Tag Archives: Rainier Beach

Rainier Beach Counterpunch

by Gregory Davis

G. Davis PhotoRainier Beach is a neighborhood full of vitality that random isolated shootings of buildings and potshots by naysayers cannot detract from. For the record…crime is down in Rainier Beach and education is up.  Re crime – Since September 2013 dozens of us have been reviewing SPD, Metro and Sound Transit crime statistics and it has decreased by 30%. Re education – the students, parents, volunteers and educational leaders in our neighborhood are closing the achievement and social gap slowly but surely. We are proud of Keisha Scarlett Washington State 2014 Middle Level Principal of the Year (South Shore PK-8), Barbara Moore the recipient of the 2014 Thomas B. Foster Award for Excellence (South Lake High School) and Dwane Chappelle who is leading an inspiring International Baccalaureate Program not to mention the three times state boys basketball champs (Rainier Beach International High School). Let me take the time to also give a shout out RBIHS’s Cheer squad and PTSA ….they gets no love but I am giving it here….how about that Marvette and Rita?). Principals Anitra Pinchback Jones (Rainier View), Winifred Todd (Dunlap) and Farah Thaxton, (Emerson) are also quality educators. We would do well as a neighborhood in sending our children to learn in the environments these fine citizens have created.

Oh and contrary to public opinion we are organized in Rainier Beach. Focused work is occurring on a number of fronts that’s raising the quality of life in our neighborhood. Our organizing got us property from Seattle Parks and turned it into an urban farm (The Friends of Rainier Beach urban farm and Wetlands Project). A $2 million dollar capital campaign is underway with fundraising going according to schedule. Our organizing (A Beautiful Safe Place for Youth Community Taskforce) earned us a $1 million Byrne Justice Department grant to Rainier Beach to do hotspot research as a strategy to reduce crime, particularly among youth. This is why we know crime is down… and we are soon to let out cash money for ideas that are interventions to the crime that is occurring in the RB.

Our organizing (Rainier Beach Moving Forward) helped create a neighborhood driven plan, with the City’s help (believe it or not there are some folk who don’t like that) that has ideas for equitable development intended to create race and social justice in our neighborhood for example – A Food Innovation District – a geographic zone surrounding the Rainier Beach Light Rail Station that will leverage the agricultural industry the urban farm creates with education and business incubation opportunities.

Our organizing (Rainier Beach Community Center Advisory Council) got us a beautiful new community center and even though no local jobs came of it, we will turn that around by our organizing for a target local hiring ordinance (Target Local Hire Coalition). A report with recommendations for this should get to City Council by June or July. Did you know that of the $250 million in city construction contracts in 2012/13 only 7% of the workers on those projects lived in Seattle.

Our transit justice organizing (Sage, RB Coalition) forced Metro to look at its bus service cuts through a race and social justice lens. …we were able to engage youth in this initiative as well. They have provided the adults in RB with three great ideas to enhance transportation for our community, one of which is to reduce the distance to 1 mile in order for students to be eligible for a free orca card to go to school. Right now the distance is 2.5 miles which is causing hardships for hundreds of families. One student catching metro/light rail to go to school pays $30/week. For some families with three high-schoolers….ouch.

Sure, there is still work to be done, our immigrant refugee communities still strive to be included, the stop light at Rainier and Henderson is not long enough, we do need to pick up our litter, or CBO’s services can be more coordinated, but, did you know we do have a youth orchestra in Rainier Beach? Did you know the nationally renowned Northwest Tap Connection calls its home Rainier Beach? Did you know Rainier Beach has four distinct business districts not one? Did you know Rainier Beach has more public art installations than any other neighborhood comparable in size? Did you know we have been doing an Artwalk (SEED, Rainier Beach Merchants) for the last three years? Did you know principals, residents and city staff meet once a month to talk about public safety in Rainier Beach. Did you know the RB Mock Trial team killed it the other day at UW?

