Gems is a column devoted to spotlighting the various denizens who contribute to the rich mosaic that is the south Seattle area.
Who: Gabbie Guncay
Best Known Around South Seattle As: That bubbly tutor lady from Lake Washington Apartment’s Youth Tutoring Program
Typical Day: 1)Wake Up 2) Somehow manage to keep 30 children who are at the peak of a sugar high and overstimulated from social media focused on a lesson plan 3) Sleep a merciful sleep.
Most Oft Quoted Phrase: “What just broke?!?”
What do you like most about South Seattle?
I appreciate that people are really friendly here. It’s so interesting because the last few weeks they’ve been doing these Corner Greeter activities to promote the idea that Rainier Beach is a more friendly and open place, but I already feel like it is despite the recent going ons. Every time I go somewhere, or ask someone a question, or go to the grocery store, people automatically come up to me and talk to me. I don’t ever have to initiate a conversation.
You’re the head of the YTP (Youth Tutoring Program) at the Lake Washington Apartments in Rainier Beach. What’s the best thing about the kids you tutor?
The best thing about the kids I tutor is that I get to be a part of their lives and share some great moments with them. For example, I have a student whose father is a truck driver- so he is never home- and the other day (during our summer session) I noticed that an older man was hanging out with the student, so I asked him about it, and he said: “Oh yeah, my dad’s home!” So, it’s just fun to share in their joy,such as a parent being there for them, or them getting a new bike, or new shoes. I’m one of the two or three people that they tell their story to, and who actually sits and listens to them. It’s just fun to be part of their lives.
What’s the most surprising thing about South Seattle in comparison to other areas of the city?
It’s not surprising, but that Seattle is highly segregated. You have North Seattle and the Eastside where many wealthy upper class people live who don’t know that they have all these privileges that they have. They then go down to South Seattle and think:“This isn’t where I want to be. These are not the people I want to associated with. This isn’t the area I feel like I belong in.” I think that a lot of that would change if there was more interaction between people who live in different areas of the city.
I feel like our tutoring program helps to foster that interaction, because we have tutors who live in Rainier Beach and Skyway, but we also have ones who live in Capitol Hill and Greenwood. In fact,I have a tutor who comes all the way from Woodinville, so that he can tutor in Rainier Beach! I asked him if he wanted to come to a place that was really unique and where he felt feel like he belonged? He said,“Yes”, and he’s been welcomed in by the kids. They make a big commotion every time they see him! He could not find the same opportunity in Woodinville. I guarantee you!
As you are helping to foster the next generation of South Seattle residents, what would you want people to be able to say about our area by the time your students have reached adulthood?
I just hope that people can see it as being an equally rich community as that of any other area of Seattle, and that it’s equal in economic opportunity as anywhere else. I just hope that it becomes a place that people respect, and that people want to make a safer place. My main hope is that people stay and don’t move away.
If you had the power of the Genie in Aladdin (R.I.P Robin Williams) what wish would you grant to South Seattle?
I would wish that there was someone who would fund all the various micro projects that are in need of funding in the area. There are people in the area who have great ideas, but just can’t get the funding for them. I think micro projects are awesome because they get people together who wouldn’t normally come together. That’s what the Corner Greeter Stations are doing. South Seattle really needs more anti-violence programs, especially Rainier Beach. We don’t need more police. We need more friendly faces.
You recently did a project with the YTP kids that required them to come up with book titles for stories they created. What would the title of a children’s book based on South Seattle be named?
Well, we titled one: The Boy Who Loved A Seed. The seed was a metaphor for nurturing something that you love. It takes hard work in order to do so. Since this area is a place we all love, I would title it: A Community That Loved A Seed.
Know of a Gem in the South Seattle community? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 Rainier 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.
Q: I’ve recently begun a relationship that couldn’t be better. He is everything that I need in a partner: complimentary, compassionate, and extremely intelligent. However, the but is that he is thirty years my junior. I’m the kind of person who usually doesn’t allow what others think to bother me, but it has become difficult to not be affected by the stares and snickers people give us when we go out. I have actually begun to avoid public outings with him altogether out of embarrassment. This has of course put somewhat of a strain in our relationship. I really think that what we have is love, but there is a part of me who can’t put it out of my head that I’m dating someone who is the same age as my son. Do you advise that I just chalk this up as a fling and move on, or do I try to make it work, and if so, how?
