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BRING THE NOISE! Legendary Seattle artist David Toledo makes the leap from street art to political activism.

Originally published 10/08/14: http://theincrediblecrew.blogspot.com/2014/10/bring-noise-legendary-seattle-artist.html

Image Standing 1987

Seattle is known as both a place of artistic expression and of issue advocacy.  On one hand Seattle is a place where creativity flourishes and bursts forth in the form of game-changing music, technology, and art appreciation centers; while on the other hand advancing the rights of workers, launching innovative youth outreach programs, and addressing race & social justice issues head-on.

It there is one person that exemplifies Seattle’s dual personality it is artist and youth advocate David Toledo.  A published author, illustrator, musician and playwright; 10 years ago David stepped back (slightly) from the limelight in order to focus on youth advocacy; stopping youth violence, and using the arts to give a new direction to many of Seattle’s at-risk teens.

David and team recently wrapping up the Unified Outreach summer classes and highly acclaimed “Work Training in the Arts” program.  And although David currently makes his home in West Seattle, he agreed to sit down with us over a plate of wings and biscuits in Seattle’s Central District.

David:  That’s my high school right there.  They’ve done a lot of renovations but I still like to walk the yard once in a while or slip inside after hours just to breeze through the hallways.

YAC:  Good memories?

David:  Definitely.  I wish I could go back and do it all again… But I’m sure that’s what most people say.

YAC:  Has the neighborhood changed since you attended Garfield?

David:   I think there is truth to the gentrification argument, that families that have lived in the area for generations being driven out.  Families redlined into the area due to discriminating housing practices that found the good and settled here to put down roots, bought houses, and planned on establishing a home for their children and grandchildren.

“City officials have surrendered to developers, and those that are advocating for the community are just too radical.”

And now we are talking about micro housing and more development but no one is talking about how that will affect the quality of life in the area.  What are the pros and cons?   We have to get a handle on affordable housing issues, and do so in a responsible way.  So far it looks like our city officials have surrendered to developers, and those that are advocating for the community are just too radical.  We need honest mediators to bring both sides together.

YAC:  What would you like to see?

David:  Not all development is bad.  I walked these streets in the 80’s and 90’s and I’m not afraid to share both the triumphs and the tragedies of that time period.  New construction is needed, but we need to respect local establishments that have historical significance.  How can the community partner with the developers to honor these locations?

Anyway, I know you didn’t come here to talk about housing issues.  I’m sure you’d rather talk about all the exciting things we’re doing with the arts.

YAC:  August 30th the Unified Outreach program held its annual youth Fashion Expose.  Can you tell us a little about the work training in the arts program?

d4 Work Training in the Arts

David:  Of course, but first let me give you some history.  Being artists ourselves, the volunteers have known the importance of networking and career tracks in being successful.  Politicians are quick to use the quote Pastor Greg Boyle “Nothing stops a bullet like a job”, and we believe that.  However, putting a job in a low income area doesn’t mean that the youth in that area will have access to it.  Which, by the way is why I favor tax breaks or other incentives for hiring employees that live in the same district as the business, but that’s another subject.

Like most who are involved with youth programs we continually heard of kids taking art classes or workshops offered throughout the city- but once the student graduated he/she didn’t know what to do with their newfound artistic skills. So in 2010 we began engaging Mayor McGinn regarding the need for career tracks for any arts programs receiving funding from the city.  We suggested that if a group was seeking city funding that one of the requirements be that the facility provide their students with direction beyond the classroom, and offered our Youth Fashion Expose as an example.  Now one thing about Mayor McGinn is he loved and engaged both Seattle’s youth and the arts.  Mayor McGinn didn’t just listen, he acted, and in 2011 launched the City’s “Work Readiness in the Arts” program, connecting the Office of Arts & Culture, Seattle’s Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI), and Non-Profit Arts programs in a partnership to provide job training skills in various artistic mediums.  The program doesn’t have the mandatory “education track or networking” component that we sought, but it is a step in the right direction.

YAC:  Which brings us to the Youth Fashion Expose’?

David:  Exactly!  So what this program offers is work training in event production and management.  We offer the Fashion Expose in partnership with Carlisia Minnis/MAC Fashion House and Lika Love, as well as a Music Industry course featuring Seattle rap artist TYRONE (aka Tyrone Dumas) which is incredible.

“Kids need educational or career direction beyond the initial classroom training.”

In these programs Unified Outreach partners with SYVPI to train 10 at-risk youth (per program) to plan, promote, and deliver an industry level community event.  During a 6-week period students learn facilities management, sound & lighting, promotions, stage set-up, video production, and more.  Then on the final night our instructors step back and allow the students to take full control of the show.  Afterwards we spend a week of programming helping the youth to build resumes, obtain contact information for designers, artists, promoters, and other networking opportunities.  The kids leave the program with the skills to put on any type of large scale event, as well as a strong resume which includes a DVD of the performance and behind the scenes footage.

YAC:  That is an incredible program.  I agree that kids need educational or career direction beyond the initial classroom training.  Your program fills a much needed void in the arts community!  Now let’s talk a little about your personal history.  I think it’s especially appropriate that we talk about your roots in hip hop since we are just steps away from your high school and the spot of one of your most famous works of art?  At one time you were considered one of the best graffiti artist’s in Seattle.  Can you tell me about that?

David:  I suppose I had some neighborhood fame during hip hop’s golden era, back around 1983-1985.  I was pretty well known for doing hip hop art back then.  Unlike today, there weren’t a lot of street artists who did full scale murals, really there were only a handful.  So the minute I put up a 30 foot burner on the Garfield High track field I established myself.  After that if I was at Sir Mixalot jam at the YMCA or Boy’s Club I had a little group of aspiring artists that would congregate around me.

d2 Image Nemo aerosol 1987

YAC:  So you were Seattle’s first graffiti muralist?

