Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Community comes together

I'm at a community meeting about a neighbor who was attacked over an altercation related to the traffic circle he cared for. He died from his injuries a day later.

It's wall to wall people in here. Several representatives from the City of Seattle including Police Chief Kerlikowski and City Councilmembers Burgess, McIver and Harrell, as well someone from the State NAACP who lives in the neighborhood.

So far, other than some new information about changes in officer staffing thanks to the recently signed police contract, and learning some of my neighbors have had lots of problems with shady characters in the area (drug dealers using the parking lot of the local grocery store as an open air drud market, break-ins with slow or no police response), it's mainly lots of platitudes and nothing tangible offered by the "city leaders."

So basically, just like every public meeting I used to cover as a reporter, there's a lot of heat, but no real illumination.

The only upside? It actually did help bring some of us neighbors together. I met another mom with a baby and invited her to the National Night Out celebration on our block next month. We may eventually get together for a play date.

Frankly, I don't think there's much you can do in the short term to change the mentality of a person who would sucker punch an unarmed elderly man. But we all know there are things we can do to help prevent another generation of kids developing that kind of mentality: give them a safe, supportive place in the community where they can spend their out-of-school time with caring adults who can help them develop life skills, self-respect, respect for others, and help them find their passion in life.

So why are the "leaders" not talking about funding or other tangible support for these types of programs at community centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA/YWCAs, Big Brother/Big Sister, and similar organizations? Councilmember Harrell mentioned his involvement at local community centers, but didn't issue a call to action or tell people how they could help (volunteer, donate).

I think at our next block watch meeting, I'll suggest this to my neighbors and provide a list of ways to get involved. Sometimes people just need that nudge or want to know where they can expend the pent up frustration in a more constructive way. I'll try to use my communication background to facilitate that.

I can attest that volunteering with these programs, in schools or as a mentor is a win-win for all involved. I'm still in contact with young ladies I've mentored over the years and they're all in college now and thriving. It's been great to watch them mature and become these amazing young women. Imagine if every kid in Seattle's most under-performing schools could have someone in their corner like that through graduation? Obviously, someone in addition to parents and family members, who should also be supporting and advocating for them. I know we'd see far fewer young adults with sucker-punch mentalities.

1 comment:

  1. And Hilary Clinton was skewered for saying "it takes a village to raise a child"....

    It does. And it's totally unfair to lay all the reponsibility for childrearing on the mother (and father if he's there).

    Good luck with your block meeting.