Wendy: Whether he be 30 years your junior, 30 years older or your age, there’s no telling how long it can last. Yes, it’s not a common pairing and there will be whispers (and maybe a few shouts) but all relationships have unwanted opinions to manage. If you are enjoying this relationship, keep enjoying it. Time will tell whether the two of you can weather this coupling. It sounds like you have a clear idea of what will be challenging. Keep your eyes and your communication wide open and see what will be.
Q: My wife and I have been married for almost 7 years now. We’re happy, or as happy as you can be after seven years anyway, and have finally decided that it’s time to have a child. With that understanding, my wife came to me the other day and revealed that she had been propositioned for sex by a colleague of hers. She basically stated to me that this was an “itch” she would like to scratch before we had a child and she was fully in “unselfish” mode for the rest of her life- whatever that means. She told me that once it’s over, it’s over, however I’m not really sure what to do about it. On one hand I’m like, “No way!” But, on the other I’m thinking what if she doesn’t scratch it and it continues to bug her long after we’ve had our child? This is a real life 7 year itch!
Wendy:Let me start by dispelling a myth that seems to exist in at least your wife’s mind: a desire to have sex with someone else isn’t a simple itch. In addition, children do not necessarily turn you into faithful, dedicated lifetime partners. There is absolutely no way she, or you, can predict with certainty that her tryst will be over once she’s gone for a roll or ten. People have a funny way of getting attached to others that they share intimacies with, both physical and emotional. Having said that, I also want to applaud you both for being so open with each other. Many people have these same desires but keep them hidden for fear that it will cause irreparable harm to their partners. This is an opportunity to talk about your relationship and maybe address some things. A quickie here and there with someone new is not the right salve for that particular itch. Explore it more with your wife. Is there any discussion about you having a desire to seek something outside of your marriage? Is it a quid pro quo? It may seem scary, but these discussions are good for relationships if there is honesty and safety. Spend a little time scratching her back while she scratches yours.
Q:I’m a 22 year old recent college graduate. My girlfriend and I have been together since High School, but it looks like we’ll be split apart for the next couple of years as she is doing a mission with the Peace Corps. I understand the whole thing about, “having my entire life before me,” and that you shouldn’t put your life on hold for someone, but I really love her and I want to marry her one day. She’s told me that she thinks that we should end things, just while she’s gone, and let life unfold as it will because it’s not fair to either one of us to “wait” for the other. “Whatever will be, will be.” I’m scared to let her go because I’m afraid that I’ll lose her. I’ve even thought about trying to join the Peace Corps myself so that we could be together. She’s the only person I’ve ever been with, and I feel the only person I want to be with. Shouldn’t I do whatever it takes to be with her?
Wendy: No, you shouldn’t do whatever it takes to be with her. She has very graciously given you the gift of potential new experiences. I believe you when you say that you love her and you have no interest in being with anyone else. You have options. Living a celibate life until her return is an option. I don’t recommend it, but it is an option. On the other hand, I don’t believe you when you say “I get it that I have my entire life before me.” You can’t possibly understand that concept until you live an entire life (or most of one) and you can look back on your life. That’s okay. You’re not supposed to get it until later. Let me tell you this one truth, you are capable of loving more than one person in your life. She has told you what she wants and you have shared your desires with her. Do the best that you can do for yourself by giving yourself the opportunity to have new experiences, whether they be in love, travel, education, volunteer work, careers or any or all of the above. Who knows, at the end of this time apart, life will unfold and you may find yourself wanting something of a completely different flavor. Wendy Olsen is a Marriage & Family Therapist, specializing in Sex Therapy. You can find more of her advice at http://www.talk2wendyolsen.com
Sports: Seed First Annual Golf Tournament begins at 8:00am @ Jefferson Park Golf Club 4101 Beacon Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108. More Info: Tournament Director Brian Remington,Email: email@example.com, phone: 206-762-4513
Movies:Opening of Boyhood, showtimes 12:00 pm, 3:00pm and 7:30pm @ Ark Lodge Cinemas 4816 Rainier Avenue South Seattle , WA 98118. More Info: http://www.arklodgecinemas.com