David:  Oh no! Not at all.  As a matter of fact my first inspiration was the block-long graffiti mural by Kuo (aka Mr. Clean) that changed my life.  I had never seen anything like it.  But by this time there were already other artists establishing themselves with large pieces, such as Spraycan, DadOne, Spaide, Skreen, Nemo, KeepOne, Solo Doe, Faze, Bazerk, and others.  But I had really strong characters, and that helped my pieces to get a little more attention; but all said and done, most of those cats were better with a spray can than me.

YAC:  At what point did you transition from walls to canvas?

David:  I met graffiti artist Sean (Nemo) Casey in 1986.  I had already stopped going out at night and began focusing on my music & dance crew (the Ducky Boys) which had been gaining notoriety at local dance clubs in Seattle and surrounding areas.  I think Nemo and I painted 2 walls together, then Nemo suggested that we really start focusing on canvases. He was into all kinds of artistic mediums, truly gifted.

YAC:  Let’s quickly touch on your dance crew, the Ducky Boys.

David:  So there was a period where kids were growing out of breakdancing, but still looking for something to do at the club (other than dance with girls, go figure).  Enter “the prep” which was a dance battle of sorts.  So kids would have “prep crews” that would go out and dance against each other.  During this brief period (85-87) the most well-known crews (thanks to our appearance on Seattle Bandstand) were the Masters of the Prep (later known as PPIA), the Ballard Boys, and the Ducky Boys.  The dance crew slowly evolved into a musical group with the help of DJ’s Spencer Reed and Kelly Peebles.

d1 Ducky Boys 1985

YAC:  That sounds like fun.

David:  It was a great time in my life.  But there were also a couple of times that the guys and I had to fight our way out of the club because the regulars didn’t like to see us win cash prizes in the dance contests.

“He literally had pressed me up over his head and was going to throw me through the storefront window.”

YAC:  Really?  Dance-fight?  Like in West Side Story?

David:  (Laughs) not quite.  Some of these fights were pretty serious, there was one fight where I was literally pressed over this guy’s head and thought he was going to throw me through the storefront window, and honestly, he could have if he wanted to.  Thankfully he decided to simply body slam me to the floor. I’m truly grateful that God never allowed me to go through a window, or to be too severely damaged in a fight, because I put myself in a lot of unnecessary situations trying to represent my crew.

YAC:  I think that a lot of kids are dealing with that same mentality today.  There is a willingness to do some pretty crazy things in order to impress our friends.

David:  It’s true.  The respect and approval of your friends means so much at that age.  It’s funny, because in the situation where I was almost thrown through the window, the guy I got into it with that day probably had more in common with me than anyone else I was hanging with at the time.  He’s gone on to be an author of children’s books, he’s a concert promoter, and he’s really sharp.  If he and I would have sat down with our business hats on we might be running a Fortune 500 company today, man I’d like to have a do-over there.

YAC:  Do you remember what you were fighting about?

David:  Sadly, I don’t.  Which means it was probably something pretty silly.  I can honestly say that most of the altercations I was involved in were due to my trying to protect others.  Do you remember the scene in Forrest Gump, when Forrest sees the hippie boyfriend slap Jenny, and Forrest goes over the table to get him? I guess I was everybody’s Forrest Gump back then.  Even today, it’s hard for me to sit still when I see a person physically or verbally attacking someone who isn’t equipped to fight back.  People can be so mean, and there are some out there that escalate their hostility when they see the person they are attacking is not fighting back.

YAC:  But in this case?

David:  In this case I’m ashamed to say that I think we were fighting about who placed where in a recent dance contest.  It was something really silly, and shamefully embarrassing.

YAC:  Do you feel that having similar experiences helps you to better understand the kids you work with?

David:  I think it helps.  But these kids are also dealing with things that I could never imagine at that age.  Social media brings peer pressure and bullying to a whole new level.  But we just try to lead by example.  I share my stories, successes and failures, in hopes that it helps them to make the right decisions if ever found in similar situations.

David:  Wait a minute.  We’re doing it again.  We’re way off track if this is meant to be a story about the arts program.

YAC:  Well, we’re here to talk about the program but I think your history is also important in understanding what drives you.  But okay, back to the gallery showing.  You artists just can’t seem to stay focused.

David:  (Laughs) Okay, so I met Nemo, who was already doing gallery showings featuring his work with aerosol.  My first pieces were aerosol works as well, featuring hip hop style letters and characters; but I quickly moved from spray-paint to oils and acrylics.  So my early showings were a mixture of both traditional and contemporary works.  One canvas would have a hip hop character and letters, the next canvas would be an oil painting of an old man drinking coffee.  The dramatic leaps of style and mediums impressed some, while leaving others trying to make sense of what, when, and how they were connected.

d3 Oils 1999

YAC:  And from there your next project was what?

David:  I think the early 1990’s were some of my most commercially creative years.  During this time I wrote and acted in various plays, was the lead writer and illustrator for a number of comic books, and performed with Seattle alternative-band “Silly Rabbit” and the rap group Moving Target, along with my brother Dawny and Esera Mose (also releasing and album of the same name).

YAC:  Things were really moving along.  Then what happened?

David:  By 1996 I was working a full time desk job and really focused on a steady white-collar pay check.  I dabbled in various artist mediums, but only sporadically.  But there was also something missing.  I had grown up with a mother who was very involved in helping others.  She took in refugees, let families from church stay with us, and housed foster children.  In the late 1970’s she and a few friends began a soup kitchen at one of the senior housing complexes in Greenwood, and in the early 80’s she started one of the first neighborhood food-banks, from our front porch.  This was a single mother, raising 4 kids on her own, working nights to make ends meet.  But despite her own struggles she was always asking how she could help others; delivering and cooking food, sowing buttons, lending a friendly ear, whatever was needed.

