So sometimes you need see things in person, for yourself, and today was one of those times. I saw the images on Facebook earlier in the weekend and of course they were troubling, however, seeing a SWASTIKA on the wall of the AfricaTown Innovation Center (ATIC) today was in a word Disheartening. A community meeting was called by Wyking Garret and the board of the ATIC this Easter Sunday to gather resources and volunteers to help get the centers programs back on track after what was described as “Multiple break-ins and acts of vandalism” last week. The call was heard and the meeting was well attended. Wyking address the crowd and the media and answered questions the best as he could, however, due to there being an “on-going investigation”, some questions remained. Chiefly who did this? The SPD BLOTTER reported that a suspect was arrested and was of East African Descent and had wrote bad checks to the center. The ATIC board would not confirm that they felt as though SPD had the right person, however they did point out that the Blotter Blog had some inaccurate statements, specifically, that while the person arrest is known to the ATIC, there was never any checks written to the ATIC. Wyking pointed out that while the mainstream media were not invited to sensationalize the vandalism and the hate crime and this meeting was primarily organized to engage the community in steps to move forward. He also went on to say “Cameras shouldn’t be in our community ONLY when there are victims.” and called for the media to support the ongoing efforts of the ATIC and other organizations in the community who are making positive impacts. Minus the media there were about 80 people who signed up to help get the space cleaned up and ready to run programs for the upcoming Spring Break in a few weeks. They are looking for volunteers in 5 primary areas:
- Cleaning up – Volunteers will be cleaning up the hate speech/symbols from the walls and other vandalism.
- IT – The networking equipment was destroyed and there is a need to replace hardware and the software to run it.
- Security – Apparently there was no alarm in place which is what allowed this to happen in the 1st place. Looking to install a system with cameras and video logging.
- Fundraising – Replacing equipment and such will cost money.
- Programs – They are looking for community members to become a part of the center by helping out with programs.
Wyking mentioned that they are not focused on the specific elements of “Hate” in this Hate Crime but rather a call for us to examine the overall system that allows these types of incidents. With that in mind the irony and/or coincidence of this with the removal of the word “Cultural” from the Rainier Valley Cultural Center is not lost on me. I saw on saw on Facebook (also last week, not sure when it actually happened) that SEED Seattle had removed the word and put up signs with the new name: RAINIER ARTS CENTER. I am usually the last one on the conspiracy boat and maybe it was just the SHOCK of seeing the word CULTURAL removed from a community institution within BLOCKS of a vandalized AITC with a Swastika on the wall, that has me saying…. WOW. Even though I am doubtful that SEED will remove the Tile Mosiac sign that sits outside of the center, I had to take a screen shot of their website, which still includes, the word “Cultural”, this evening just to be able to show that they called it that at one time. Its doubtful to me, but I am hopeful they will let the community know why the word “Cultural” was removed, especially since some of our culture was attacked this past week.. I just hope the response is not: “Hey, we removed the word VALLEY as well! Whats the Problem?” CS
Here are a few pics from the event and my stop at the space formerly known as the Rainier Valley Cultural Center: