Living in America’s most diverse zip code is a privilege and a responsibility. Over 60 languages are spoken within the 98118 digits that are the cradle of the Southend (Wilson, 2010). We are 34% Asian, 26% Black, 25% white, 6% Multiracial, 7% Hispanic, 2% Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander, 1% Native American and .3% “Other”. We are almost exactly half male and half female, we are more married and have a higher level of education from high school up than most of America (ZipSkinny, n.d.) And the Southend has been an incubator for small, family owned business at, my hunch is, a lot higher rate than the rest of the country.
We have friends that have lived in Rainier Beach for years. Despite frequent visits, we never really knew where we were. This was never more true than on the dark and stormy night that we met the Upper Rainier Beach cottage that we now call home. The house won us over instantly, but that night we were blind to the neighborhood’s many charms: Fred Hutch Playfield right across the street! Views of the Olympics and downtown Seattle from our yard! We could SMELL water!
But what has really astounded us about our little house is the community that surrounds it – more specifically – the people. We are not homogeneous by any means, but neighbors show up in droves year after year to attend Night Out barbecues. And when the power goes out, we watch neighbors cross the cultural divide to check on neighbors to make sure that they are OK. It may be hard to imagine, but America’s most diverse zip code is made up of just folks that care about their neighbors and the community in which we all live. We are not without our problems, of course. We hear frequently about break-ins, vandalism, or violent crime on our streets.
But we’ve been so distracted by beating ourselves up that we miss the fact that official city crime maps indicate that we are actually safer here than if we lived downtown or on Capitol Hill, in Fremont or Wallingford. Even parts of West Seattle. On the average, we are as safe as people living in Ballard. The self-perception of being the crime den of the city must change.
It is, though, the reaction of the Southend to two tragic crimes that solidify for us the extraordinary character of this community.
In the first incident, burglars stole $2000 worth of food from the Rainier Valley Food Bank just a few days before Thanksgiving 2009. The community responded with local shops and organizations leading efforts to raise funds and restock shelves. Individuals appeared from down the block with food from their own cupboards, and donations from piggy banks and checkbooks alike. Within three days, the community had raised over $70,000 in cash and $30,000 in food. Sam Osbourne, executive director of the food bank told me that the generosity was the most incredible thing that he’d experienced in his life.
Another incident, the tragic homicide of our neighbor, Jage Paroline, has had equally inspiring effects. Jage was a 60-year-old white Vietnam War veteran and community activist. In fact, he was the first one to welcome us to the neighborhood by informing us that we would be the perfect stewards for our neglected traffic circle, which he had been instrumental in locating in the neighborhood. Three years later, Jage was struck with a fist and killed by a young black man during an incident while watering the flowers in the traffic circle by his own home. While the rest of the city held its breath waiting for the community to turn the incident into a hate crime or race war, the residents of Rainier Beach openly grieved for both Jage and his killer, choosing this opportunity to become a stronger community instead. The SouthendSeattle.com project is one of the many positive things that followed as a result.
What we are doing here is looking to ourselves. The contributors to this grassroots movement have come together to build bridges within the community by sharing the valuable resources of their experiences, knowledge and passions. Through this effort we define our best selves as visionaries, experts and good neighbors. We invite you to join us in this effort. If we succeed in our vision of SouthendSeattle.com, all of us will be represented on these pages, and everyone will know exactly where we are.
The Southend Seattle community blogging project is a grassroots community-based effort to celebrate the wide cultural and social diversity of residents and businesses within the region. The blog is segmented into categories by subject such as Culture, Family, Community, Business, and Health and Wellbeing. Each category may include several contributors from the community that use the platform to share knowledge, resources and experiences about which they are passionate.
Geographical boundaries of the area roughly include the region south of Interstate 90, east of South Park, north of Grady Way in Renton, and bordering Lake Washington to the east. Communities include Beacon Hill, Mount Baker, Genesee, Georgetown, Columbia City, Hillman City, Lakewood-Seward Park, Rainier Beach, Bryn Mawr- Skyway, Lakeridge, South Park, Allentown, Othello, and northern portions of Renton.
This heart of this area is 98118 – one of America’s most diverse ZIP codes. Forty-three percent of this zip speaks a language other than English at home, according to the US Census. And approximately 60 languages are spoken. This site translates into many of them.
Source: US Census Bureau
All bloggers are volunteers that want to share their expertise, passions and experiences with others in the Southend in an effort to build community and goodwill. We invite you to join in the community.
City of Seattle (1995-2010). 2009 Crime Statistics. http://web1.seattle.gov/mnm/statistics.aspx?tabId=3
Rosback, M. (2009). Food-bank donations pour in after theft in Rainier Valley. The Seattle Times. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2010321325_foodbank21m.html
Wilson, G. Willow (2010). Opinion: America’s most diverse ZIP code shows the way. http://www.aolnews.com/opinion/article/opinion-americas-most-diverse-zip-code-shows-the-way/19414386
ZIPSkinny.com. (n.d.). 98118. http://www.zipskinny.com/index.php?zip=98118&pagetype=main