COMMUNITY POSTINGS WARN OF DANGER; ASK MAYOR FOR EQUAL REPRESENTATION

  WN CD

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!”

WLC CD

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.IMG_20151003_185739

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.

-JP Scratches

Amazing list of honorees at the Robert Stephens, Jr. Awards ceremony

Awards winnerss June 20, 2015 Seattle’s Central District came together to celebrate long time advocates for youth, arts, social justice, and stronger neighborhoods; honoring some of Seattle’s most legendary names.

“We selected men who personally impacted us. The men in the room are the ledges whose shoulder we stand on.” Said Garfield Community Center Director Andre Franklin. Another member of the advisory committee stated that seeing so many true community leaders in one place left them “in awe”.

The event was birthed from a partnership between B.U.I.L.D. (Brothers United In Leadership Development), Unified Outreach, and the Garfield Community Center Advisory Board; along with Seattle Parks, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, and 4Culture.

The event featured a full buffet spread with home style chicken, macaroni, greens, and corn bread. An incredible meal that in itself was worthy of celebration.pic food

Vicious Puppies Black and Blue Sammy Tekle Seattle2
Vicious Puppies aka Dog Pound

Music and MC duties were provided by DJ Surreal (aka George Yasutake), and guests were treated to a gravity defying performance from one of Seattle’s hottest breakdance groups, the Vicious Puppies (aka Dog Pound). Last month the Vicious Puppies brought their dramatic stage presentation of “Black and Blue” to the Neptune Theatre. The play brings social conscience and race relations to the front lines with a true-to-life story based on actual events. The play has received great reviews and the group is looking to expand the touring calendar throughout the summer. The Puppies have also played the main stage at the Sasquatch tour and other large venue events and are quickly becoming one of Seattle’s most in-demand groups.

Award Hampton
James Hampton receives his award.

Award honorees included well known community leaders who have served the people of Seattle for decades; as well as shining stars actively making a difference today.

The event recognized Mike Yasutake, John Yasutake, Gregory Davis, Aaron Dixon, Elmer Dixon, Bishop Ray Rogers, Steve Sneed, James Hampton, Reco Bembry, Guy Davis, and Larry Evans.

Each award recipient was introduced by someone who had a personal story of how the award winner had impacted their life.  The microphone was then handed to the award winner who then shared their own story about who had most impacted them.  The ceremony was full of humor and laughter, as well as somber moments and tears of gratitude.

IMG_20150620_115319 The afternoon culminated with the honoring and awarding of the new Robert Stephens, Jr. Community Service plaque which will hang in the Garfield Community Center.

Robert Stephens, Jr. has been a fixture in Seattle’s Central District for over 35 years. A veteran of the U.S. Army, Mr. Stephens, Jr. began serving the community after completing his tour in 1968. Mr. Stephens, Jr. has a Masters Degree in Education Psychology, is a K-12 teacher and school counselor, and has worked with Seattle Public Schools, Langston Hughes Cultural Art Center, Neighborhoods House, and Washington State Reformatory.

RSJ award
Robert Stephens, Jr.

Mr. Stephens, Jr. has been involved with a number of non-profit organizations and governmental advisory committees over the years; and has had a hand in the establishment of Odessa Brown Health Clinic, Madrona Dance Studio (now Spectrum), Medgar Evers Swimming Pool, and dozens of other programs that are now an established part of the community.

Mr. Stephens, Jr. has served as the President of the Central Area Neighborhood District Council; founded the Seattle Central Area Cultural Arts Commission, and helped in the creation of Homer Harris Park.IMG_20150620_115407

When presenting the award, Garfield Community Center Advisory Council Member David Toledo stated “When we began searching for someone that exemplified the community spirit; someone who was a true advocate for our youth, for the arts, and for the neighborhood; we all knew right away that it was time to honor Robert Stephens, Jr.”

-JP Scratches