Tacoma | KNKX

Tacoma

Old City Hall is front and center in this aerial shot of the Tacoma city skyline.
Aaron Bender / Courtesy of Over Tacoma


This summer, money is coming to some Tacoma residents. It’s part of a new guaranteed income program launching in a number of cities across the country.

The Tacoma Dome will be home to a mass COVID vaccination clinic for six weeks.
John Froschauer / The Associated Press file

Pierce County is getting a daily mass COVID vaccination site.

The Tacoma Dome will host a daily vaccine clinic beginning April 27. It will operate from noon to 8 p.m. every day, except holidays, for six weeks. There will be drive-thru and walk-up options, and language assistance will be available.  

In this April 15, 2020, photo a protester holds a sign she looks out from the sunroof of a car during a protest at the Northwest Detention Center a facility privately operated on behalf of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, in Tacoma.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press file

The Washington state Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that bans private, for-profit prison companies that contract with local, state and federal agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, from operating in the state. 

 

A trash can burns as people take part in a protest against police brutality Sunday in downtown Tacoma. The protest came a day after at least two people were injured when a Tacoma Police officer responding to a street race drove his SUV into a crowd.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include audio from a conversation with Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. 

Tacoma Police and other law enforcement officers stand in an intersection near the site where a Tacoma police officer drove through a crowd of people on Saturday night.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

At least two people were injured when a police officer responding to a report of a street race plowed his car through a crowd of pedestrians that had gathered around him and were pounding on the car's windows in downtown Tacoma on Saturday night, officials said.

The Washington State Historical Society is collaborating with Write253 on a poetry event to honor Martin Luther King Jr.
Washington State Historical Society

In Tacoma, the observation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day is typically marked by celebrations, workshops and performances across the city. But this year, civic-minded organizations are finding ways to engage participants from a distance. The Washington State Historical Society, in collaboration with literary arts organization Write253, is doing this through poetry. 

One of the glass works hidden in this year's Monkeyshines event.
Paula Wissel / KNKX

Author's note: I was reluctant to venture outside in the middle of the night with the rain coming down in sheets, knowing I’d be traipsing through muddy playgrounds and parks in the dark. But I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun doing a story. The “secretive” mission I was following was all about spreading a little joy to others. This was back in February, before COVID-19 took over our lives, and before we all realized how much we would need some of that joy to get us through dark times. (This story originally aired Feb. 11, 2020.)

Manuel Ellis, who was killed while in Tacoma police custody March 3. Ellis is remembered as a musician and father whose life was marked by  by pain, struggle, and a search for redemption.
Courtesy of Tacoma Action Collective

Author’s note: As protests against police brutality and racism swept the United States in 2020, the name of a Tacoma man was sometimes shouted alongside George Floyd's and Breonna Taylor's. Manuel Ellis was killed by Tacoma police on March 3 after he encountered officers on a dark residential street. For protesters, Ellis' death was part of a pattern of police using inappropriate force against Black people. As KNKX spoke to Ellis' family and friends, other themes emerged as well: the ways in which childhood trauma and mental illness can alter the course of a person's life, and how not everyone has the same access to treatment. This story offers a glimpse into the life of someone who became one of 2020's unfortunate symbols. (This story originally aired June 12, 2020.)

The long-vacant Gault Middle School building in Tacoma.
Will James / KNKX

They briefly occupied an abandoned middle school, hoping to make it into housing. They dumped trash on the steps of Tacoma’s city hall, urging trash collection at encampments. And now a group pushing for better housing in the city says it plans something on Christmas Day, too.

If you’ve seen Disney’s family film “The One and Only Ivan,” you know it tells the story of a lovable gorilla who lives in a shopping mall with other talking animals but longs to return to the natural world to be among other gorillas. As you might guess, he gets his wish. Believe it or not, the movie was inspired by real events that actually played out in our area, in south Tacoma.

Tacoma Housing Now protesters take over the intersection of South 15th Street and Pacific Avenue in downtown Tacoma on Tuesday.
Rebecca Parson

A housing advocacy group pitched a tent in the middle of a busy downtown Tacoma intersection on Tuesday, demanding the city take action on homelessness.