Community:VFW Meat Raffle from 4 to 7pm @ Skyway VFW Hall 7421 S. 126th St Seattle, WA 98178. More Info: email firstname.lastname@example.org
Movies:Beacon Hill Meaningful Movies Present Amandla! A Revolution in 4 Part Harmony. The Garden House 2336 15th Avenue South Seattle 98144. More Info: Christina Olson phone: 206-762-1026
Community: Skyway Outdoor Cinema. Pre-Show Entertainment and Prize Wheel starts at 8:00pm, A showing of Gravity follows at 9:00pm @ 12610 76th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98178 (Skyway U.S. Bank Parking Lot). More Info: Facebook.com/SkywayOutdoorCinema
Music: Second Annual Columbia City Blues Festival (Featuring Reggie Garrett and The Paul Green Band) begins at 8:00pm@ The Royal Room 5000 Rainier Avenue South Seattle 98118. Cost: Free. More Info: http://www.theroyalroomseattle.com
Saturday, August 16th
Contest:Third Annual Rainier Valley BBQ Contest from 6:00am – 3:00pm @The Royal Room 5000 Rainier Avenue South Seattle 98118. Entree Fee: $20. More Info: http://www.theroyalroomseattle.com
Volunteering: Beacon Hill Volunteer Work Party begins at 9:00am @2424 Beacon Avenue South Seattle, WA 98144
Sports:30th Annual Emerald City Open Water Swim starts at 9:00am @Andrews Bay on Lake Washington 5898 Lake Washington Blvd S Seattle, WA 98118. More Info: Kelsey Smith (206)-684-4766
Parade:Seattle Summer Streets Party and Rainier Valley Heritage Parade. Parade goes from 12:00pm – 1:30pm, followed by Summer Streets Part at 1:30pm @ Rainier Avenue (Between S Alaska and S Brandon Street). More Info: http://www.rainierchamber.com
Community: DetectiveCookie’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: Second Annual Columbia City Blues Festival Day 2 (Featuring Orville Johnson) begins at 9:00pm@ The Royal Room 5000 Rainier Avenue South Seattle 98118. Cost: $8/$10 More Info: http://www.theroyalroomseattle.com
Sunday, August 17th
Sports: Iron Girl Seattle Women’s Triathlon starts at 6:45am @ Genesse Park 4316 S Genesse St, Seattle, WA 98118 More Info: Katie Sousa email: email@example.com
Community:Othello Park International Music and Arts Festival from 12:00pm – 6:00pm @ Othello Park 4219 S Othello St, Seattle, WA 98118 More Info: http://othellopark.org/2014-festival
Music:Second Annual Columbia City Blues Festival Day 3 (Featuring Crack Sunday) Family Show begins at 6:30pm, Late Show (“The Blues According to Jimi Hendrix”) begins at @ The Royal Room 5000 Rainier Avenue South Seattle 98118. Cost: Free. More Info: http://www.theroyalroomseattle.com
If you have an event to post, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The latest tools of the City of Seattle, Find-It/Fix-It walks, were designed to have regular citizens meet their city leaders, to chat with police officers, and to point out things like graffiti and trash. Those need to be pointed out because, obviously, no one from the City has noticed these things recently.
These walks were designed to assuage the fears of people living and working in South Seattle. To show that city leaders were indeed paying attention. Attention to the fact that, since April 19, more people have been killed in the 37th Legislative District, which South Seattle dominates, than in the War in Afghanistan. Attention to the fact that, while violent crime has fallen city-wide, gun violence in the South Precinct is up 165 percent over all of 2013. Attention to the fact that the South Precinct has its 8th new police captain in five years. Attention to the fact that 75 percent of robberies in the South Precinct occur within 250 feet of transit stations, and that robberies are way, way up.
On Tuesday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray joined in the fifth “Find-It/Fix-It” walk, the second in the Rainier Beach area. It was gratifying to see the Mayor in the neighborhood, especially since he missed the July 22nd Rainier Beach event. Tuesday’s walk was also attended by Councilmember Sally Clark (a resident of the Brighton neighborhood), and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes (who lives south of Seward Park). Councilmember Bruce Harrell, a lifelong resident of South Seattle, participated in the first three walks.
But residents of South Seattle should be very concerned that none of the other seven members of the Seattle City Council have bothered to show up at the Find-it/Fix-It walks. Not the only member who served as a police officer. Not the only member who served as a Deputy King County Prosecutor. Not the Vice Chair of the Public Safety Committee.
Of the 80 people participating in Tuesday’s walk, more than half are paid city employees, representing the departments of police and fire, parks, neighborhoods, transportation, and lots of young interns and junior staff from the Mayor’s office. It was uplifting to show such a huge city contingent that the Seattle city limits extend beyond McClellan Street. Welcome to Rainier Beach, Mr. Mayor.
