White Center Community Development Association: Warm welcome for Sili, fond farewell for Aileen

March 24th, 2012 Tracy Posted in People, White Center Community Development Association, White Center news Comments Off

If you don’t know them already, that’s outgoing White Center Community Development Association executive director Aileen Balahadia at left, with her successor Sili Savusa at right, photographed during the Friday reception/celebration at Greenbridge. Savusa started work at WCCDA a few days after her new role was announced March 15th; she had previously worked at West Seattle-based Southwest Youth and Family Services, whose executive director Steve Daschle was among the reception’s attendees (at right in the next photo with White Center Storefront Deputy BJ Myers):

Balahadia announced her departure back in December, and leaves after eight years of WCCDA growth described in the announcement we published then.

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One-Night Count finds 55 homeless people without shelter in White Center

January 27th, 2012 Tracy Posted in People, White Center news 2 Comments »

Organizers say they know it’s not the full number, but they do the best they can to muster a huge volunteer force to roam the county one night a year for the One-Night Count. It happened this morning, and White Center is among the areas that were visited. You can see the results here – including 55 people counted in White Center.

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‘Help protect my neighborhood’: A public plea in White Center

December 28th, 2011 Tracy Posted in People, White Center news Comments Off

Outside Jimenez Signs in White Center, a new sign this afternoon – asking for help in protecting WC, following this morning’s deadly shooting across the street at Seattle Roll Bakery. Carlos Jimenez, a longtime community leader and entrepreneur, has campaigned against violence before, and says it is time to make a stand again.

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‘Chicken Friday Christmas’: The party that gave a priceless gift

December 27th, 2011 Tracy Posted in People, White Center news 10 Comments »

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Earlier this month, a special event at The Barrel in Top Hat brought a holiday-season boost to the White Center Food Bank. We didn’t know about it ahead of time, or would have covered it – but out of nowhere, we received this story telling the heartwarming tale. Thanks, Joe – and everybody who made the event happen.)

Story and visuals by Joe Heisler
Special to White Center Now

There was no mention of the White Center Food Bank in The Seattle Times‘ recent report on hardships and headwinds facing small nonprofits though they lost $50K in government funding this year, a perfect case-in-point for the newly released Nonprofit Research Collaborative findings.

The cuts come as community needs increase, but the volunteer-driven organization is responding to challenges with extended hours and expanded services. The Baby Pantry is just one example and one recent day, a dozen children were among those lined up outside, braving the cold and waiting for doors to open at 1 p.m. Volunteers readied provisions and took stations inside. With only two paid staffers, the WCFB coordinates 20,000 volunteer-hours to serve more than 60,000 people a year.

“You have to understand,” said Executive Director Rick Jump, “Our average donation is $25, maybe $50, and we do have generous donors who give $50 every month. So when Irish came in (one recent) morning with $4,100, we were just blown away.”

That’s Irish McKinney, a charismatic barrel-chested mountain of a man, full white beard prominent, with a commanding voice and easy smile –– his better-half’s patch says “my old man is one bad apple.”

Marjorie and Irish keep four motorcycles, including the vintage ‘59 Panhead Harley he bought fresh out of the Army in Minneapolis (1974), and “rode back to Seattle by way of Dallas.” He knew the biker clubs of the time, but took a detour for school and a year as a VISTA volunteer. Irish earned his degree from the University of Puget Sound in 1980 as a business major.

As a pro sound tech, Irish found a path that led to work with Arlo Guthrie, Leo Kottke, David Crosby, Ann and Nancy Wilson, Jerry Miller of Moby Grape, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains, and The Presidents of the United States of America, among others.

Of his time at the bygone Backstage in Ballard, Irish recalled, “It was a third-line venue that booked a lot of acts either on their way up or on their way down.”

There were many great encounters, but after ten years the crowd seemed to be getting younger, so Irish shifted gears again, and as a top-producing Enrolled Agent for a regional H&R Block office, stayed for thirteen years before opening his own successful practice, Top Hat Taxes. “They took a chance on me,” he said, reflecting with a smile, “I’ve looked like this for a long time.”

Along the way, the Apple Dumpling Gang (ADG), a regional motorcycle club, proved to be a great fit for Irish. Predominantly veterans with a strong sense of community and belonging like a lot of other clubs, but “they put work and family first,” he said. “And that made the difference.”

Meeting friends at The Barrel Tavern on Friday evenings (fried chicken special) became a tradition for Irish and Marjorie through the years, and one that continues today –– pulling tables together to accommodate all, and making a night of it. In 2008 they made a wonderful Christmas party of it for legions of friends.

Sensing an opportunity to leverage the good feeling, they decided to underwrite a holiday party to help feed people in need. So with Top Hat Taxes as sponsor, and partners in The Barrel Tavern and Rat City ABATE (national motorcycle legislative awareness/activist organization A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments) to host and post the event respectively, Chicken Friday Christmas was born.

Marjorie reports that the first ‘official’ Chicken Friday Christmas in 2009 brought in $1,300 for charity. The net reached $2,000 in 2010. But this year was extraordinary.

On party night The Barrel sparkled. Vincente’s team tended the gorgeous buffet throughout the night and the food was incredible. Diners filled long, elegant banquet tables and volunteers sold raffle tickets in the aisles. It was standing-room-only before long. From a festooned head table facing the room, Irish gestured or said something that hushed the boisterous crowd at once.

He introduced a ‘brother,’ as bikers tend to regard and call each other, who delivered a heartfelt benediction to bowed heads nodding in agreement, followed by polite applause.

Taking the microphone, Irish continued with recognition for troops returning from Iraq and gratitude for their service punctuated by long moments of silence and reflection for the fallen. This was the weekend troops were coming home en masse –– and the gravity of sentiment of Vietnam-era veterans who faced a much different homecoming was lost on no one.

“Let’s feed some people!,” Irish’s booming baritone filled the room, without the mic this time, and to greater effect. “What are we doing?,” he bellowed, and the crowd responded in unison, “Feeding People!”

Next up was the amazing Orville Johnson to play a few sets of acoustic blues freeing Irish to work the room –– he was on all night and the crowd was with him all the way, even when he doubled-down and took to reciting holiday poems. It was an amazing production, lots going on and no lulls in the action.

And as the Third Annual Chicken Friday Christmas gave way to Saturday morning, all left happy and entertained, feeling good for doing good.

“Please just say how grateful we are, how truly grateful.” The food bank director’s refrain hung in the air as he searched for words –– he was speaking for a lot of great volunteers who work very hard every day. And for those in need, on their urgent behalf, he was speaking for them.

But Irish never was in it for recognition. He agreed to talk, but largely to thank a lot of people for the hard work and support that made it successful. “Dana and Deanna (sisters, proprietors of The Barrel) are incredible. They sold ribbons all month and exceeded all expectations. They were not passive, they made it happen.”

When he stopped by The Barrel early Saturday morning it wasn’t for congratulations, just some help to deliver two truck loads of brand-new toys to Childhaven in Burien. “And it took everything I had to get there.” But that’s another story.

He’s not a proud man, but a lot of people are very proud of him. And so it goes –– sometimes the good guys wear black…

Joe first sent this to us in a creatively laid-out PDF. We couldn’t reproduce that on a web page, but you can click here to download and see his original creation.

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Mourning former Evergreen High School teacher Lois Baldwin

December 18th, 2011 Tracy Posted in People, White Center news Comments Off

Lois Baldwin lived a life of education – given and received – as well as creativity and adventure, as detailed in this remembrance shared by her niece, Vicki Burr-Chellin:

Lois Elaine Baldwin, former English teacher and guidance counselor at Evergreen High School from 1955-1976, died peacefully on December 11, 2011 in West Seattle.

Miss Baldwin was born on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 1920 in Winlock, WA to Lee Ernest Baldwin and Yola Barrett Baldwin, both from pioneer families. (She claimed to love pumpkin pie because her mother had been eating pie on the day she was born.) The Baldwins moved to Oregon. where their father owned timber and operated a sawmill and their mother was a career public-school teacher, and they raised 4 children.

Miss Baldwin graduated high school in Cottage Grove, OR; she received her BA in Education from the University of Oregon, Eugene, OR (1944); and her MA in Education (English Literature) from the Colorado State College of Education at Greeley, CO (1955). She was a published poet and a student and teacher of Shakespeare. Her published poem in Poems of the Beaver State 1948, A Thanksgiving Prayer follows:

God
Grant that there be
Quietness
Within my soul,
I pray –
Calm, cool strength that
Lends a peace
To this – Thanksgiving Day.

And – then – dear Lord,
Let there be
Love
And with it
Faith to know
That by this quality we live
And by this Truth
We grow.

Read the rest of this entry »

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ESPN.com features Tyrone Curry

November 27th, 2011 Tracy Posted in Highline School District, People, White Center news 2 Comments »

Thanks to Josh for the tip: ESPN.com takes an in-depth look at the tale of Tyrone Curry, whose election as Highline Public Schools board member is about to be certified – though of course, with his coaching achievement and post-lottery philanthropy, that’s only a sliver of his story. Read it here.

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White Center’s new storefront Deputy “BJ” Myers is on the job – and on foot

October 19th, 2011 Tracy Posted in King County Sheriff's Office, People, White Center news Comments Off

Story and photos by Deanie Schwarz
Reporting for White Center Now

On the first day on his new job as King County Sheriff’s Office Storefront Deputy for White Center, Deputy Benjamin “BJ” Myers joined the White Center Community Development Association Business Mixer Tuesday night to meet a few of the businesspeople in the community.

“I don’t come in to this job with an agenda, “ he told the group, “I come here to see what the business interests are, to see what the concerns of the people who live here are, and then start prioritizing what this job is going to be about after I learn a little bit from you all.”

He suggested that folks e-mail him, call him or stop by the storefront some time when he is around (Deputy Myers’ current e-mail info is available below).

Deputy Myers’ normal days will be Tuesday through Friday. Though there will be some flexibility, most of the hours will be in the afternoons and evenings, but if there is something he needs to be around earlier or later for, perhaps such as the bars closing, then he might be out later.

Deputy Myers told WCN that his new role, just announced last week, this is his first non-patrol assignment. His most recent assignment for the past two-and-a-half years or so has been as a patrol officer responding to 911 calls for the city of Burien as a contract KCSO deputy. Before that, he worked the unincorporated area on patrol, “so I kind of bounced around from White Center to the Skyway area,” he said.

“A couple of years ago, I got to do a little bit of work with Sylvester Middle School, ” he explained, “teaching gang awareness which allowed me to have more community involvement than simply responding to 911 calls and patrol work. I really enjoyed that. … That [experience] is one of the many things that prompted my interest in this job. I am here because I am interested in doing things that are more community involved than patrol was.”

“I am going to be walking around quite a bit,” Deputy Myers told the group, “but those of you who aren’t right here in the business district, let me know and I’ll try to stop by your shop sometime and we can talk and I can hear from you what you want my position to be about.”

Deputy Myers can be contacted via e-mail at benjamin.myers@kingcounty.gov.

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Reminder: White Center Veterans’ Park re-dedication today

September 18th, 2011 Tracy Posted in Parks, People, White Center news Comments Off

(Photo by Patrick Sand for WCN)
One more reminder – 4 pm today, the community, and especially veterans, are invited to the re-dedication of the White Center Triangle Veterans’ Park at the south end of Delridge. A new flag and plaque will be highlighted. If you are a veteran and are able to wear at least part of your uniform, organizers have made that request. Here’s the detailed invitation we published here last weekend.

