Diversity Commission busy after latest racial incident

Go Fund Me account set up for Weary family
By Brian Soergel | Feb 14, 2018
Courtesy of: Weary family A Go Fund Me account has been set up for the Weary family. Pictured, from left, are Darnesha, Mikayla, Erwin Sr. and Ewin Jr.

Editor's note: The Edmonds police on Wednesday night, Feb. 14, made an arrest in this case. What follows is the story to run in the Edmonds Beacon on Thursday, Feb. 15, which was written before the arrest.

While Edmonds police continued their investigation of a possible hate crime in Edmonds, the city’s Diversity Commission’s monthly meeting three days later was overshadowed by the incident at Harvey’s Lounge in Edmonds.

During its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, Feb. 7, it heard from community members as well as representatives of the local chapter of the NAACP and the Communities of Color Coalition.

“The Edmonds Diversity Commission is committed to continuing to monitor developments related to the alleged racial harassment incident involving two teenagers that occurred in the parking lot of Harvey's Lounge,” said Patrick Doherty, the city’s liaison to the group.

It was on Sunday, Feb. 4, that two African-American teenagers taking pictures for a school project were given a frightening lesson in intolerance when they claimed a group of people outside Harvey’s Lounge in Edmonds threw racial slurs their way and threatened them with a baseball bat.

The Edmonds Police Department is investigating the possible hate crime, and has interviewed witnesses and watched surveillance footage from the business to determine if a crime occurred.

“We will be able to provide an update when the investigation allows,” Sgt. Josh McClure said Wednesday. “The integrity and thoroughness of the investigation is the primary focus.”

At the Diversity Commission meeting, community members asked commissioners to continue working to understand, address and talk about racial intolerance and social unrest.

Since the meeting, the commission has been encouraged to organize community discussions to take a firm stand against racial intolerance, commission member Maria Montalvo said.

The Diversity Commission’s stated purpose is to promote an environment that accepts, celebrates, and appreciates diversity within the community. The nine-member group, all volunteers, serve as a resource for city government and the community, and provides recommendations to the mayor and City Council members that would identify opportunities to address diversity issues.

“The commission is gravely concerned about all matters of both alleged and confirmed racial intimidation and harassment in our community, and will remain vigilant with regard to the continuing process associated with this incident,” Commission Chairwoman Diana White said.

“We will also remain in communication with city staff, including the Edmonds Police Department."

White said the commission encourages Edmonds residents to engage in reflection and dialogue with friends, family and neighbors about the incident, its potential causes and its ramifications.

As part of its mission, the Diversity Commission sponsors community events throughout the year, including a film series and community conversations.

“We’re trying to build a stronger community so that when events like this do happen, we see what we see,” White said. “People tell us they don’t want that in our community. There’s no space for that. We don’t want to live in a community of hate.

“The more that the community speaks and understands, my hope is that events like that will lessen, and there will be a backlash of ‘We don’t want that.’“

White said she invites the public to attend commission meetings to share thoughts and comments on diversity issues. “By coming together, we hope to make hurtful incidents such as this serve as a source of strength and cohesion in our community,” she said.

Montalvo said the commission’s 2018 plans include the annual Youth Forum and World Café, as well as a grant program for diversity-related community events. The World Café and film series are focused on building more bridges and promoting open dialogue across an ever-growing group of Edmonds’ citizens, she said.

The annual Edmonds Diversity Film Series continues to be successful, Montalvo said, with between 80 and 100 attendees at each of the movies shown during the inaugural series. All films are screened at no cost to viewers, thanks to the support of the Commission, Edmonds Center for the Arts, the Edmonds Theater and Rick Steves’ Europe.

The next screening is noon Saturday, Feb. 17, and is called “Off and Running,” a story focused on race, gender identity, and the definition of family.

Coalition comment

The Diversity Commission isn’t the only organization paying attention to Edmonds’ latest racial incident.

The Edmonds Neighborhood Action Coalition – not affiliated with the city of Edmonds – is a nonpartisan community organization started a little over a year ago in response to President Trump’s travel ban, and has about 300 members. Its focus is on social justice issues such as racism, environment, education and human rights.

It posted a letter of support to members of the Weary family of Esperance, who were the subjects of the alleged incident.

It read, in part:

“As members of the Edmonds Neighborhood Action Coalition, we stand in solidarity with Darnesha Weary and her children. We condemn these acts of hate and intimidation based on racial bias and prejudice.

“We celebrate the diversity of our community, and reject those who seek to divide us. We believe that black lives matter, and we strive to make that statement true everywhere and always, beginning with our own hometown.

“It is never wrong to speak out against hate. In fact, it is imperative that we do so. When we are silent, we are complicit with the bullies, the racists and bigots. When we raise up our voices, we raise up our whole society.

“However, we also ask our fellow community members and neighbors to go beyond a mere statement of support for Darnesha Weary and her teenage children. We ask that the reactive statements turn into proactive discussion and dialogue.

“We ask that proactive, educational conversation spur action and change. We must be aware and intentional in combatting and rejecting racism. We must be aware and intentional in framing and building a society where all belong and are valued.”

Mindy Woods, an Edmonds Neighborhood Action Coalition member, said the group helped set up a Go Fund Me account for the Wearys: www.gofundme.com/let-us-stand-with-the-weary-family. The goal is $1,500, to help with trauma counseling, attorney fees and a home security system.

“Many of our members are very active in the community, whereas others are quietly working in the background,” she said.

“We do things like host candidate forums, provide ‘Stories of Self and Solidarity’ at the Edmonds library, showed the independent film ‘Black Girl in Suburbia’ at Mountlake Terrace High School, and many other community activities, often partnering with the Edmonds Diversity Commission.

“We strive to create a more inclusive and welcoming community, where we celebrate our differences and seek ways to support one another.”

 

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