One could be forgiven for being skeptical that these walks would accomplish much. Since the first Rainier Beach walk two weeks ago, we’ve had numerous drive-by shootings, the home break-in and sexual assault of a child, and the pistol-whipping of a young woman in the Rainier Beach Public Library. Within hours of the Find-it/Fix-It walk around the Genesee Station, teen girls were robbed at gunpoint. More shootings here, there, everywhere in South Seattle.
Refreshingly, newly-hired Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole walked side-by-side with real neighbors genuinely excited by her presence. But while it was great to rub elbows with police brass, there was a disturbing disconnect. Capt. John Hayes seemingly wanted to fill Robin Williams’ void by serving as jovial entertainer-in-chief. If he was describing, at any point, the violence that occurred in our library a few hours earlier, it wasn’t apparent because his demeanor was nothing but casual and flip. DJ, play me some Bobby McFerrin.
The first Rainier Beach Find-it/Fix-It walk had us leaving the light rail station, heading east on Henderson. Tripping on overgrown, unkempt street trees and broken sidewalks, my friend, who is blind, could see more blight and decay than city staff. A nine-year old girl was bleeding from overgrown blackberry vines arching over sidewalks and onto city streets. I asked a representative of the Department of Transportation why the city couldn’t take care of this, especially when it’s on a block served by light rail and several bus lines. “This is private property,” she said. “It’s the owner’s responsibility.”
“I don’t (expletive) care,” I exploded in exasperation at her arrogant, let-them-eat-cake attitude. “Take care of it! Look at this bleeding girl and a fallen blind man; this is a hazard that needs to be fixed.” She argued with me, sputtering excuse after excuse why SDOT couldn’t help. Worse, with a straight face, she said that Rainier Beach gets the same resources as Queen Anne. And so goes the denial; so the lies are framed.
It’s one thing to ignore problems in South Seattle, as city leaders have done recently. But to take us on a stroll around a neighborhood, acting as if all is under control, as our city leaders praise their own responsiveness, is simply a Dog & Pony Show. We need the promised increase in police presence; we need those officers out of their cars and meeting youth and families; we need city administrators who won’t make excuses and will make progress; we need elected leaders who care as much about South Seattle as they do about South Lake Union.
Cindi Laws is a resident of the Rainier View neighborhood and a long-time activist.
SEATTLE — Police say four men pistol whipped, beat and robbed a woman inside a Seattle library Monday evening, and the attack may have been related to a recent shooting.
The 21-year-old woman was inside the Rainier Beach Library just before 5:45 p.m. when four men attacked her, according to police. One of the men pistol whipped the woman while the other three kicked and punched her.
A library employee saw beating and began pounding on a nearby window. The noise spooked the attackers, who grabbed the woman’s purse and took off on foot, according to police.
Less than a day earlier, the victim was inside a Rainier Valley home when an argument spiraled into a shooting that left one man fighting for his life. The woman spoke to police about the shooting, and she told police she had received several threatening messages in the hours since.
One Facebook post said, “You better not let us find you,” according to police.
Medics arrived at the library and treated the woman for cuts and bruises.
Police have not released any information about the suspects.
The sight of students with rapt attention, hanging onto every syllable uttered by their instructors as their minds rush to digest the extraordinary knowledge being served – so it can promptly return for a second helping – would seem a dream scenario at any school across the country, let alone one located in the South Seattle area, but indeed that reality transpired last week as around forty students – from high school to college aged- willingly exchanged basking in the glorious summer sun for an elusive education on the systematic structures of racism at the Tyree Scott Freedom School held at Beacon Hill’s UCC Bethany Church.
If that sounds like some heavy scholarship during the dog days of summer it is intended to, shared Ariel Hart a school facilitator. “I feel like this is a rare opportunity for youth to unlearn lessons that they’ve internalized throughout their lives, and other ones that are absent from the majority of school’s curriculum. This is a place that teaches people how to organize to help change things, and to take a look at how racism oppresses everyone, whether you’re a person of color of not.”
The school- named in honor of Tyree Scott, the well known Seattle area civil rights activist and community organizer- models itself after the first Freedom Schools that emerged across the country during the civil rights era as a response to racial inequities within the public education system.