“We operated for nearly a decade with absolutely no funding other than what the volunteers put into the program.”

So here I was, almost 30, and wondering how I could make a difference.  So I started volunteering at a transitional housing shelter in the Central District.  I would go in once a week and draw or paint with the kids, and that’s where my love of youth programming began.

YAC:  Would you say that was the beginning of the Unified Outreach program?

David:  In a way, yes.  So as I began volunteering at other shelters I started to ask other artist friends of mine to help out.  When we would show up to do art classes people would ask what group we were with.  So eventually we thought that we needed to establish a name for the group, and Unified Outreach was born.  That was 1998 when we actually put a name to the program.  We applied for and received 501c3 Charity status in 2004.

YAC:  So you actually celebrated 10 years of charitable status this year?  Congratulations!

David:  Oh yeah, I hadn’t even thought about that.  16 years of programming, with the last 10 years under the 501c3 status.  It’s be a very rewarding, full of ups and downs, but very rewarding.  And during this time I think I really grew as a person.  I spent two years in North Los Angeles/Inglewood volunteering at Christ Gospel Mission as well as the Greater Bethany Food Bank advocating for the homeless, working with at-risk youth, and trying to get a better grasp of issues that affect those around me.  Here in Seattle I’ve worked on affordable housing issues, spoken out against corruption and cronyism in our state government, and called for a return of arts programs to our public schools.

YAC:  What do you see in the future for Unified Outreach?

David:  We really have a lot of programs that are being initiated by former students.  There is a production group that meets weekly at our studios, completely made up of former students and other youth.  I believe the oldest in the group is 20 or 21 years.  They are using the sound booth and video equipment with a goal of producing ready for network commercials and television sitcoms within the next 2 years.

And of course we’re looking at other options for future work training in the arts programs such as cartoon animation, ebook publishing, healthy living programs and other ideas.

YAC:  Any personal arts projects for David Toledo?

David:  I’m working on a cartoon series called the Mascots, and finishing a short script for theater, hopefully both to be completed by the end of 2015.

d5The Mascots Cartoon

YAC:  What would you say is Unified Outreach’s biggest accomplishment?

David:  I think just surviving.  We operated for nearly a decade with absolutely no funding other than what the volunteers put into the program.  We didn’t receive our first grant until 2011.  We kept the program alive and running with love, sweat, and tears.

“They continued to spin the story that Unified Outreach had somehow broken the law, calling for arrests and threatening to come down to the art center and confront the kids.”

YAC:  Was there ever a time when you thought about closing the doors?

David:  Yes, sadly there was, and it was tied directly into our first grant, although it was really just about politics.  In 2011 Unified Outreach had received a check from the City for $1000.00 to help with printing of a youth arts newspaper.  My sister was running for office at the time, and supporters of her political opponent attacked our program in an attempt to smear her.  As one would expect the kids writing the articles wrote about what they were doing and seeing at the time, including writing about my sisters run for office since it was something they heard me talking about daily.  Nothing over the top, just some general articles about her run which I still think were very fair and balanced.  Seeing an opportunity to attack my sister, her opponents complained to the city and the elections commission about the paper being political literature.

YAC:  Wow.  What happened?

David:  The city officials called us in a panic, worried about being caught in the middle of a political war.  Before they even asked we offered to give the money back in order to help calm the situation, I wrote them a check that morning.  The elections board looked at the newspaper and agreed with us that there was no wrongdoing, and closed the case.  However, the political partisans continued to spin the story that Unified Outreach had somehow broken the law, calling for arrests and threatening to come down to the art center and confront the kids.

That is the thing that still turns my stomach, how adults can do something so despicable as to harm children (even emotionally) just to gain the political upper hand.  Our kids went from feeling like they had accomplished something major, the production of a complete newspaper – written, drawn, photographed, and published by youth, to feeling like they did something wrong.

(At this point David’s lip quivers, as he seems shaken recounting the events).

Because of those threats we had to think about protecting our students from the mental and potential physical abuse by these political fanatics.  So we closed the doors for a time and cut back on programming until after the race was over.  Once we thought that our students were safe to return we began to schedule classes again.

YAC:  That’s terrible.  I’m glad that you were able to regroup and to continue with your programming.  It’s hard to believe that people can be so wicked, but then again, politics is a dirty game.

I’m not sure if this is a good Segue but over the past few years you have really grown from just and artist into many different areas of advocacy, from curbing youth violence, race & social justice, fair housing, and more.  You seem to have become a real activist.

David:  I think that being active in the community demands that we engage on issues that are important to people.  I always try to approach the dialogue with a humble heart; but we never know where inspiration may come from.  Even if someone has completely different ideas about how things should work, there may be some areas of common ground, and if we listen, there may be some good ideas mixed in with the rhetoric.

YAC:  You’ve recently made attempts to engage Mayor Murray’s office regarding a proposal to establish a department of inner city affairs?

“The proposal received strong opposition from department-heads within the Mayor’s office that feared losing their funding.”

David:  Yes, during the summer of 2014 the Central District and Rainier Valley saw a dramatic increase in youth violence and murders.  Over 10 youth murdered, over 20 overall murders, and over 50 reported gunshots in a 4-month period.  Senior members of the community were crying out for outside the box thinking to engage youth.  Our steering committee put together what we felt was a solid blueprint for the creation of a new department that would cultivate a new partnership between community leaders and public safety officials and access previously unobtainable community resources.

YAC:  And the results of the proposal?

David:  The Mayor’s office refused to meet with us, stating that they already had programs in place to deal with youth violence.  Additionally, I understand the proposal received strong opposition from department-heads within the Mayor’s office that feared losing their funding.

