As an organization that focuses on civic pride, we’ve kept the focus on the positive. The negative gets enough coverage as it is. In media outlets big and small, if it bleeds, it leads, which is unfortunate.
But we can’t stay silent right now. On Monday afternoon, a 14-year-old became the city’s sixth homicide victim in 2017, and the youngest by far.
We love this city. We know so many people who love it, too. We know that most of us who live here are focusing on our families, our jobs, getting food on the table, taking our kids to practice – good people who want good things. And yet, almost weekly it seems, stories of break-ins, shootings and murders. Not to mention homelessness and economic woes.
Of course, these challenges are not unique to Yakima. If you ask a police officer, most would tell you that Yakima is a very safe community – unless you’re in a gang, involved in an abusive relationship, or selling & buying drugs illegally, you should feel safe here. The numbers show that Yakima’s crime is lower than half of the communities in our state (including Spokane, amongst others, which has the highest crime rate in the state, but doesn’t have the reputation that we do).
But stats don’t speak to feelings, and they don’t speak to community loss, fear, shame and sadness. We’ve been dealing with gang violence for decades. Yes, it’s much lower than it used to be. But it’s exasperating. And one death is one too many.
We can do better, friends.
When someone we care about has something bad happen to them – a death in the family, a job loss, a broken heart – our first instinct is to gather together and comfort them. Hold their hand, tell them we are there for them.
How do we do that as a community? How do we react to this with the compassion that we would show a friend? Because isn’t that what we all are? We’re in this together.
Some people have called us “cheerleaders.” That may be true. If publicly stating we believe in our community makes us cheerleaders, then so be it. We are proud to celebrate all that is good in Yakima – because there is simply SO MUCH good to be found. We’re more than the headlines.
But we are also the guardians of our city. How can we take action to be those guardians every day? Is it helping a neighbor’s kids after school? Is it attending a community meeting? Keeping our eyes open rather than buried in our phones? Volunteering for a cause that stirs the heart?
For our part, we will continue to be cheerleaders because Yakima needs it, and we all deserve it. But we’ll also be paying attention to our neighbors -- watching our streets, contacting the police if we see something out of the ordinary. We’ll also be holding our elected officials accountable, and supporting the people who have solutions – they are out there.
As a friend of Yakima, what are you going to do? How do we circle our wagons, hold each other’s hands, and take care of our town?