Seattle first joined the Freedom School movement in 1966 when around 4000 -mainly African American – elementary and high school students boycotted the Seattle Public School District to protest the racial segregation that was routinely being practice by the district at the time. A forgotten history of the city that is well worth remembering according to Dustin Washington of American Friends Service Committee, who also serves as one of the school’s lead organizers.
“People see Seattle as a very progressive city, but the reality is that racism continues to persist in our classrooms and everyday life. There’s a reason that youth of color are 4 to 5 times more likely than white youth to be suspended in our school system. There’s a reason why they’re twice as likely to drop out than white youth, and it goes far beyond the myth that they don’t have enough individual will and self-determination. It has much more to do with the systems we’re all prisoner to.”
It was this focus on systems, rather than individuals, as the catalyst for the societal ills that plague communities of color that was at the forefront of much of the teaching the students received during the week. As a result, the subjects they tackled were ones you’d be hard pressed to find mentioned in any other classroom within the city limits – as they grappled with Economic Inequality, Long-Term Juvenile Incarceration, and Disparate Health Outcomes. All issues were intensely scrutinized through a racial lense.
It was a view that was truly eye opening according to many of the students. “What I learned was kind of a shock to me.” Said Asia Davis, a first time attendee who was aghast after learning about the potential causes behind the considerable discrepancy in infant mortality rates between African- American women and their white counterparts. “I go to a school that has mostly white students, so I feel fortunate that I m going to be able to bring back what I’ve learned to my school and share it with the others that go there who would otherwise have no clue.”
The school’s purpose was not only to present provocative subjects in a way that many of the students had never before encountered, but to also develop the next generation of civil and human rights leaders, fostering in them a sense of empowerment that would eventually allow them to impact their communities in an enduring way much as the school’s namesake did.
With that in mind the Tyree Scott Freedom School eschewed a top-down approach to its pedagogy, instead favoring a process that made its students largely responsible- via forged consensus and small group discussions- for everything from creating a decorum by which they agreed to treat each other by, to exploring creative solutions that acted to redress the social grievances presented to them at the school.
“I’ve really learned to be a leader here, and it’s something that I can apply whether I’m organizing people to help house the homeless, or to stop people from being racist as it’s a learned thing. No one is born with that trait.” said Saara Jones a student who attended the school to become a better organizer.
The tactic of allowing them a liberal amount of control in the educational process seemed to go over quite well with the students, many of whom were more familiar with having a pedantic lesson plan dictated to them at their respective public schools. “This school is really magnificent in terms of, not only the knowledge that is installed in the young people here, but in terms of wisdom, and creativity being reciprocal. We get to learn from each other, and teach each other at the same time.” Said Rashaud Johnson, a member of Youth Undoing Institutionalized Racism (YUIR) and Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) who was attending the Freedom School for a fourth time to gain knowledge of how to best organize against the building of the new $210 million King County Juvenile Detention Center that he felt was an extension of the school to prison pipeline.
“I’ve realized from being here, and just talking amongst my peers, the responsibility that comes with being white. It’s hard to address that issue anywhere, especially in a normal school setting with teachers who don’t really get the topic, or want anything to do with it. So it’s great that we can have discussions with people our own age, so that everyone can get a deep understanding of how detrimental racism is, and that we really need to stop with the thinking that puts any race superior to another.” asserted Celia Carina Von Berk, one of several non African – American students who attended Tyree Scott.
The school had a commencement of sorts this past Friday, as all of the students traveled to Seattle City Hall, using what they had learned
throughout the week,to present- in front of an audience of city officials that included Councilmember Nick Licata, City Attorney Pete Holmes, Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim and Office of Civil Rights Director Patricia Lally- their proposals on how to remedy the quagmires associated with the city’s Education, Economic and Juvenile Justice systems- problems that had perplexed many local legislators for longer than the majority of the students had been alive.
After the presentations the students blended amongst the audience and broke into three separate groups to discuss how the submitted proposals could be implemented at the city level. A discussion that the Freedom School attendees found worthwhile. “You had all these different generations cooped up under one roof and actually talking and listening to each other. There was no complaining, just a lot of respect, whether you were a student or an older person. This was a beautiful experience.” said Rashaud Johnson.
Added Simone Evans another student at the Freedom School who had attended to improve her community organizing skills “I’m going to take the information I’ve learned here and go out and do something with it. I can’t wait to come back next year!”
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 Coalition– commandeered 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.
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.”