I think the proposal was also just a little too radical.  Our design involved recruiting people from the neighborhood that didn’t have their high school diplomas, and maybe had police records, whose only education was on the streets, but that the kids doing the violence know and look up to.  These cats didn’t fit into the Mayor’s plan for youth engagement.  The city still sees the best course of action to curb the violence as college educated counselors and social workers from Ivy League Schools.

It was also mentioned to us by inside sources that there was a fear that meeting with us would give the proposal and the proposed community leader’s legitimacy and shine a spotlight on areas that our city officials would rather keep in the dark.

YAC:  Like turning on a light in the kitchen and seeing roaches scatter?

David:  The message we got is to not rock the boat. So rather than continue to beat on a closed door we are looking at other ways to bring change on a smaller scale.  We must continuing to engage kids in one-on-one relationships through arts programs, music, mentoring, and just being a part of the community.

And thankfully there are other great programs that are active in the area that we hope to partner with in the future.  Groups like B.U.I.L.D. and programs like Hack the CD that have outstanding leadership and are making a difference where they are needed most.

YAC:  I feel like we could sit and talk about arts programs and community involvement all day, but we have to end the article at some point.  Let me rattle off a few topics and please try to answer in one or two sentences if possible.

“Other than the festivals, Seattle Center is always deserted, but that’s what happens when you have an Arts Commission that is heavily populated with lawyers and real estate developers.”

YAC:  Best thing about growing up in Seattle.

David:  Summertime at Greenlake and at the Seattle Center Fun Forrest.  Two things break my heart, going to Greenlake and seeing “no swimming due to toxic algae” and visiting Seattle Center and seeing a once vibrant community meeting place practically a ghost town.  Other than the festivals, Seattle Center is always deserted, but that’s what happens when you have an Arts Commission that is heavily populated with lawyers and real estate developers.

YAC:  Favorite thing about Seattle today?

David:  Seahawks baby!

YAC:  First thing you would do if you were the Mayor?

David:  Personal camera’s on police officers.  We need that to protect our officers who put their lives on the line every day and need that documentation when they are forced escalate a situation.  And we need it for our communities who may have lost confidence in our public safety offices due to past experiences.

YAC:  If you could talk to the David Toledo of 1990 what would you say?

David:  Find and marry a good woman.  We are created as incomplete beings; having a partner that you can share this journey with is a blessing that I took too long to embrace.

YAC:  Your hero?

David:  My mom, who I love with all my heart.

YAC:  Favorite thing to do?

David:  Dance-off competitions with my daughter, nephews, and nieces.

YAC:  Advice for struggling artists?

David:  Find artists with similar drive, ambition, and vision and build together.

YAC:  Advice for political activists?

David:  (laughs) No, no advice.  I’m still figuring it out, and what I do know about politics, I don’t like.

YAC:  Final words?

David:  I’ll just leave you with a favorite scripture, James 2:15 “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

ARTICLE WRITTEN BY:  M. KaPOWsley

PHOTOS MAY BE USED WITH PUBLICATON OF THIS ARTICLE.

Urban Hollywood meets Seattle in Youth Organized Runway Extravaganza!

 

MAC CLass

Saturday night August 30th West Seattle residents braved the rain in order to enjoy the annual Unified Outreach Runway Extravaganza! Ask anyone in the audience and they will tell you that it was worth it!

Starting with the always delicious catered buffet and moving into an evening of pure enjoyment; one could easily forget that this is a free event put on entirely by kids.

MAC Double2

Each year Unified Outreach partners with the City of Seattle’s Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI) and local fashion icon Carlisia Minnis/MAC Fashion House in order to provide a work training in the arts program for at-risk youth ages 13 – 18.

This partnership offers a series of 6-week programs that introduce youth ages 13-18 to the art of event management. Students learn promotions, facilities, sound& lighting, photo/video editing, hosting, and other areas necessary to put on an industry level fashion show.

 

Every year the fashion (and entertainment) program showcases the students own unique personalities; and this year it really did! Last year the show had a very light-hearted approach featuring comedy, acoustic guitar, and romantic-comedy ballads. Whereas this year the theme was “Urban Hollywood Meets Seattle” and it was hip hop hooray from start to finish with local breakdance phenomenon the Vicious Puppies crew and local rap artist Archie Bellz.

“We’re confident they could walk out the door and move directly into a career in event management“

The show was hosted by (students) Connor and Kayla who kept the crowd laughing with their sharp witted dialogue. At one point Connor produced a single ticket to the upcoming Wu Tang concert and proceeded to present it to one person at the show he felt deserved it most; himself. This brought a roar of laughter from the crowd, as did most of the interaction between the two hosts.

The highlight was of course the incredible outfits by Carlisia Minnis and MAC Fashion House; who for over a decade have established themselves as a brand that is as unique as Seattle itself.  The MAC Fashion House Boutique is located off Roxbury in West Seattle/White Center and is available for viewing by appointment at (206) 322-2147.

This year, the show also featured the organizational skills of personal stylist Lika Love who can be found online as well as around West Seattle in the Lika Love mobile boutique.MAC Kiel2

David Toledo, one of the event organizers said, “The entire behind the scenes crew was made up of teens from 13 to 18 years old from the work training in the arts program. They did the sound and lighting, facilities, photo and video show, stage set up, and more. These kids are incredible! We’re confident they could walk out the door and move directly into a career in event management. We’re very blessed to have such a great partnership with the City of Seattle and the people at SYVPI who have such a genuine interest in our youth. When (former) Mayor’s Greg Nickels and Mike McGinn put these programs into place they were really being visionaries.

