Tuesday August 1 was National Night Out (NNO), an annual community-building campaign where neighborhoods around the country come together for camaraderie and to connect with local police officers, with the goal of making neighborhoods “safer, more caring places to live.” Night Out events take place all across Seattle.
For the past three years, Solid Ground’s advocacy partner Statewide Poverty Action Network has helped organize an event with a different focus at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in South Park: Seattle’s National Night Out for Safety and Liberation.
At traditional NNOs, residents invite law enforcement into their communities to build better relationships. The Ella Baker Center conceived of National Night Out for Safety and Liberation to start a different conversation that is more “focused on how we can build equality, power, opportunity, and prosperity in our communities.” No police officers are present at these events, which take place across the country.
Rolando Avila, Public Policy Coordinator for Poverty Action, organized the Seattle event in partnership with the Ella Baker Center. Around 30 people attended the South Park event. Neighbors had a chance to talk to each other over pizza and ice cream.
Rolando says, “It’s to get folks in the community to rethink what it means to be safe – what it means to have good public safety – and creating alternatives to traditional policing; how to work together to create different solutions that don’t rely on a punitive system of justice.”
Rolando brought pamphlets so people could learn more about restorative justice and its applications in different areas. “I think that people really appreciated the issue being framed around – rather than calling the police as the very first thing and the last thing you do – it’d be good to create dialogue with the neighbors and any person you’re having a conflict with and resolving it that way.”
The Ella Baker Center partners with many organizations across the country to make annual National Night Out for Safety and Liberation a reality in different locations. Next year, Poverty Action and Ella Baker Center hope to expand the event’s reach, inviting restorative justice practitioners to speak and help put plans in place for when community incidents arise.
Questions about restorative justice, Poverty Action’s work, and planning for the Seattle Night Out for Safety and Liberation? Contact Rolando Avila at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Ella Baker Center and their work, contact their Communications Director Zaineb Mohammed at email@example.com.