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Update: Village Green Perennial Nursery’s Vera Johnson celebrates: ‘Keep going, just keep going’; benefit nets $1,000+

September 1st, 2011 Tracy Posted in People, White Center news 1 Comment »

(Vera, daughter Johanna, White Center Food Bank’s Rick Jump)
Story and photos by Deanie Schwarz
Reporting for White Center Now

Supportive friends, businesses and well-wishers from White Center and beyond arrived through the evening at last night’s party/rally/benefit at Big Al Brewing – to listen to music, put in bids on generously donated auction items and congratulate Vera Johnson, a local hero to many and an inspiration to struggling homeowners well beyond White Center.

Her monthly payments have been reduced on her new Fannie Mae loan and in this economy, she says, it still will be a stretch and it will still climb every year for five years to cap at 6%, she believes, but she has yet to see the actual paperwork and is hoping that she will on Thursday. Even so, the burden has been lightened so that Vera can pursue strategies for increased revenue that she hopes will include regular events at the nursery, such as weddings and music performances.

(added Thursday afternoon) Co-organizer Aileen Sison (above) says the event raised more than $1,000, in addition to Big Al’s donating a portion of the proceeds.

(Dave & Christine Spencer (of Triangle Tavern with dog Peanut, Ronda Stapleton of Full Tilt and son Zeke share in the celebration)
Vera mentioned that the first time she went to the Bank of America Customer Assistance Center in downtown Seattle, she was the only person there. The next time she went there were only a handful of people getting assistance from the five or six people she believes work there strictly on loan modifications. “I am not convinced that people know that that Center is available to the extent that they should, “ wondering aloud why that information hasn’t been made more available to Bank of America customers.

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Farewell, Pony Express: Mail center ending operations in a month

May 25th, 2011 Tracy Posted in Businesses, People, White Center news 2 Comments »

Story and photos by Deanie Schwarz
Reporting for White Center Now

A White Center Now reader tipped us to the upcoming closure of Pony Express in White Center – concerned that WC is losing its last mailbox provider. After 22 years of operation — three at the current location, after 19 years across from McLendon Hardware on 102nd — owner Claire Denning confirms she will close the doors forever on June 30.

When Claire began operating the private mailbox shipping center, it was one of twelve original centers independently owned in the Seattle metro area known as Pony Express. She says only a few remain, as the need for shipping services, including postal services, declined in large part to the growth of Internet use. Business transactions are conducted digitally and people tend to purchase items for free shipping, which cut into the UPS service Claire had provided for years.

“I haven’t been on the main thoroughfare that everyone uses for three years, and that’s another reason why I’ve been struggling here. I never recovered financially from the move that took everything I had in retirement and savings. It was a 50% drop in business. I was never able to get a contract with the Postal Service because of cutbacks there. That might have guaranteed some income.

“But, before all that, the business was successful for all those years, in large part because of apartment dwellers who moved a lot, or for people who traveled. They wouldn’t have to change their addresses with a private mailbox and could just pick up their mail from here where everything was secure.”

The only other places in White Center which will provide mailboxes will be Stor-More (16th and 114th), though they do not provide postal services, like UPS, Federal Express, or Western Union.

The Westwood Post Office in West Seattle has mail boxes, but there is currently a waiting list for them. She is also referring customers to an independent shipping service shop, MailBox West, in West Seattle’s Morgan Junction, across from West Seattle Thriftway; it’s also a contract station for the post office. They are equipped to handle registered and international mailings.

Once Claire closes the store, the only blue mail drop box that will remain in White Center will be the box located at the Rainbow Grocery on 16th. The nearest post services will be the Westwood Post Office in the Westwood Village and the Burien Post Office on 152nd Ave. SW.

“I was the neighborhood secretary, “ Claire said proudly with a smile.

“It’s really a kind of pickle-barrel kind of place, “ chimed in the USPS letter carrier in the office, picking up and dropping off mail. “People run into each other here and know each other.”

