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Sunday, December 5, 2021

CD Panthers Are Determined Not To Let Gun Violence Spoil Their Homecoming Plans

By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium

Terrell Elmore, far left, coaches coordinator for the CD Panthers, explains the organizations new safety and evacuation plans. The plans were put in place after a shooting incident occurred near the Panthers homefield last weekend. Staff Photo/Aaron Allen.

Last Saturday as the community gathered to support the CD Panthers and young athletes playing little league football at Judkins Park in Seattle’s Central Area, the unthinkable occurred. Gunshots rang out in the air as parents, children and coaches ran for whatever cover they could find.

According to police and eyewitness reports, a young lady (whose name was not released due to the ongoing investigation) fired shots into the air on a street adjacent to Judkins Park where the Panthers’ games are played. Fortunately, no one died, was hurt or injured in this incident. However, the incident was traumatic as a chaotic scene emerged and officials with the CD Panthers cancelled the remaining games on the schedule for that day.

“No one was injured,” says Terrell Elmore, coaches coordinator for the CD Panthers. “To my understanding the young lady that was arrested shot six shots in the air and no one was hit but it was still alarming, still too close for comfort.”

In response to the incident, many organizations have pledged their support in helping to make sure the area is a safe environment for the kids and the community.

Earlier this week, Shavon Robinson, vice president of the CD Panthers and head cheer coach, along with other community leaders held a press conference at Judkins Park, the CD Panthers practice and playing field, to talk about the incident, inform parents and supporters about the steps the organization is taking to mitigate any future episodes like this, and to address the broader issue of gun violence in the community. The message is especially important right now as the CD Panthers will have a homecoming celebration this weekend for friends, families and former cheerleaders and players.

“When did we become this society where we can’t do anything, can’t go anywhere, can’t have anything without this (shooting) happening,” says Robinson. “We cannot become so numb to this and we do not want our kids to [become numb to this] either.

“We want to continue to provide a safe space, that we have been doing for 25 years for countless numbers of children,” added Robinson as she spoke to parents and other members of the community.

According to Seattle Police Department data dashboard, gun violence in Seattle is on the rise. There were 420 gunfire cases in all of 2020, and 370 such incidents have occurred so far in 2021. Police say they’re concerned the city is on track to record more shootings this year than the previous year.

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz concurs with the sentiment and says that people need to find other ways to settle their differences.  

“People need to put down their guns,” said Diaz. “This past weekend, we had multiple shooting incidents. So far, year-to-date, there have been over 100 additional shootings compared to the same time last year in 2020. About 150 more than in 2019.”

Even though the incident was not directed at anyone on the field, shooting incidents like this of any type can be traumatizing, especially for children. During the press conference parents were also given a chance to express their concerns.

“There was a streak of fear that came through us when we heard the shots,” says Matisia Hollingsworth, a CD Panther parent. “Immediately we had to get down. There was a mother with a baby and three little children that I helped to try and cover them, and afterwards I was like where is my child?”

“So, there was a bit of fear, but afterwards there was a community camaraderie after [the incident] to make sure everyone was ok, and that was a good feeling that the neighborhood came together to make sure everyone was safe,” added Hollingsworth.

Since the incident, the CD Panthers, in the unlikely event that an incident like this happens again, have put together a formal safety and evacuation plan. The plan includes designated safe areas for each age group to gather in order to make sure that parents, coaches and volunteers can properly account for each child on the field. The response on Saturday sent everyone scrambling across the field and everyone was trying to locate friends and loved ones after the incident was over.

As they prepare for homecoming this weekend, the CD Panthers, as an organization, are doing all that they can to make sure parents, their children and the community as a whole is provided with a safe and celebratory experience, and to reassure parents and supporters that this incident will not deter their efforts to giving children and community members a safe environment and a sense of unity.

“Saturday’s incident established the necessity that our community needs to come together in solidarity, and let the people know that we are going to be here, we are not going anywhere, and we are going to be strong,” said Elmore. “We want our people to come down and support the kids, it was a tragic and scary situation last week and we want to be down here to let our babies know that we all love them and that their community has their backs.”

K. Wyking Garrett, president of Africatown, agrees and is encouraging the community to show up in support of the youth.

“This is something that is plaguing our community at-large and the society,” says Garrett. “This is much too close to our children, where our parents and grandparents gather this has to be our sacred ground. I think the focus right now is making this a positive homecoming this coming Saturday, a call out to the community, specifically Black men, to show up to let the children and families know that we are here for them.”

Robinson said the incident will not deter her or the other members of the organization from carrying out their goal of providing a positive outlet and space for children in the community.

“So, my real thing is, I don’t want anyone to feel unsafe and I want them to keep coming back knowing and to keep knowing that we are a family, a village and we will continue to be a village, as we continue in the CD Panther tradition,” said Robinson.

The CD Panthers will celebrate their Homecoming this Sat., Oct. 2 at Judkins Park with games scheduled for 10:00 am, 12:00 noon, 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm.

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