By Linda Ball
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
The organizers of Hate Free Delridge ran out of name tags after 200 were handed out, and the people kept coming for the group’s first big event Saturday at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center.
They all came out to stand up against hate, meet new neighbors, make new friends, and share food, music, and art together.
Hate Free Delridge is a grass-roots organization that evolved as a result of July’s hate crime targeting a Pigeon Point family with mixed-race children. Saturday’s crowd was diverse not only in ethnicities but also geographically – while HFD organizers are primarily from Puget Ridge and Pigeon Point, people showed up from other West Seattle neighborhoods too.
Erica Moore lives in The Admiral District, where she saw a flyer for the event at Alki Bike and Board, owned by Stu Hennessey, one of the founders of Hate Free Delridge. Moore, who is African-American, said she has dealt with discrimination herself, but she has learned to handle it with goodness and grace. She echoed Pavan Vangipuram’s opening words that the way to fight fire is with water.
Vangipuram, who is with OneAmerica, and is also a founder of Hate Free Delridge, opened the program with a recap of what led to HFD’s formation.
He encouraged everyone to talk to someone they don’t know during the evening. Hennessey was the MC of the program, keeping things moving along. He had everyone stand up and meet someone they’ve never met in their life, which worked so well that the conversations around the room drowned him out.
Martha Ortiz, of Mexican heritage, said she was at the event to support the Black Lives Matter movement and all oppressed people. Her daughter Rebecca Garcia was also there with her children. “I have two kids, too,” Garcia said. “It could have been my family – they’re mixed.” Her daughter Laura Garcia, 11, was busy making balloon animals for anyone who wanted one:
The entire family lives in the Puget Ridge neighborhood. With them was Sandra Aguilar, originally from Mexico, now residing in Yakima. Aguilar has been in the U.S. for 20 years.
“In Yakima, we’re addressing these issues, too, about privilege and hate,” she said. “I’m faced with the fact of more separation of cultures in Yakima, but there are a lot of people working to change that.” She came to support the group, and to perform with Garcia. Together, they are a musical group called Once Minutos (11 minutes), performing in Seattle, Wenatchee and Yakima.
Reba Schneider, who lives near Westwood Village, grew up in the Leschi area, which she described as having been in transition at the time, from being a mostly Jewish community to an African-American neighborhood. She said that laid the groundwork for her interest in and value of diversity. Her great-grandparents had lived in West Seattle, so that was what drew her to this area later.
Attendees dined on an absolutely incredible free dinner of homemade tapas, followed by dessert. Most of the food was donated, and then prepared by a small army of volunteer kitchen wizards.
The music flowed:
Also, children had their faces painted, and everyone had the chance to sign a large banner or write a Haiku poem based on the theme “My Stand Against Hate.”
Among those penning poems, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold:
Who knew that a nasty note could lead to all of this community goodness? Next up for Hate Free Delridge will be a vigil to stand up against hate, 6 pm October 15th at Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza.