannot accept a slight decrease in the number of beds in the new youth jail when we know that we can prevent them from being needed at all; we cannot accept making jail a more comfortable place when we know that it will always be a cage for our youth; we cannot accept racism as just an afterthought in the minds of our leaders when we know that it is destroying the lives of people of color.

I stand with youth of color as they seek solutions that are rooted in their understanding of how the juvenile justice system perpetuates racism and I am committed to lending my hands, feet and mouth to their work as they speak truth to power.

The Rev. Brandon Duran is ordained for ministry by the United Church of Christ and currently serves as the Associate Minister for Youth and Young Adults at Plymouth Church Seattle. This editorial reflects the views of Rev. Duran who can be reached at To learn more about Plymouth see To learn more about the United Church of Christ see

Alexander, M. (2010). The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York:New Press, The.

Department of Health and Human Services. (2012). Washington State Juvenile Justice Annual Report. Retrieved from

Gatti, U., Tremblay, R. E., & Vitaro, F. (2009). Iatrogenic effect of juvenile justice. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 50(8), 991–8. Retrieved from

This Weekend In South Seattle: Festivals Galore!

WeekendEvents this weekend in the South Seattle area


Friday, August 22nd

Community: VFW Meat Raffle from 4 to 7pm @ Skyway VFW Hall 7421 S. 126th St Seattle, WA 98178. More Info: email

Community: Skyway Outdoor Cinema. Pre-Show Entertainment and Prize Wheel starts at 8:00pm, A showing of Frozen follows at 9:00pm @ 12610 76th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98178 (Skyway U.S. Bank Parking Lot). More Info:

Music:  Correo Aereo (Latin/World Music) begins at 8:00pm@ The Royal Room 5000 Rainier Avenue South Seattle 98118.  Cost: Free. More Info:


Saturday, August 23rd

Community: Rainier Beach High School Work Party (Picking up litter and Improving trees) from 9:00am – 12:00pm @S Henderson Street and 53rd Avenue South. More Info:

Community:  Westhill End of Summer Festival (includes Alajawan Brown’s Back to School Supply Giveaway, Fire Fighter Fitness Challenge for Kids, and Bike Helmet Fittings) from 10:00am to 2:00pm @ 76th Avenue South, Seattle, WA, (King County Fire Station #20) More Info:

Health & Community: New Holly Family Fun Festival & Health Fair from 11:00am to 3:00pm @7054 32nd Avenue  South Seattle (New Holly Campus)

Community: Rainier Court Community Festival from 12:00pm – 4:0pm, followed by Summer Streets Part at 1:30pm @ Rainier Avenue and 33rd Avenue South. More Info:

Community: Detective Cookie’s Urban Chess Club with Pro Chess Instructor H.R.Pitre. From 12:00pm – 2:00pm @ Rainier Beach Community Center: 8825 Rainier Ave South Seattle. Ages 7 and Older. More Info: 206-650-3621 (Detective Cookie)

Music: Beacon Rocks (Outdoor Concert)  begins at 1:00pm @ Beacon Ave S & S Lander Street 98144 More Info:


Sunday, August 24th

Music: The Seattle Piano Players begins at 7:00pm @ The Royal Room 5000 Rainier Avenue South Seattle 98118.  Cost: Free. More Info:


If you have an event to post, please email



Rainier Valley Recieves Funding for Neighborhood Projects

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw announced new funding for three Rainier Valley neighborhood projects today: The Columbia City Gateway, the Ethiopian Community Center Kitchen renovation and the Orca K-8 School Playground renovation.  $100,000 will go to each of the projects via the City of Seattle’s Neighborhood Matching Large Projects Fund.

“I’m delighted to see these projects receive funding, all of which were initiated and implemented by community members,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, chair of the City Council’s Neighborhoods Committee.  “This is a shining example of true neighborhood empowerment, where community volunteer hours and community fundraising are leveraged into additional support.”

Details of the three projects are as follows:

Columbia City Gateway

Mobilize the community in transforming the unsightly and neglected Northeast corner of the Columbia School property into a signature streetscape and mini-park as a welcoming “gateway” to the neighborhood.

Ethiopian Community of Seattle Community Kitchen Project

Renovate and update approximately 900 sq. ft. commercial kitchen and bring it fully up to code. The project aims to create a vibrant hub of community building, healthy eating, learning, celebration and sharing.

Orca K-8 School Playground Renovation

Improve site entry, acquire new playground equipment, expand all-weather surface area, a natural outdoor classroom “Council Ring,” running track, renovated play field, pole and ramp course (for all but especially highly disabled individuals), ADA accessible textile nature path, expanded seating and garden beds and safety improvements.

Recipients of the Neighborhood Matching Fund match their awards through a combination of locally raised money, donated materials and expertise and volunteer labor.  A Citywide Review Team consisting of community volunteers reviewed applications and selected these Rainier Valley projects, amongst others, for funding.  Council approved their recommendation on Monday, August 11th.

