Man, I miss Soufend living. We used to stay on Alaska, right by Rainier Playfield (where I'd climb a tree to get to the roof of the community center, where I could read my comics undisturbed), right up from the library (where I read Dean Koontz hardcovers and checked out alt-rock cassette tapes to dub), across from Columbia Funeral Home (where my mother—who always said good morning to the owner—was later prepped for cremation).
Back in the 1990s, I always wondered why so many of the storefronts on the strip in Columbia City were empty or derelict, and figured that at some point it must've been crackin'—maybe before all the crack and stuff. Now it's all good down there—now that most of the people who used to be there are gone. Yeah, none of this is news—so tell me if you've heard this one.
Anyways, right up the street is Rainier Vista—which back then was a housing project it always seemed like we were on the verge of moving into. (Instead, Mom ended up moving us into Bellevue's Spiritwood Manor for a terrible, terrible year, thinking it had to be better than the Vista. It wasn't, it just had more racist white kids and a whole lot of nothing to do—no wonder I hate the damn Eastside.)
Today, a redeveloped Rainier Vista houses a community mostly consisting of immigrants and refugees from East Africa, South Asia, and Latin America—the ones who make the 98118 one of the most diverse zip codes in the United States—the ones who often find their young people unsurprisingly underserved by all that encroaching Progress (just think of the Nothing from The Neverending Story) and, of course, those ever-present budget cuts. Just the sort of stuff that tends to put arts education and after-school programs on the chopping block—which tends to put those same young folks in line for the profit-prison pipeline.
The homie Jamil Suleman, who spices his curry for the low and peppers his raps with social commentary (such as his "Dear White People" track or flipping Drake's "Back to Back" to address the recent Seattle teacher's strike), has been working with the Refugee Women's Alliance after-school program in the Vista—and helped guide a group of young folks that call themselves the G.O.O.D. (Girls Out here Opening Doors) Girls and B.A.D. (Build and Develop) Boyz. These rap-loving 6-to-11-year-olds have been writing, rehearsing, and recording verses to their new track "Bad Boyz" (no Shyne), whose video will be making its debut at their Beautify the Block party on Thursday, October 1, from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Rainier Vista Central Park.
It's a youth-led showcase to counter the surge of youth violence in the area, featuring Raz Simone (who's been pretty vocal about the state of things in town, which has notably become a scene rarity), poet Nikkita Oliver, and, of course, Jamil Suleman (performing with frequent collaborator, program coworker, and "Bad Boyz" producer Spekulation)—along with appearances from District 2 candidates Bruce Harrell and Tammy Morales. (For more info, hit up WorldMindCreation@gmail.com.)
Come through for the party—stay down for the work.