The event was held at the West Seattle Christian Church Exhibition and Performance Hall at 4400 42nd Ave SW, which is a wonderful facility providing a full stage, runway, sound board, and spotlight; making this a truly industry-level event.

 

RAP ARTIST “TYRONE – THE WORKING CLASS HERO” DELIVERS AT YOUTH ARTS EVENT

Unified Outreach Music Program 2014

Unified Outreach Music Program 2014

Saturday night, August 23, 2014 West Seattle residents enjoyed a night of music and breakdancing with local rap artist “Tyrone, the Working Class Hero” and members of Seattle’s premier dance group “the Vicious Puppies”.   The event was part of the annual Work Training in the Arts Program offered by Unified Outreach in partnership with the City of Seattle/Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative Program.  Additional musical performances by Beloved One and freestyle rhyming from Tylicia Brown.

Each year the work training partnership offers a series of 6-week programs that introduce youth ages 13-18 to the art of event management. Students learn promotions, facilities, sound& lighting, photo/video editing, hosting, and other areas necessary to put on an industry level show.

Saturday, August 23rd featured “event management in music”, and next weekend (August 30th) will feature “event management in fashion & runway” featuring designer Carlisia Minnis/MAC Fashion House as well as outfits from personal stylist Lika Love. The fashion & runway program has been very popular in previous years so come early if you’d like a good seat!

The events are family friendly and always free to the public. This year’s events do have a goal of collecting school supplies for foster children; so if you have the resources available please consider bringing paper, pencils, pens, backpacks, or other school items to the show.

COMING UP:  August 30th, 6-9 PM

Urban Hollywood Meets Seattle

Runway Show with MAC Fashion House & Lika Love Mobile Boutique

August 30th, 6-9 PM

WSC Performance Hall

4400 42nd Ave SW Seattle 98116

Proposal for the creation of a Department of Inner City Affairs within the Seattle Mayor’s Office

TO:  Seattle City Council/Office of the Mayor                    DATE:  June 13, 2014

FROM:  David Toledo/Unified Outreach                            RE:  Establishment of Department of Inner-City Affairs

Proposed

To establish a Department of Inner-City Affairs (DOICA) within the City of Seattle Mayor’s office to address issues specific to Seattle’s Central District and Rainier Valley in order to assist in reducing the amount of criminal activity in Seattle with the use of “outside the box” youth programming and community liaisons that will be proactive in preventing violence, advancing race & social justice issues, and providing a mutually-beneficial partnership with Seattle’s public safety officers to provide previously unattainable neighborhood resources when crimes do occur.

Doica word 2

Background

There have been 7 young adults murdered a number of shootings in the Seattle Central District and Rainier Valley since Spring began, including shots fired at a vehicle as it was being ticketed by the KC Sheriff’s Department.

Budgetary Allocation:  We propose that the city use money already allocated to programs in the Office of Arts & Culture/Department of Neighborhoods to cover any costs associated with the program.  We propose 20% from each Department be allocated to the Department of Inner City Affairs.

Supervisory Relationship:  Director of theDOICA Reporting directly to the Seattle City Council or the Mayor.

WHO is committing the Crime?

One thing about youth crime and violence is that SOMEONE knows something.  The kids know who is doing what in the community; so the question is how does that information come to light?

Thinking OUTSIDE of the Box:

Within every youth community there are “networks” operating; kids who have formed communities-within-communities based on common interests.  Within urban communities we see an even closer kinship between youth who bond over artistic interests; kids who envision a career selling millions of albums rapping know the other kids in the city who share that dream.  The break-dancers know who the other break-dancers are; the graffiti artists know who the graffiti artists are.  These communal groups can be a great resource if we have the right liaison between the youth and our community leaders/authorities.

Who do these kids TRUST?

Obtaining information from kids can be a complicated task.  There is no doubt that the knowledge of who has committed the crime (violent or otherwise) is generally known in the community.  But because of community loyalty, the mistrust of those in authority, or the fear of reprisal, many witnesses are afraid to come forward.

From our experience growing up in these communities and continuing to work with low income and at-risk youth we believe many low income and at-risk youth are more responsive to those in the (shared) artistic body, and those seen as old school/OG’s (original gangsters) who have established themselves in the neighborhood.

The same kid that is hesitant to share knowledge of a known criminal act with a parent, teacher, or police officer will easily share that information in casual conversation with their breakdance instructor or one of the OG’s at a neighborhood picnic.

Departmental Structure/Use of Liaisons:

We are proposing that the DOICA be headed by an Executive Director who answers either to the City Council or the Mayor.  The Director of DOICA will appoint 4-5 Program Directors who will report to him/her.  Each Program Director will have 10 Program Administrators assigned to a specific grid in either Seattle’s Central District or Rainier Valley (known as BBQ zones); each Program Administrator will have one assistant.

If is further recommended that the DOICA be permitted the power to appoint one Board Member to each of the following Commissions to ensure that the DOICA program is able to reach its maximum potential.  We recommend a DOICA voice on the Arts Commission, Community Police Commission, and the Human Rights Commission.

With the DOICA in place we believe that Seattle will be able to dramatically decrease violence.

We are proposing that those OG’s that are also active in the artistic field be recruited to act as liaisons between our at-risk youth and our community leaders/authorities.  Community leaders such as Pastor Ray Rogers, Dr. James Croone, Tyrone Dumas, and many more who have a 20/30+ year history in these neighborhoods and are “neighborhood famous” in Seattle’s CD and South-end of Seattle are needed.  These are respected elders you can find at neighborhood barbeques and community events and when they speak the kids listen.