Indeed, Claire has known the whereabouts, comings, and goings of a lot of folks over the course of 23 years. And she says that those customers have been very understanding of the necessity to close and supportive in her decision to start a new chapter in her life.

But it’s not hard to imagine how different life will be for those customers, without Claire and the White Center Pony Express.

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Photos: Union Gospel Mission Search and Rescue Van’s first White Center visit

March 25th, 2011 Tracy Posted in People, White Center news 2 Comments »

(Photos by John McLellan for WCN)
As previewed here earlier this week, the Union Gospel Mission‘s Search and Rescue Van made its first trip to White Center on Wednesday night, looking for people sleeping on the street, to offer them help in ways large and small, and photographer John McLellan was along for part of the ride, for WCN. Above, Melissa Engstrom was in the driver’s seat as they headed out from Pioneer Square, where UGM is headquartered. Inside the van, practical things – like this:

Volunteer help included people from churches elsewhere in the metro area: Eastside Foursquare community outreach pastor Chris Peppler loaded supplies into the van.

Once they arrived in White Center, he organized volunteers to look for people in need of help:

They found some – Patrick “Red Dog” got a blanket and sandwich from the Search and Rescue volunteers:

The streets can look lonely for volunteers, as well as for those who live out there:

And onward they trudged:

UGM tells us they expect to be back in White Center/West Seattle weekly, starting next month.

And you are welcome to suggest areas for them to visit (you can post on their Facebook wall).

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Followup: More White Center scenes from ‘Seattle Sketcher’

February 26th, 2011 Tracy Posted in Arts, People, White Center news Comments Off

More of Gabi Campanario‘s “Seattle Sketcher” work from Wednesday in White Center and South Delridge is now up on SeattleTimes.com (WCN partner). Check out the top sketch – that’s WCN contributor Deanie Schwarz in her trademark beret, as she was sending iPhone photos of Gabi to your editor here (including the ones in this story), hanging out with him at Café Rozella (and beyond).

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White Center slice of life: Rave for a Good Samaritan

January 6th, 2011 Tracy Posted in People, White Center news 1 Comment »

Out of the WCN inbox:

A big THANK YOU ! to the kind White Center good neighbor named Keith and his friends.

My car stalled out on 16th Ave. by Blockbuster, about 2 mils from home. I managed to pull over to the side, but it still was stuck in in a traffic lane.

Two men appeared out of nowhere, started pushing, and got my old Toyota safely into the Albertson’s parking lot. Minutes layer Keith and a friend with a car returned with a smile and a can of gas (yeah, I had foolishly run out of gas) and made sure I got my engine started.

I only had $3.00 cash with me, but he insisted on giving me all the gas.

Kindness makes the world go round! I promised to pay it forward.

Dina Johnson

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Benefit Saturday for White Center woman learning to walk again

August 20th, 2010 Tracy Posted in How to Help, People, White Center news Comments Off

You may have heard the story of Jayme Miller, a White Center woman who’s learning to walk again after being struck suddenly by a rare neurological problem, transverse myelitis, leaving her paralyzed. Her friend Sydni Smith says Jayme is battling day by day and has even walked with a cane – “Every time she was told she might not be able to regain a function, she willed herself right through that obstacle.” She’s been home from the hospital and rehab for a month now, and is planning to be on hand tomorrow night at Rocksport in West Seattle as friends throw her a party with a silent auction to raise money to help with her medical bills – which quickly climbed into hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can drop by “Walk on, Jayme!” at Rocksport between 7:30 and 9:30 to bid on a wide range of items donated by local artists and businesses (and you’re welcome to stay for karaoke and dancing, with host DJ Tony B). If you can’t make it to the party, you can donate right now – via PayPal (which works if you have a credit card – you don’t have to be a PayPal accountholder), click “Send Money” and send it to WalkOnJayme@gmail.com. There’s a sharable Facebook event page for this too – find it here.

