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Monday, October 18, 2021

Community Leaders, Activists Rally Around Youth Football Team After Gun Shots Fired Near Playfield

Elmer Dixon, co-founder of the Seattle Black Panther Party, left, and Mayoral Candidate Bruce Harrell, right, stand shoulder to shoulder with Terrell Elmore, center, coaches coordinator for the CD Panthers junior football team, during the CD Panthers Homecoming celebration last Saturday. Also pictured is Former Seattle Black Panther Party member Rashad El Amin (black hat). The men were among many in the community who attended the Homecoming to rally against gun violence and to promote community safe havens. (Photo courtesy of Terrell Elmore)

By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium

Last Saturday, the CD Panthers junior football team held their annual Homecoming event honoring past and present players and celebrating community and football. However, this particular Homecoming had purpose in mind as on September 25th the Seattle football community was rocked when gunfire sounded off near the Panthers’ playing field.

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.

In the days after the shooting, 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 was especially important because the CD Panthers were in the middle of finalizing plans for their homecoming celebration.

“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.

Former Seattle City Councilmember and current Mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell, who in his youth played for the CD Panthers then known as CAYA, along with city officials and activist attended the Homecoming in solidarity and support for the young athletes and the community.

According to Harrell, it is important to let the parents, coaches and supporters of the CD Panthers and youth sports/activities in the areas know that their calls for action against gun violence were heard by the community, and did not fall on deaf ears.

“This is why representation matters,” said Harrell. “I was that kid on the playfield playing for CAYA, which was the predecessor to the CD Panthers, and this homecoming represents the need to build not only a safer community but public safety prevention strategies making sure these young men are building lasting bonds.”

“What we will do is work with community-based organization, we will create new community-based organizations, we will work with our public safety officers who are culturally competent and will be down there building bonds with our community,” added Harrell, about the community response to the problem.

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.

This past weekends Homecoming, the CD Panthers, as an organization and community leaders pledged to do all that they can to make sure parents, their children and the community as a whole are provided with a safe and celebratory experience when they come to support youth sports 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.”

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 celebrated their Homecoming on Saturday at Judkins Park without incident. This Homecoming’s message was much deeper than the game, it represented community unity, community safety and continuing to build a better and safer future for the young athletes, their peer group and the community as whole.

“In speaking to the kids I said my job is to protect you,” says Harrell. “As Mayor my job is to keep you safe, talking to the kids on the playfield. For them to realize that you have love and friends in this community. So, you are going to see in my administration a new awakening for the need to protect our children and our communities.”

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