These community elders are artists and arts administrators in their own right; hosting musical performances, parties, and community events where youth engagement occurs.  Events where troubled youth are recognized, conflicts resolved, lives set straight; yet these events will never be approved for a Department of Neighborhoods or Office of Arts & Culture Youth Arts grant because they don’t fit the Arts Commission’s idea of what an artist looks or sounds like.  The same type-A personality, the direct speaking style, the same REALNESS that makes these people attractive to our youth are seen as negatives by Seattle’s artistic gate-keepers and turned away from receiving artistic and community grants.  So the key is to design program partnerships that recruit these OG’s and back their programs; with the understanding that there is an open communication and true working partnership with the select branches of law enforcement, courts, and other areas of public safety.  We are confident that Unified Outreach has a blueprint for such a partnership; an achievable plan to save lives.

Accessing the necessary FUNDING:

The City of Seattle already spends millions of tax payer dollars each year on youth arts, sports, and technology programs.  Many of these programs are already making a difference in the lives of our children; however, in order to meet today’s needs it is obvious we must try something different.

Currently the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs has a budget of $8.5 million, and the Department of Neighborhoods has a budget of $12.4 million (combined nearly $21 million).  Not surprisingly, these departments often have a surplus (Large Project Fund is one example).  We propose 20% from each Department be allocated to the Department of Inner City Affairs in order to support a new Department operating under the guidelines that have been provided in this memo.  A more comprehensive operational structure and staffing hierarchy can be provided to the Mayor’s office and the City Council at their request.

What is the value of a human life?  Are the 7 lives lost over the last few months worth less because they are from the Central District and Rainier Valley?  $5.3 million per year towards the DOICA is reasonable and the return each year in the lives saved cannot be measured.  If city leaders can put $21 million each year to simply “enrich through art” the lives of those in Seattle, isn’t it worth $5.3 million to actually SAVE those same lives?  Would it be a more palatable program if it funded programs in Magnolia? Queen Anne? Lake Union?  These are hard questions that deserve answers.

Our proposal is a viable solution to reducing crime and providing safer streets.  However, because it is a new and unique approach to solving the problem it is bound to encounter pushback from the status quo; and as such will need visionary leaders to champion this as we move forward.  Seattle’s leadership must get out of its comfort zone and begin engaging in a more indigenous form of youth outreach, which requires bringing in oversight that understands the working relationship between this new style of community leader (OG’s), and at-risk youth.

The neighborhood elders that have contributed to the actualization of this proposal would be honored to serve on the steering committee as the City begins its search for a qualified candidate to serve as Director of this newly established Department.  These are men raised in Seattle’s CD and Rainier Valley and still have deep connections to those communities.  We know the neighborhoods, the kids, and the community leaders (OG’s) that can make this program a success.

AVOIDING Common Mistakes:

We have to avoid the common mistake of just throwing money at the problem.  We have to resist the urge to simply throw money at “established youth, arts, and community programs” in the area who may produce fine programming but do not know how to reach our target audience; and who (once they have received the special funding) will simply hire the same old friends & family and list them as “Special OG consultants”.  Not every person living in the CD and Rainier Valley for decades is respected by the community.  Also, there are many artists and arts/programs already operating that don’t reach the kids we are talking about.  We need to recruit REAL community-leader OG’s that have a PROVEN history of working with our YOUTH.  The people living in the neighborhoods that are being affected by this wave of violence KNOW who the people are that are working to make a difference.  The creation of a Department of Inner-City Affairs (DOICA) within the City of Seattle Mayor’s office, with the right people in leadership roles CAN and WILL save lives.

Proposed Department of Inner-City Affairs Mission Statement

“City of Seattle’s commitment to reducing violence and promoting justice for every community.”

Thank you for your time and consideration.  Unified Outreach and the Steering Committee would be honored to present our proposal to the Seattle City Council and/or Mayor Murray in a public hearing as determined by the Seattle City Council and Mayor’s Office.

“Ask the Mayor” town hall inspires little confidence for stopping the rising youth murder rate in Seattle.

Whats the Number

A question was asked from the audience, “Mr. Mayor, what is the number?”

The man at the microphone continued the question, “Prior to Sunday night’s murder of yet another inner city youth, the Mayor’s office had received a proposal for the establishment of a Department of Inner City Affairs.  The proposal (as written) is strongly supported by this hurting community; yet the Mayor’s office has failed to respond to the proposal or even engage in basic dialogue with the proposal’s steering committee. “

“8 dead youth in the last 3 months, and 16 overall killings in the area; and still the Mayor and City Council refuse to think outside of the box. They continue to push that their way is best, despite the continued loss of life.”

“So my question is what number of murdered children are the Mayor and the City Council waiting to see before they accept help in solving this problem?”

The Mayor’s response, although sincere, seemed to echo sound bites from the City Council address, “pre-K education, neighborhood policing, jobs for the area.”  In other words, we’ll keep the status quo; nothing to see here… move along people, move along.

“…those involved in these existing programs admit this “assessment” is just a rehash of the previous mayor’s ideas.”

Mayor Murray went on to say that he is seeking input from other mayor’s outside of Seattle, looking for ideas on the best way to curb the violence.  Again, genuinely seeking answers to the problem of continued violence and record youth murder rates over the last 3 months.  But the idea of soliciting voices from other city mayors caused some in the crowd to wonder why we are asking for advice from those outside of the city while failing to engage the community itself on the issue of a Department of Inner City Affairs.

Sounding like a man of action, the mayor promised a “complete assessment of crime prevention programs targeting and helping 18-30 year olds.”  However, even those involved in these existing programs admit this “assessment” is just a rehash of the previous mayor’s ideas and opportunity to increase funding of already operating programs; successful in reaching some “at-risk” youth, but doing little to reach those who are responsible for the rise in violence and murder. 

“…to think these kids can be reached the same way and with the same program shows how far removed the Mayor and this City Council are from what is happening at street level.”

