by Dominique Morales and Marian Mohamed, GZR Newsroom
(This article is jointly published between Ground Zero Radio, an initiative of the Vera Project, and the South Seattle Emerald.)
Inside the heart of the Washington State Capitol building in Olympia, a sea of students in bright-orange shirts filled the Columbia Room. These students, representing different schools from all over Seattle, were getting ready to walk over to the steps of the Capitol to demand one thing: the end of gun violence in their communities.
On Feb. 8, members of the Seattle Student Union and the Seattle Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators gathered at the John Stanford Center during a Seattle Public School Board meeting advocating Black Lives Matter at School demands that include the implementation of restorative justice and ending zero-tolerance discipline, the hiring of more Black teachers, the requirement of both Black history/ethnic studies curriculum for K–12, and funding additional counselors while permanently banning police in schools.
My grandmother-in-law was like Yoda in a hijab. She was tiny, old, had leathery skin, and was apt to speak in poetry or riddles. She spent much of her time sitting quietly. This made her words more potent when she did speak. When her mood was crispy she would chide me and ask why wasn’t I wearing makeup or jewelry or when was I going to stop studying and have kids. Even though I have a tendency to take things personally, I never did with Nani. Something about the brevity of her cantankerousness combined with her adorable squishiness drew me closer to her instead of pushing me away. When I didn’t want to argue with her or my head hurt from trying to force my Urdu beyond its feeble abilities, I used to reach out for her hand and lay my head in her lap.
Strong communities are a source of vital connection and a sense of belonging — a place of collaborative care where we often seek help and support in times of crisis. When emergencies happen, it can be daunting to figure out where to turn, especially if calling police-involved numbers like 911 or the 988 hotline isn’t ideal.
In this South End Guide, the Emerald has compiled a list of crisis and advocacy groups that offer immediate assistance through emergency or crisis services, legal assistance, and information and support on mental health, domestic violence, sexual assault, and substance use.
The following is an edited transcript of a speech given at the 2022 Reimagining Behavioral Health Conference: Race, Equity, and Social Justice. Prompting the speech was the question, “What does justice look like when navigating mental health?”
Good morning. Thank you for joining me virtually today, or should you be listening to this recording, whatever day you found convenient to play back this speech.
I want to confess that a recent incident made me slightly shift the focus of my speech today. It seemed to provide a stark metaphor for where I think we currently find ourselves at this moment in our history.
You see, a few weeks ago, while walking from my office in Pioneer Square, I passed by what I thought was an empty wheelchair, stained with human feces, and a bundle of blankets in a heap next to it.
Elliott Jaques, a 20th century psychoanalyst, is credited with coining the term “mid-life crisis” in an article he wrote in 1965, though he in turn credits author and artist Richard Church for defining it in his autobiography:
There seems to be a biological reason for men and women, when they reach the middle thirties, finding themselves beset with misgivings, agonizing inquiries, and a loss of zest.
988 has been touted as a way to help reduce harmful police interventions in mental health emergencies, but emergency medical services and law enforcement will be called if someone indicates that they are a danger to themselves and/or others. While some people argue that this is necessary to prevent a potential crime from occurring, others argue that it adds fuel to the fire, as EMS and police are not trained in properly addressing mental health crises. Instead, mental health advocates are encouraging the use of task forces and peer support models for suicide prevention and intervention as alternatives to the hotline.
Fathers out there, let me ask you this: Have you ever witnessed your son slam the front door after a long day of school, crying? Have you been stuck in a stalemate with your partner, fighting a silent battle of who comforts your child? Was it your job to talk to your son, but you found yourself at a loss for words? You aren’t alone. Many fathers feel the same way. Does this sound familiar? You sit next to your son and ask him what’s wrong. He admits he got pushed on the playground at recess and was laughed at for crying. Then you say, from a loving place, “You need to fight back, show who’s boss.” Words that can change your son forever. Words that changed me forever.
The Seattle Community Police Commission (CPC) began meeting more than nine years ago in March of 2013. This commission was created following the tragic murder of John T. Williams by the SPD in 2010. As we will see below, the number of SPD killings has actually increased by 38% during the nine years after the CPC started meeting when compared to the nine years prior. The situation is even direr when it comes to the SPD killing of people experiencing a behavioral health crisis. This increase suggests that the CPC’s work has done nothing to curtail the worst consequence of police violence and abuse.