By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
In an effort to help curb violence in the community, four organizations – Urban Family, Community Passageway’s Critical Incident Response Team, The Boys and Girls Club of King County and the YMCA – have joined forces to establish the Seattle Community Safety Initiative.
Organizers hope the collaboration will re-establish unity, restorative justice and safety as community priorities in Central, Southeast and West Seattle.
Youth violence has plagued Black and Brown communities America for generations. However, in the wake of the death of George Floyd by law enforcement officers in Minneapolis and the rise in public awareness due to the Black Lives Matter movement, the ongoing incidents of youth violence during the COVID-19 pandemic for many advocates is a call to action.
“We focus in on marginalized Black and Brown communities and basically to build out a web of care and support,” says Paul Patu, Director of Urban Family, an organization developed fifteen years ago to help build a community that is connected, safe and cared for.
According to Patu, the coalition plans to intervene by connecting youth with programs, providing family support and enhancing neighborhood safety to embrace young people, and encourage others to be active and present in their community.
“Our three areas of focus are youth programs, neighborhood safety and family support,” said Patu. “And so, after years of being practitioners in this field it became very evident that we needed to build an organization that had the capacity to serve those three levels.”
The “collaboration” consists of three “hubs” the Central District, housed in Upper Room Church of God and Christ, the South East hub located at the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club and the West Seattle hub located at the YMCA in West Seattle. Each hub is responsible for the support and interventions necessary to promote unity within the community and to help curb youth violence through relationships and provide positive alternatives to the direction that violence will take them.
Human resources will be available to parents, youth and community members to bring about social change and awareness towards a more unified, safe, productive and achieving community.
With extensive work with vulnerable and marginalized young people, adults and families, mentorships, case management, coordinating programs, community organization and mobilization and advocating for race equity and safety for young people, the partners of the Seattle Community Safety Initiative have embarked on a journey to bring that sense of community, the “I am my brothers and sisters’ keeper” back to reality.
Out of all the advocacy and services that the initiative provides community unity stands out as the main goal in which the organization wishes to reach. The idea of it takes a village to raise a child is embedded in the strategies to help Black and Brown children and young adults learn to become productive and law-abiding citizens of their respective communities.
“I think what is important to know is that all of us who do this work in terms of the leadership of this collaboration, we have been doing this for a number of years and what’s important about this particular initiative is that we are aligning ourselves and doing this together,” says Marty Jackson of the Boys and Girls Club of King County. “In terms of all the advocacy work and services that we provide to our communities, I think it’s important for the community to know is we are better together.”
According to Martin Lawson, Director of Community Passageway’s Critical Incident Response Team, another important aspect of the Seattle Community Safety Initiative is support. The support of each other. From Black churches to Black businesses it is essential that the community regain that perspective. Buy Black, hire Black and support the idea of circulating our monies back into our communities.
“We want to encourage our community to support one another,” says Lawson. “Churches, Black business, we are creating a directory. So, we want our churches to get involved in what we are doing, Black businesses, Black educators, social service providers all of this so that we can begin to rebuild this village.”
In addition, one of the things that is vital to the success of the initiative is neighborhood participation, which, according to organizers, means that people who live in the community take responsibility for helping to develop and provide a safe community where people communicate and work together to address and solve problems. This includes the establishment of safe hubs, safety patrols and crisis response teams responsible for responding to incidents and gang intervention.
“I come from an era where everyone knew each other,” says Patu. “So, what we are asking our Black and Brown communities even our White allies to do is join us. join us in this effort in keeping our community safe and unified and they can do that by giving us their time, by donating just time.”
“People are safe when they know each other,” adds Patu. “We are not asking people to be bosom buddies but at least know your neighbors and build human connections.”
The Seattle Community Safety Initiative is implementing the one hundred percent rule, meaning we all are one hundred percent responsible of ourselves, our choices and that includes the community as a whole. They also believe that there are many relationships that must be mended if healing and safety are to be achieved.