Neither the Mayor nor the Council members grasp the fact that the kids involved in the recent violence and murders are not being reached by existing programs.  For city leaders to think that the kid who was arrested for shoplifting and is now painting murals with the city’s violence prevention program has the same mentality as the kid who shot at another youth in front of the mini-mart because he was “disrespected” or is “doing-dirt” to get a name for himself… to think these kids can be reached in the same manner and with the same program shows how far removed the Mayor and this City Council are from what is happening at street level. The Mayor and the City Council don’t understand that there is a sliding scale on the at-risk spectrum; and that the needs, wants, and desires of at-risk youth change from one teen to the next.  Despite making for good headlines, the rehashing and increased funding of the same old departments will make no significant progress in stopping the rise of violent crime and murder in the Central District and Rainier Valley.

“The Mayor and the City Council don’t understand that there is a sliding scale on the at-risk spectrum; and that the needs, wants, and desires of at-risk youth change from one teen to the next.”

Those affected by this violence are demanding more substance and fresh ideas.  The Mayor says he wants to “change the narrative” in how the neighborhoods and public safety officials communicate; but so far, critics say there they’ve seen no real blueprint for how the city plans to do that.  What the Mayor appears to be saying (or at least thinking) is that there is a one-size fits all “at-risk youth” demographic, which is being taken care of by the programs already in place.

One thing everyone agrees is a positive is that the mayor’s plan does continue the relationships previously  established by former Mayor’s Nickels and McGinn, such as partnering with the community, local businesses, local sports teams, and faith-based organizations to discourage the “no-snitch” code” and build a more trusting relationship between these communities and public safety officers.  These programs should be celebrated for the good that they do; but the Mayor needs to understand that there is a component missing; and that piece is filled by the Department of Inner City Affairs liaison position.

“…what number of murdered children are the Mayor and the City Council waiting to see before they accept help in solving this problem?”

The previous Mayor, Michael McGinn had a very high level of respect within the Rainier Valley and Central District communities because of his heavy involvement in youth programming and innovative approach to working with inner city community youth advocates.  However, if even under Mayor McGinn the programs were unable to reach the youth responsible for the increase in violence and murders.  Why then, would Mayor Murray believe that somehow the results of these programs will change now that he is at the helm?  Does he know something that those living in the community for generations don’t?

Until Mayor Murray and the City Council are willing to open their minds to the idea that there is another way to address the problem, the violence and murder will continue; and we will ask again and again, “What is the number?”

 

Arts program and Rainier Valley OG’s ambitious plan to stop out of control youth murder rate.

GRASS-ROOTS YOUTH ARTS PROGRAM UNIFIED OUTREACH AND STREET-WISE COMMUNITY LEADERS FROM SEATTLE’S CENTRAL DISTRICT AND RAINIER VALLEY PROPOSE A NEW “DEPARTMENT OF INNER CITY AFFAIRS” BE ESTABLISHED IN THE MAYORS OFFICE TO ADDRESS ISSUES SPECIFIC TO INNER-CITY YOUTH WITH “OUTSIDE THE BOX” THINKING.

June 20, 2014 – Youth Arts program Unified Outreach has put forth an ambitious proposal for the creation of a new department within the Mayor’s office. The new Department of Inner-City Affairs would address issues specific to Seattle’s Central District and Rainier Valley in order to assist in reducing the amount of criminal activity in Seattle with the use of “outside the box” youth programming and community liaisons that will be proactive in preventing violence, advancing race & social justice issues, and providing a mutually-beneficial partnership with Seattle’s public safety officers to provide previously unattainable neighborhood resources when crimes do occur.

This coalition has dedicated themselves to finding a solution to the violence. With 7 youths dead at the hands of other kids, 15 overall killings, and nearly 50 reports of gunshots in the CD and Rainier Valley since spring began this is something most in Seattle have never experienced; and certainly not expected in our peaceful Northwest Mecca.

However, for most of the untouched areas of Seattle business goes on as usual; with a Seattle media seemingly out of touch with what is happening (one paper referring to the recent epidemic of shootings as “few injuries reported” despite the 7 dead kids), and city leadership that ranges from oblivious to the problem to disgustingly opportunistic. As for the few city leaders who have shown attention, their ideas for solving the problems are the typical sound bites you’d expect; pre-K education, increase minimum wage, more jobs, and so on. As well intentioned as they are, the ideas are woefully out of touch with the thoughts and minds of those responsible for inciting the violence.

The strange thing is Seattle is no Los Angeles or Chicago; Seattle isn’t a giant metropolis where the hotspots of violence can span a hundred miles; no, our hotspots are along 23rd Avenue South and Rainier Ave S., really just a few square miles. Sadly, and without doubt the same mothers and father who have lost children to this violence work in and around city hall, frequent the same coffee shops and sandwich stores; yet city business goes on as though nothing is out of the ordinary. This is why a Department of Inner-City Affairs is needed!

The proposed idea works like this;

Within every youth community there are “networks” operating; kids who have formed communities-within-communities based on common interests. Within urban communities we see an even closer kinship between youth who bond over artistic interests; kids who envision a career selling millions of albums rapping know the other kids in the city who share that dream. The break-dancers know who the other break-dancers are; the graffiti artists know who the graffiti artists are. These communal groups can be a great resource if we have the right liaison between the youth and our community leaders/authorities.

One thing about youth crime and violence is that SOMEONE knows something. The kids know who is doing what in the community; so the question is how does that information come to light?

Obtaining information from kids can be a complicated task. There is no doubt that the knowledge of who has committed the crime (violent or otherwise) is generally known in the community. But because of community loyalty, the mistrust of those in authority, or the fear of reprisal, many witnesses are afraid to come forward.

