We’re in These Streets: Back2School Cheer on Rainier

By United Way of King County, on August 31, 2023 | In Breaking the Cycle of Poverty, Events, Helping Students Graduate, News

United Way of King County is out and about in your community! We’re keeping an eye and a pulse on happenings, events, organizations, and activities throughout King County as we work side by side with communities and partners to achieve an equitable future for everyone. We’re in These Streets is an occasional blog post that highlights your community.

On Saturday, we stopped by the Rainier Beach Community Center plaza for the Back2School Bash, an annual event hosted by Rainier Beach Action Coalition that readies local students for the upcoming school year with backpacks, school supplies, food, and resources—all delivered in a block-party atmosphere that celebrates Rainier Beach and its youth.

Rainier Beach Action Coalition is a member of the Black Community Building Collective, a coalition of 14 Black-led organizations brought together with United Way funding to build relationships, share best practices, and implement strategies.

People who live, work, and play along South Seattle Rainier Avenue South are accustomed to perceptions that their community is riddled with lawlessness and blight. A recent fatal mass shooting at a hookah lounge along Rainier Avenue South did little to change that perception but instead prompted a convergence of media outlets to the area for days of coverage amid the city’s recent uptick in violent crime.

Too bad most of those media outlets didn’t show up for last Saturday’s Back2School Bash at the Rainier Beach Community Center plaza. They would have seen South Seattle as it truly is, a vibrant, colorful, diverse, closely-knit, and fiercely proud neighborhood that cares about its kids like all get out.

Journalists say that news is that which disrupts the status quo, but if the only time you read about an area is when things go wrong you assume wrongdoing is its status quo. That alone begs for more spotlighting of events like the Back2School Bash, which was held on Saturday for the 20th year.

Rainier Beach Action Coalition’s website says the Back2School Bash is held each year “to affirm the greatness of each and every child and to address the socioeconomic barriers they face when it comes to learning.”

The event drew thousands of students, parents, community leaders, neighbors, and public and private sector organizations for four hours of food, fun, and freebies.

In addition to free backpacks, school supplies, and other resources, the Back2School Bash was a place to get a free barber cut, your hair braided or your nails done.

“It’s an opportunity for barbers, beauticians, nail technicians, braiders, and vendors together to bring resources to our community,” said Danielle Jackson, Rainier Beach Action Coalition project specialist and Back2School Bash coordinator. “Not only that, but they have an opportunity to network with one another and build community, and that’s what it’s about.”

It also featured an impromptu fashion show with kids donning the latest fall clothing trends. And at a time when law enforcement presence at community events is often frowned upon, at least one officer participated in a line dance with youth as the popular V.I.C. hip hop song “Wobble” blared in the background.

“This means a lot to us because it shows that we can be in community with one another without violence,” said Marisol Santos-Perez, Rainier Beach Action Coalition’s network supervisor for restorative resolutions. “We’re a family right now.”

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