Holding Space: Danielle Jackson
I’ve been living in the Rainier Valley for more than 40 years, and I wouldn’t want to be from anywhere else. That’s why I’m still here.
My childhood was so fun. My friends and I were always playing outside. You don’t see that very much today, but I remember us hopscotching and riding our bikes, just being kids. We used to braid hair on the porch and hang out in the park after school. All the schools had a park so we always had somewhere to play.
Back then you could go to the Columbia City Theatre and see a double matinee for a dollar. Can you believe that!? Everybody was really into music too. We would literally sit down and write out all the words to a song, lyric for lyric, so that we could memorize it, and then we would come up with these dances to go with it. And oh Lord, we had the best house parties! There were always good times to be had, and everybody just got along so well. There was never any fighting at our house parties.
in my own way, I’m a protector now too. I’m a servant of the community and I’m gonna always make sure that families have the resources they need
There used to be a little burger joint called Shahbaz that we would go to when I was a little girl, and I remember that a lot of Black Panthers hung out there. They were like protectors, you know? I just remember their fight and how they were so active in the community. I really never thought about it, but I guess growing up around them made an impact on me. I mean, in my own way, I’m a protector now too. I’m a servant of the community and I’m gonna always make sure that families have the resources they need. You really don’t know how things that you see as a child impact you until somebody asks you…
When I was young, my mom gave me and my sister a little office desk and some paper, and we had this big huge closet in our room that we turned into an office. I always knew I would end up doing office work professionally because I enjoyed it so much. I worked for Seattle Public Schools for 20 years, doing all kinds of clerical and administrative stuff. At some point though, I started doing that same work in nonprofit organizations, and I realized that I wanted to serve my community directly, not from behind a desk. So that’s when I started my own nonprofit, the C.H.A.M.P.S Resource & Service Center.
I didn’t really take pride in my neighborhood until I got more engaged in it and realized how much of an impact I could have on it. I remember when all of the students walked out of Rainier Beach High School to protest for a new school. The district had kept saying they were going to shut the school down, and so one day the students put everything down, walked out of their classes, and demanded they build a new school. I was so proud that day.
I’m proud to see our young people fighting for what they deserve, but at the same time it’s tough, because I know it takes a mental and emotional toll on them. This feeling that they need to fight for everything, & the fear that they might get pushed out has got them angry. They’re angry and they’re taking it out on each other and they don’t even realize it.
We’ve got to be better at loving on our young people. They’re not getting enough love from the world right now and so we’ve gotta step in and make sure they feel it. We’ve gotta show them what it means to come together as one. We’ve gotta do what it takes to make sure they get to stay here.
Through all my years of living in Rainier Valley, I’ve seen a lot of friends and family members get pushed out of this neighborhood. It’s just so hard to afford all the things you need to be able to stay here without having 2 or 3 jobs. I know so many people that tried to buy a house here, and eventually just gave up. They wind up having to move and get new jobs and new friends and eventually get totally separated from their community.
Our voices matter and we need to make sure that we’re at the forefront of what happens in our community.
It’s sad to see the change that’s happening, but I still think Rainier Valley is an amazing place to live. I’ve been thinking of ways that we can keep people from being pushed out, but it’s so much bigger than me. I think our young people really understand it, and we ought to take some notes from them. All of us that live here have more power than we think. Our voices matter and we need to make sure that we’re at the forefront of what happens in our community. We need to tell people what we want and when we want it, and stop letting them bring in people from outside to make all these decisions for us. We’ve gotta fight for this community as hard as the youth are, for them.