October 3, 2015, Saturday evening drivers entering Seattle’s CD and Rainer Valley were greeted with hundreds of warning posters alerting them to dangers in Seattle’s Central District and South End of town. The large red print on a black background shouts “Warning! Entering the Central District!” and “Warning! Entering Rainier Valley!”
While on the other side of the posters; drivers leaving these areas were greeted with a bright and colorful sign reading “Welcome! Now exiting the Central District/Rainier Valley!”
Members of Equal Representation Now say that the problem of youth on youth violence in the area is being overlooked by city officials and are asking for equal representation in regards to city policy.
In the summer of 2014 neighborhoods in these areas saw an unprecedented rise in youth on youth violence and murders, with almost daily reports of gun fire and nearly 20 youths murdered at the hand of other children. Summer 2015 we saw the continuation of this violence with multiple murders, and much like the previous summer most going unnoticed by local media.
The organizers of tonight’s event note that in other areas of the city our leaders react differently to violence and threats of violence. “On Capitol Hill the reaction to threats of violence was to put together a task force, engage LGBTQ leaders, and even go as far as to paint crosswalks to show solidarity and that (the threat of) violence would not be tolerated.” We applaud the City’s quick action in this case of the verbal threats and harassment on Capitol Hill. However, the African-American community in Seattle is actually losing lives; and we are being told that the find-it-fix-it campaign is enough.”
The East African community in Seattle has community leaders that represent themselves and hold advisory positions in the Mayor’s office. The LGBTQ community has leaders from the LQBTQ community that hold advisory positions in the Mayor’s office. Yet when it comes to the African-American community we are told that adult AA males who were born and raised in these very neighborhoods are not best suited to advise on African-American youth in the area.
In 2014 the Mayors Office was presented with a proposal for the creation of an Office of Inner-City Affairs to help address the problem of youth violence Seattle’s CD and Rainer Valley. The proposal was rejected as City Hall felt that there were adequate programs in place to address the issues; despite the evidence that youth-on-youth violence was escalating.
Organizers of tonight’s event hope that this display will be the catalyst to start people asking why there is not equal representation of communities in the Mayor’s Cabinet; and that maybe the Mayor will take another look at the previous proposal.
“We posted these signs because people need to know what they are driving into. These neighborhoods are not safe. There is a much greater chance of being shot and killed in this area than in any other part of Seattle. Especially if you are a young, African-American male.”
“There are a lot of things that City Hall deals with on a daily basis; but few are truly a matter of life and death. When we see true leadership in the area from grassroots community groups such as Rose Prayer Ministries, B.U.I.L.D., and others it gives us hope. But these voices need to have the Mayors ear!“
Reaction to the signage has been mixed, with mostly positive support for addressing the issue of youth violence and the loss of life in the African-American community. However, there are some who disapprove of the message and have started their own campaign of removing the posters.