Unified Outreach, along with the community elders involved in the proposal have put their experience growing up in these communities and continuing to work with low income and at-risk youth to work; believing many low income and at-risk youth are more responsive to those in the (shared) artistic body, and those seen as old school/OG’s (original gangsters) who have established themselves in the neighborhood.

The same kid that is hesitant to share knowledge of a known criminal act with a parent, teacher, or police officer will easily share that information in casual conversation with their breakdance instructor or one of the OG’s at a neighborhood picnic.

The proposals idea is that those OG’s that are also active in the artistic field be recruited to act as liaisons between the city’s at-risk youth and the city community leaders/authorities. Community leaders such as Pastor Ray Rogers, Dr. James Croone, Tyrone Dumas, and many more who have a 20/30+ year history in these neighborhoods and are “neighborhood famous” in Seattle’s CD and South-end of Seattle are needed. These are respected elders you can find at neighborhood barbeques and community events and when they speak the kids listen.

These community elders are artists and arts administrators in their own right; hosting musical performances, parties, and community events where youth engagement occurs. Events where troubled youth are recognized, conflicts resolved, lives set straight; yet these events will never be approved for a Department of Neighborhoods or Office of Arts & Culture Youth Arts grant because they don’t fit the Arts Commission’s idea of what an artist looks or sounds like. The same type-A personality, the direct speaking style, the same REALNESS that makes these people attractive to our youth are seen as negatives by Seattle’s artistic gate-keepers and turned away from receiving artistic and community grants. So the key is to design program partnerships that recruit these OG’s and back their programs; with the understanding that there is an open communication and true working partnership with the select branches of law enforcement, courts, and other areas of public safety. There is confidence that Unified Outreach has a blueprint for such a partnership; an achievable plan to save lives.

The City of Seattle already spends millions of tax payer dollars each year on youth arts, sports, and technology programs. Many of these programs are already making a difference in the lives of our children; however, in order to meet today’s needs it is obvious we must try something different.

Currently the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs has a budget of $8.5 million, and the Department of Neighborhoods has a budget of $12.4 million (combined nearly $21 million). Not surprisingly, these departments often have a surplus (Large Project Fund is one example). The proposal suggests 20% from each Department be allocated to the Department of Inner City Affairs in order to support a new Department operating under the guidelines that have been provided in this memo.

What is the value of a human life? Are the 7 lives lost worth less because they are kids from the Central District and Rainier Valley? $5.3 million per year towards the DOICA is reasonable and the return each year in the lives saved cannot be measured. If city leaders can put $21 million each year to simply “enrich through art” the lives of those in Seattle, isn’t it worth $5.3 million to actually SAVE those same lives? Would it be a more palatable program if it funded programs in Magnolia? Queen Anne? Lake Union? These are hard questions that deserve answers.

The proposal is a viable solution to reducing crime and providing safer streets. However, because it is a new and unique approach to solving the problem it is bound to encounter pushback from the status quo; and as such will need visionary leaders to champion this as we move forward. Seattle’s leadership must get out of its comfort zone and begin engaging in a more indigenous form of youth outreach, which requires bringing in oversight that understands the working relationship between this new style of community leader (OG’s), and at-risk youth.

Unified Outreach believes the program can be a success; if city leaders take care to avoid the common mistake of just throwing money at the problem. City leaders have to resist the urge to simply throw money at “established youth, arts, and community programs” in the area who may produce fine programming but do not know how to reach our target audience; and who (once they have received the special funding) will simply hire the same old friends & family and list them as “Special Consultants”. Not every person living in the CD and Rainier Valley for decades is respected by the community. Also, there are many artists and arts/programs already operating that don’t reach the kids we are talking about. We need to recruit REAL community-leader OG’s that have a PROVEN history of working with our YOUTH. The people living in the neighborhoods that are being affected by this wave of violence KNOW who the people are that are working to make a difference. The creation of a Department of Inner-City Affairs (DOICA) within the City of Seattle Mayor’s office, with the RIGHT people in leadership roles CAN and WILL save lives.

Proposed Department of Inner-City Affairs Mission Statement

“City of Seattle’s commitment to reducing violence and promoting justice for every community.”Image

Image

2014 Summer Day-Camp – Animating Cartoons June 23-27, June 30-July 4, July 7-11

2014 Summer Day-Camp - Animating Cartoons June 23-27, June 30-July 4, July 7-11

Animating Cartoons Summer Day-Camp for ages 9-14 (West Seattle)

Unified Outreach @ Ginomai Art Center in West Seattle provides a unique Summer Day-Camp option for Parents who are interested in seeing their child attain a stronger grasp of Arts & Technology in a fun and exciting environment.

An average afternoon of Summer Day-Camp will include educational exercises embedded in fun games designed to encourage personal growth, positive self-esteem and team building skills. The day will also include physical activities and outdoor time (as weather allows) including lunch in the park. But the highlight of each day will be working on the creation of a personal cartoon-animation using the kids’ own ideas, stories, drawings and voices; of which they will have their very own DVD to show to friends and family.

NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY! Our students are coached by knowledgeable, skilled instructors who will work with the kids each step of the way; from story development, to character design, digital imaging, cartoon animation, and voice-overs using industry-level production software including Adobe Photoshop, Flash, Soundbooth, and more.

Day Camp dates are:
June 23 –June 27
June 30 – July 4 (yes we are open on 7/4)
July 7 – July 11

Doors open at 8:30am and close at 5:30pm – Parents may drop off their child at any time during operational hours. $200 per student/week.

Unified Outreach is a 501C3 Youth Arts Charity which has been Active in Seattle for over 10 years.

Register at http://www.UnifiedOutreach.com or call 206-371-1139 for more information on our Charity and out Summer Art Programs. We are located at 4401 42nd Ave SW, West Seattle, 98116.

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