Cinema Verite: The Real Stars Aren’t on the Screen, They’re in the Seats

by Devin Chicras

Fade in: Interior, Skyway VFW, late July. West Hill residents pour single file into the basement for a community meeting called to address the growing concern for public safety in the wake of a recent spike in gun violence – including one memorable incident where two groups exchanged dozens of rounds across the main street, injuring six.

One woman is overheard mentioning “it’s a good thing it’s still light outside, or I wouldn’t have came. Not safe to be out here at night”. Older gentleman over her right shoulder nods in agreement.

They’re not alone. While the level of violence was analogous to many other surrounding areas, many residents and businesses had seriously considered moving out of the area, the tension and anxiety was palpable and online discussion was exploding. On top of an already difficult situation, we had just lost our beloved Storefront Deputy, someone many looked up to and regarded as a change maker in our community with his compassionate community policing model. He had given us hope, and now many felt lost.

If you had watched the news coverage of the meeting you would have assumed that it was entirely about how devastated the community was about Deputy Barnes’ departure. What you didn’t see was that the majority of the event was actually dedicated to brainstorming solutions to crime, and specifically, gun violence among youths. What the cameras didn’t catch was the incredible energy, empathy and problem solving that our neighbors brought to the meeting. Some mentioned that they wanted to do something for their community, but they seemed to be waiting for some direction.

I was in the crowd that night. I didn’t have a grand solution to end the violence. As a board member of the nonprofit, volunteer-run West Hill Community Association (WHCA) I felt inclined to focus on the positive side of our neighborhood and shared a list of opportunities for folks to get involved and contribute to a safer, more vibrant neighborhood – from work parties, annual cleanups and ways to get connected to neighbors, to an upcoming event called Skyway Outdoor Cinema.

I (among others) made a similar speech at an earlier WHCA meeting immediately following the police captain’s update on the recent major shooting (and neighbors asking what they could do about it) but the camera also stopped rolling after they had gotten the footage they came for, lest they complicate their neat paradigm of Skyway as lawless, crime-ridden area – a stigma perpetuated by the media which has not only been embedded in the consciousness of those that do not dare visit Skyway for fear of their own safety, but also in that of our very own neighbors. It breeds mistrust and serves to further isolate an area that already suffers from a severe lack of resources due to its unincorporated status and creates major challenges in building unity and expanding communication within our richly diverse, wonderfully unique neighborhood.

Two days after that public safety meeting – just two days after hearing folks say they wouldn’t want to be caught on the streets after dark – the 14th season of Skyway Outdoor Cinema kicked off behind the 7-Eleven on Renton Avenue South to an all time record crowd.

Myself and Mary Goebel served as the two lone volunteer organizers of WHCA’s Skyway Outdoor Cinema, and we’d worked all year, but still SOC2had much to do just before the opening day. The majority of expected funding had fallen through, and the timing couldn’t have been worse as by last season we had already doubled the crowds with a complete re-brand, expanded marketing efforts and a comprehensive overhaul of the whole event. Our ultimate goal was to continue making the event sustainable by securing sponsors and purchasing our own equipment, rather than renting.

To that end, we decided that we needed our own A/V equipment. While a grant from King County covered a bit less than half of an all-in-one unit we intended to buy, we were still about $4k short. So we turned to the community. We started an Indiegogo campaign, uploaded a silly but heartfelt video and put our fate in the hands of our neighbors. We didn’t have much money available to rent equipment, so the stakes were high. We received an incredible response, and in less than a month, we surpassed our goal by a total of 9%, thanks to some amazingly generous folks.

Similarly, calls for volunteers were met with responses from some of the kindest, most hard-working folks I’ve ever met.

As the emcee for the event, I needed some impromptu volunteers to help raffle off prizes after the film. The request had barely finished transferring from the mic to the speakers when a sea of tiny hands shot up. I quickly selected a group of children at random – not immediately realizing that some couldn’t have been much older than six or seven – to help hold the prizes up, spin the raffle drum, draw tickets and call out numbers over the microphone in front of hundreds of people. I have rarely seen the level of professionalism shown by these tiny humans displayed by fully grown adults. I’ve now repeated the same process over three nights with a completely different group of kids each time, with the same exact result.

We had no idea how many people would show up after seeing all of those negative news stories. We didn’t expect 300 attendees, from babies to seniors, to show up at a 7-Eleven in Skyway and stay until 11pm on a Friday night in August. And we certainly didn’t expect whole families to flock to Skyway of all places from Redmond, Burien, Des Moines, Federal Way and beyond.

While there may be some people that are quick to write us off, we are a community of leaders and compassionate supporters, who are simply searching for an opportunity to get involved. Something special is happening here in Skyway, and I think it’s only getting started.


Skyway Outdoor Cinema is showing “Frozen” for its final event of the season is this Friday, 8/22 behind the 7-Eleven on Renton Ave. S. & 76th Ave. S. Preshow fun runs from 8-9pm, with a free prize wheel, silly photo booth featuring Olaf the snowman made out of balloons and a free ticket for the raffle after the film. Concessions range from 50-75¢, so bring all the change in your couch cushions. Don’t forget to bring your own chair, beanbag, blanket or picnic table. Princess costume optional.

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