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Students introduce you to White Center neighbors: First, meet Anab Abdullahi

August 1st, 2010 Tracy Posted in People, White Center news 1 Comment »

EDITOR’S NOTE: We are honored to be able to publish, starting today, several stories written by local middle-school-age students, introducing you to neighbors you may never have met. They wrote the stories as part of a White Center program affiliated with Neighborhood House, working with literacy/writing coach Norma Andrade, who asked if we might be interested in publishing them here. Answer – of course!

A STRONG WOMAN
By Yasin Ali-Halane

Anab Abdullahi is not short or tall. She is just the perfect height.

She smells like blooming apple blossoms. She loves working with children, and is as quiet as a summer breeze. She is a very smart and strong person.

The tough experiences she went through as a child and a young adult made her tough. One of the things that made her stronger is, when a civil war broke out in the early 1990s, she fled her home country to avoid the violence. She moved to Rome, Italy, and lived there for about 6 years, studying medical books in her house near the Roman Coliseum. She was studying to become a doctor in the U.S.

She later decided that she needed to move to the United States because most of her family had moved there after the war. She didn’t want to leave Italy, but felt as though she should, to feel the warmth of her family. So she left.

She moved to Richmond, Virginia, right near Washington, D.C. She stayed with her family nearby. She stayed there for about 4 years, and finally moved to settle in. Now that she resides in Seattle, she works at Harborview Medical Center as an Interpreter.

She also works in Mount View Elementary School, through the Family Connections Program. She feels it is a great way to help Somalian families who live in White Center. She is a caring woman with three kids of her own. Oh, and her home country is Somalia, and I’m her son.

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White Center Ambassadors to appear in Seattle’s biggest parade

July 29th, 2010 Tracy Posted in People, White Center news Comments Off

If you’re going to the Seafair Torchlight Parade this Saturday night (it leaves Seattle Center at 7:30 pm, southbound on 4th Avenue to the International District) or planning to watch it on TV (Channel 7) – watch for the White Center Ambassadors, with the Rat City Rollergirls – we got the entry list from Seafair this week and spotted WC representing!

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Remembering Cherisse Luxa: Crowd packs the pub

January 28th, 2010 Tracy Posted in People, Politics, White Center news Comments Off

(Photo by Dina Johnson)
Only one guest was truly two-dimensional at last night’s lively wake for local activist/advocate Cherisse Luxa: The life-size cardboard version of Howard Dean, for whom Ms. Luxa had served as a delegate during his presidential run (above, that’s Liz Giba with “Flat Howard”). A month and a half after her death from cancer at age 62, she was feted tonight by a standing-room-only crowd at Mick Kelly’s Irish Pub in Burien, with friends from West Seattle to White Center to Burien and beyond (in both directions) crowding the pub, like the 34th District Democrats‘ King County Committeeman Ivan Weiss:

(Photo by Dina Johnson)
Dina Johnson took that photo while, as she says, he was “speaking about his admiration and respect for Cherisse as an ally, and occasionally adversary. (He) said the only time she was wrong is when she asserted she could get Dave Reichert to flip parties and become a Dem.” Also in that photo, State Sen. Joe McDermott at right, Liz Giba at left.

(Photo by Dina Johnson)
Dina also made and photographed that collage of scenes from Ms. Luxa’s life (given to her family). We took a photo of one of the snapshots you see in that collage – one from her years with the King County Sheriff’s Office:

(WCN/WSB photo by Patrick Sand)
Reminiscences of Ms. Luxa’s law-enforcement work were shared, too, says Dina: “… we found out she loved ‘bones and bugs’ forensics that date the death of a corpse.” And an emotional moment: “A short video was shown of her testimony about annexation at a public hearing, from just a week before she was hospitalized. I felt, being familiar with her normal voice, that she spoke with some difficulty, but it was not obvious. That made me tear up.” Last night’s wake took the place of the monthly Drinking Liberally event, at which Ms. Luxa had long been a fixture.