While I know I am leaving out other fantastic work I hope I am not boring you. On the likelihood that I am I will end by saying this…there are far more people who care about Rainier Beach and are acting to make it a quality place to live than there are those who doubt it or shoot at it. On the chance you are not bored go to www.rbmovingforward.org. This is the only site of its kind in Rainier Valley that brings you real time feeds from other neighborhood sites, not just links. Better yet, join us at our monthly Action Team Meetings (ATM’s) which occur the 4th Thursday of each month at the Rainier Beach Health and Dental Clinic operated by NeighborCare – 6:30 p.m. The topic this month (May 22) is A Place For Everyone – Transportation, Housing and Economic Development in Rainier Beach.  Also be on the lookout for training to be a citizen journalist through the SE Seattle FreedomNet Project were we will be conducting trainings to grow the pool of contributors to the Rainier Beach Newswire, if interested email us at rainierbeachneighborhood@hotmail.com.

Counter punch with a right jab (take that with ya) , feint to the left, uppercut….

Emerald in the Rough: When The Dog and Pony Show Came to Town

By Cindi Laws

Special to the South Seattle Emerald

Find it, FIx It walks

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.

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.”

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

Sheley Secrest: “A Bulldog With a Smile”

Combating challenges is anything but new to Sheley Secrest. The former N.A.A.C.P Seattle Chapter President, current litigator, and long-time Rainier Beach resident has faced down several in a public service career spent advocating for gender equity, livable wages, and police accountability. Her largest challenge to date looms on the horizon as she vies to emerge from a hotly contested race as the 37th District’s State Senator. However, it is one that the candidate believes herself ideally equipped for.

Sheley Secrest
Sheley Secrest

Emerald: In a race cluttered with Democrats what do you feel sets you apart from the other candidates?

Sheley Secrest: I’m the only candidate who has actually sat down in the rooms with the people that I’m fighting to represent. So, when we’re talking about changing sentencing laws, I was in the jail cell with the 16 year old boy who was being charged as an adult for a non-violent crime. When we’re talking about reforming education, I’m the mother that’s sitting in the front of the classroom who has seen a brilliant little black boy be sent into special education instead of on a track for advanced placement.

When we’re talking about funding for public schools – I’m the advocate who was fighting for Rainier Beach High School when they didn’t have text books because they didn’t have the budget to provide them. That’s what disassociates me. I’m from this community, and though I haven’t advocated for policy on a national level, I’m on the streets, in the homes, and on the blocks of the very lives that are affected.

 

Emerald: There’s a lot of anxiety in terms of slow job growth and economic development within South Seattle, and the larger 37th District. What ideas do you have for job creation at the state level?

Secrest: I can tell you what I’m doing before I promise you what I’m going to do. Like my grandmother used to teach me: “Don’t promise a better tomorrow, until you can show what you’ve done today.” We have to take that same position in selecting our candidate. Right now I run the job program at the Urban League. It’s Seattle’s first race based initiative, with a particular focus on African-American males. We have a 13% unemployment rate in King County for black men. We have to take an emergency crisis attitude to bring in jobs, and not just survivor jobs, but living wage jobs to our community.

I’m a mother of three and a single parent. The fight for an increased minimum wage in Seattle, while benefiting everyone, most starkly affected African-American women and Latino males. These folks were raising their families off of meager incomes. When you’re talking about the people of the 37th District, 60% are employed in low wage jobs. They subsists on pennies.

In addition to my work for the Urban League, I’m chair of the Economic and Development Department for the N.A.A.C.P, both on a local and statewide level. We have to turn economic development back into a civil rights issue. The plight of the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer is a civil rights issue. We used to understand that better than we do now. Some have recovered from the recession, but most have not. They’re stuck in low wage jobs. So, how do you fix that?

Let’s look at the Seattle Tunnel Partners and the SR 99 Tunnel Project. That was implemented off of the idea that it would bring in new jobs. $91 million was supposed to go to minority contractors and businesses who would then hire other people of color. The idea was to lift up power from the bottom up, instead of a trickle down. Those were missed opportunities. We have the Department of Justice demanding reform of how Washington State is creating jobs on simple construction projects. It’s those missed opportunities that we have to take advantage of and make sure we’re pulling in people from the bottom up.

