by Marcus Harrison Green
It all started with a bang and ended with a crash.
It began at 4:00 on Friday night; by 5:30, more than one thousand Rainier Valley residents decked out in full Halloween regalia (Iron Man and Elsa from Frozen costumes to name but a few) had descended upon the eastern portion of Rainier Beach Safeway’s parking lot last Friday for the inaugural Rainier Beach Boo Bash.
The Bash was conceived by Rainier View resident Cindi Laws in response to the 165% increase in gun violence within the Rainier Valley during the past year. “We had a couple of blocks-long shooting sprees in Rainier Beach,” said Laws. “Businesses were shot up. Scores of drive bys. More than a dozen dead. Schools in repeated lockdowns. What does that do to kids? To families? To communities?” she asked.
“Safeway managers were also concerned, and wanted to be a part of a solution, wanted to demonstrate its commitment to our community,” Laws continued. “So we came up with this big idea of creating a Halloween event to provide a safe environment for kids to trick or treat through booths sponsored by local merchants, community groups and city departments.”
Boo Bash at the Beach was also established to draw some positive attention to an area that continues to suffer from the negative public image of crime and violence. The Federal Department of Justice in 2012 identified five locations in Rainier Beach as crime hotspots, and provided nearly a million dollars in funding to change the statistics. After nearly a dozen deaths in spring and early summer, several “Find It/Fix It” walks were scheduled for Mayor Ed Murray to show he cared about Rainier Beach. The mayor, however, was not present at the wonderfully positive Boo Bash.
“This is absolutely fantastic!” exclaimed Jazmine Sampson, who brought her children Jaziah (4) and Lilliana (2) to participate in the Bash. “I thought about taking them out trick-or-treating but I was wary of that because you never know about people these days, unfortunately. But here they can interact with other kids from around the community, and I can connect with my neighbors. I can’t believe all the people here! Kids in the southend complain all the time that there is nothing to do around here, and that often leads to them getting into trouble. We need constant events like this.”
Sampson’s opinion seemed the consensus amongst parents in attendance that were appreciative to see an event thrown in the community that actually diffused many anxieties about safety and provided a ready-made local activity on Halloween night.
“I honestly didn’t know what to do tonight. I wasn’t sure how long I would let my kids be out and how safe it would be as I was only going to allow them to walk to a few houses in either direction of mine while I stood out on the porch, which wouldn’t have been too fun for them. This really solves everything for me,” said Katrina Young, who brought her two daughters along with her.
“I’m sure people heard Rainier Beach Boo Bash and immediately associated that with Halloween in the Hood or some nonsense – meaning that there would be shooting, fighting or what have you,” expressed John Aaron, who has no children of his own but came to enjoy the festivities nonetheless. “Look at all the people here, young, old, black, white, yellow. Everyone is just having a good time. It flies in the face of what most people think about us out here.”
Boo Bash featured live music, Halloween-themed games and nearly thirty trick-or-treat booths carpeted Safeway’s parking lot-treating young ghouls and goblins to so much candy that South Seattle dentists’ jobs are now officially recession proof. Indeed, Boo Bash was free of the violence that some detractors intimated the event would invariably invite.
The only scare that threatened to derail the community celebration was a horrific multi-car wreck involving fifteen cars and a Metro bus, injuring ten people. Rainier Avenue was closed around 5:30 pm, just a few dozen yards from Boo Bash.
With a helicopter overhead, local news outlets exhorted residents to stay completely clear of the area. “Had the media not frightened people away, attendance would easily top 2000 people,” said Laws.
With the success of the event by both quantitative and qualitative measure — the Boo Bash Facebook page continues to be swamped with effusive praise from supremely grateful parents — it is a bit mind boggling that its planning and promotion came about in such a short time.
“We had the will, and we had to find a way to pull this off. ‘No’ was not an option,” said Laws, who had been a long time West Seattle community leader before moving to the Rainier View neighborhood in 2004. “There were many skeptics. It should not be so hard to promote an event that is for children, and it certainly shouldn’t be so challenging to convince some to fund this type of a community festival.”
“Boo Bash was a phenomenal success!” said Laws. “Thanks to our amazing community partners, especially the remarkable people of Safeway; Seattle City Councilmembers Bruce Harrell and Sally Clark, City Attorney Pete Holmes, Maia Segura, Patrice Thomas, Jenny Frankl, Jennifer Samuels, Sally Bailey, Dan Sanchez, Yalonda Gill Masundire, Mark Briant, Jeremi Oliver, Martha Winther, David Della, and Dick Falkenbury; the amazing folks at the Seattle Police Department’s South Precinct and mounted patrol unit; entertainers Michael Cagle, Omar Jackson, and Ryan Hazy; all the incredible people of Seattle Parks, City Light, Seattle Tilth, the Department of Neighborhoods, McDonald’s, Vulcan NW, Waste Management, Burien Staples Copy Center, Boruck Printing, Sound Transit, the Seattle Fire Department, Rainier Beach Merchants Association, Rainier Valley Chamber, Rainier Beach Community Club, Othello Park Alliance, All-Inclusive Boy Scouts, Rainier Vista Smilow Boys & Girls Club and so many others!”
“People of all stripes, colors and creeds are begging for another big event,” concluded Laws. “We really showed what can be accomplished in Rainier Beach if people just come together and quit worrying about turf and credit. It is about the kids, about safety, about fun, about community. And it was incredibly successful. With the generous support of an amazing corporate partnership with Safeway, we all did this together, and we will all do it again.”