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Next week: Celebration of Cherisse Luxa’s life – you’re invited

January 19th, 2010 Tracy Posted in People, Politics Comments Off

Liz sent us this with a reminder of the event coming up a week from tomorrow:

As we’ve said before, though we didn’t know Ms. Luxa for long, she was a tremendous help with coverage of complicated White Center/North Highline issues here on WCN, and while covering 34th District Democrats meetings for West Seattle Blog and WCN, we saw what a tremendous force she was there. So we appreciate her contributions as well as everything else for which she has been and will be feted.

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Sad News: Cherisse Luxa, Community Activist Passes Away

December 13th, 2009 Ricardo Posted in burien, People, white center 1 Comment »

It is with a very heavy heart that we write to inform you of the passing of our dear friend Cherisse Luxa, the founder of Burien Drinking Liberally. Cherisse lost her fight with stomach cancer this morning.

Cherisse

If you have ever attended Drinking Liberally, you almost certainly know of Cherisse’s incredible energy and her unstoppable drive to make our community a better place. From her decades as a King County Sheriff’s Deputy to her impressive track record as an activist an advocate, Cherisse made a huge difference, both for Burien and for the broader community.

Cherisse2

Cherisse touched thousands of lives and was a role model for many of us. We will sorely miss her.

We will be in touch with memorial information. In the meantime, if you know of or are able to provide a home to two of Cherisse’s much-loved cats (Howard and Harris, who are four years old and would prefer to be adopted together), please let us know as soon as possible.

(Via Liz Giba) Photos from Flickr

Lora Lake Lamentation 29

Delete This Virus

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An El Paso Thanksgiving

November 25th, 2009 Ricardo Posted in Families, history, Holidays, People, white center 1 Comment »

Thanksgiving produces mixed emotions for me.  Having grown up Chicano, in El Paso, Texas, the holiday carried considerable cultural baggage for me: the rampant celebration of gluttony, the Dallas Cowboys, America’s corporate franchise, always playing on the tube, the constant consumerism and, of course, the slaughter of Native Americans.  And then there was my mother.  When we lived in Mexico, we obviously did not celebrate Thanksgiving, so I have no early childhood memories of this particular holiday.  When we moved to the states, my mom had a lady who made the best tamales and mole, I have ever eaten.  So initially, we celebrated Thanksgiving in our way — the way I’d always known.

Sometime in my adolescence my mom became a fundamentalist Christian.  I abhorred this sect from the very outset.  I found their rituals, primitive:  speaking in tongues, meeting in store-fronts, fire & brimstone, the rapture – coming very, very soon.  And when I went away to college and matured into my progressive political views, I despised their unabashed right-wing politics.  Needless to say, none of this played well with my mom.

In high school, I would always goad my mother about politics, religion, culture; pretty much anything incendiary that would ignite a fire-storm between us.  These dramas took on heightened intensity on holidays like Thanksgiving, when my mother wanted everthing to proceed just so.  So, many of my memories of Thanksgiving revolve around the interactions with my mom.

My mom adopted, not only the rituals of Christian fundamentalism, but the cultural affects as well.  Instead, of mole and tamales, we got mashed potatoes and gelatin.  When I visited from college and the “gringo food” was served I would storm into the kitchen, fry up some beans, warm up rice and dig out the salsa.  I would set them down and exclaim, this is our food and we should celebrate the holiday with our food, (the turkey is ironically – our food – a New World bird).  I did not goad my mother, but I did ask her why we had to eat mashed potatoes when beans and rice were so much healthier.  And besides, “it is our food.”

I’ve mellowed considerably as I have become a parent.  The curse, “may you have kids like yourself” has come to bite me in a big way.  If I were celebrating Thanksgiving with my folks in El Paso, I would still pull out the home-made salsa, the tortillas, beans and rice, but instead of berating my mother, I would give her (and my dad) a big hug and a kiss and say, “I”m so very happy to be here.  I love you.”  And then we would retire after the meals and root for who-ever was playing the Cowboys.

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