 

Emerald: Per the Washington State Supreme Court’s ruling in the McCleary decision, what are your ideas on adequately funding education for all students in the state, so that a student in Rainier Beach receives a level equivalent to a student in Issaquah?

Secrest: That issue hits directly home for me, as a lot of the Rainier Beach parents were a part of that case before it went to the Supreme Court. Politicians have to make certain that we stop using our children as pawns – kissing the babies before they get elected. We have to make sure that we hold our elected officials feet to the fire and start to demand that they actually fund education. No excuses.To sit there and do nothing is a sin of omission.

How do we get the funding? The first thing we hear is that, “We love our children, and we’d love to educate them, but there’s just no money.” We’ve got to change who we’re currently giving the money to. That means changing tax loopholes. The example would be the classic Boeing tax exemption. They received that exemption under the promise that they were going to create more jobs. We have to make sure that we have state tools to look and see if that promise is being fulfilled. Those who are not doing what they said they were going to do should stop getting a tax exemption.

Other creative ways to fund education is through job creation. If more people are able to purchase things then Washington’s revenue base increases – since the majority of our budget comes from sales tax. If we allow more people to make money by doing things like increasing our minimum wage that’s going to get people back into spending. Right now they’re taking out pay day loans just to cover their basic necessities. There’s no spending going on by the majority of working people.

 

Emerald: What are your feelings on our state’s current tax structure?

Secrest: We have to change the way we are currently doing things. Right now the burden of taxes in our state falls heavily on the working class. Washington State has the most regressive tax system in our nation. How do we change it? I know that there’s discussions of implementing a state income tax on high income earners that would offset some of the inequities embedded in our system. That’s something we should do. We need to explore and put all ideas on the table about how we can equally contribute instead of forcing the poor to contribute the most.

 

Emerald: As I’m sure you’re aware, crime and violence in the South Seattle area has been a hot button issue as of late. One of many solutions has been to have an increased police presence in the area, however that’s been an extremely polarizing issue amongst residents. How would this be addressed by you as our State Senator?

Secrest: I believe that every single person wants to make certain that when folks walk out of their homes they feel safe. How do you do that? Everyone believes that racial profiling is wrong and that it should not take place here in Washington State. Even though it is illegal in our state, we don’t have any mechanisms to make sure that it isn’t taking place. The Seattle Police Department has civilian oversight, as does the King County Sheriff’s Department, however we need to also have that at the state level.

Every single person also believes that we should make sure that our officers are well trained. We should give them the tools that they need, so that they can go home and see their families at night. We should be concerned with if they know how to police communities of color? We need to ask questions like: What is their training mechanism? Do they police in a particular area, but live far away where they have limited to no interaction with people of color? Let’s train them so they can. In my work with the N.A.A.C.P we are working to implement state wide solutions for public safety. Data collection and training are just two of the many.

 

Emerald: If you were elected, what would you want people to be able to say about you once your term was over?

Secrest: She was a pitbull with a smile, and a watchdog giving voice to the issues that mattered most to our community.

 

Emerald: Being someone who has deep roots in this area, could you pin down your top 3 favorite things about the South Seattle area?

Secrest: 1) Diversity. 2) The fact that the South Seattle area will take on challenges that other areas won’t even touch, such as education reform, which began in South Seattle. 3) The sense of community. We have not lost that!

Mayor Walking to “Find It, Fix It” in Rainier Beach

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s “Find it, Fix it” Community Walk series, which focuses on several crime hotspots, will be making its way to Rainier Beach this upcoming Tuesday.

The walks – announced last month-  have featured community residents, police, and city officials walking together to identify and find solutions to physical disorder.

The two walks already conducted have seen great success with a 40 percent rise in use of the Find It, Fix It application and identification, notification and action taken on graffiti removal, street lighting, litter and garbage clean-up, along with trimming overgrown bushes and trees.

 

    Rainier Beach Find It, Fix It Community Walk

Tuesday, July 22, 7 – 9 p.m.

Rainier Beach Station Plaza

Martin Luther King Jr Way and S. Henderson St.

Meet in the plaza (Map)

Full itinerary can be viewed here