People in masks walk through the light displays at Zoolights inside the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma.
Katie Cotterill / Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

During the darkest time of the year, hundreds of thousands of LED lights create bright animals, landmarks and dazzling displays for Zoolights at Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. The 30-plus-year-old holiday tradition kicks off Friday, with some coronavirus-related changes. 

Jack McQuade, center, the owner of The Swiss Restaurant and Pub in Tacoma, Wash., walks behind his bar on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. The restaurant announced in September that it was closing permanently.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

The governor’s new ban on indoor dining in restaurants will mean a financial toll for many businesses, and it’s a particular blow for new restaurants. Gov. Jay Inslee announced the new restrictions on Sunday as coronavirus cases have hit a new peak in the state.

The Grand Cinema is a nonprofit movie theater in Tacoma.
Amelia Vaugh / Courtesy of The Grand

Many of the region’s annual film festivals are going virtual this year, as the pandemic continues. That includes next year’s Seattle International Film Festival and the Tacoma Film Festival, which is going on now and continues through Sunday.

Paige Pettibon is a multidisciplinary artist with an insatiable desire to explore all the facets of her creativity by boldly diving into wildly varied mediums. And she intends to never stop learning more.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Paige Pettibon wants Tacoma to do more — and be more — for artists.

But we’ll get back to that.

Pettibon (Salish and Black) is a multidisciplinary artist, working in mixed media, jewelry design, graphic arts, Lushootseed language and creative writing – and that’s just the beginning. She has an insatiable desire to explore all the facets of her creativity by boldly diving into wildly varied mediums. And she intends to never stop learning more.

People gathered on the East 34th Street bridge to remember the late Harold Moss on Thursday. The bridge was renamed for Moss last year. The Tacoma civil rights icon died Sept. 21.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Members of the community gathered Thursday to remember Tacoma civil rights icon Harold Moss, who died last week. Services were held on what would have been his 91st birthday.

People regard Moss as a trailblazer who fought, among other injustices, the discriminatory real-estate practice of redlining.

Thursday’s events included a socially distanced funeral with people in their cars, and a procession over the East 34th Street bridge, which was renamed for Moss last year.

Eric “Blakk Soul” Mercer, Jr. is a singer-songwriter from Tacoma who has written songs for industry heavyweights such as Dr. Dre and Macklemore.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Eric “Blakk Soul” Mercer, Jr. is a singer-songwriter from Tacoma. Known as a soul man of the highest order, “Blakk” is respected across the music industry for a haunting, muscular voice and evocative, romantic lyricism. His songs are best described as dispatches from the heart of the modern man through all of its variations and situations.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, left, and Harold Moss in 2018. Moss died Monday night at the age of 90. Woodards describes him as a father figure to her.
Courtesy of the City of Tacoma

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards says the feelings she gets talking about her mentor, friend and adoptive father Harold Moss, who died late Monday at the age of 90, are still raw. Even so, she feels compelled to talk about him — now more than ever.

For Perry Porter, art and activism are one and the same. He may not go out of his way to “Do the whole activism thing,” but it is there embedded in his work. “Sometimes just being a Black man doing what I do is a form of activism in itself.”
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Pablo Picasso once said: All children are artists. But the problem is how to remain an artist once the child grows up. This has not been an issue for Tacoma painter and rapper Perry Porter, whose mother encouraged him to be as creative as he wanted. 

“She made me a very fierce person and allowed me to chase my dreams,” he says. 

A public art installation by Tacoma's Jessica Spring allowed the public to take a poster in exhange for their own messages of healing.
Courtesy of Jessica Spring

If you’re traveling around Tacoma this month, you might see something that makes you smile. On the roof of the First Methodist Church, there’s a giant paper-mache megaphone and “I LOVE YOU ALL” spelled out in LED lights. This is one of 14 temporary art installations, created by public artists who received training and mentorship through the Public Art Reaching Community (PARC) program. Many of the artists are new to public art. 

Musician Rosemary Ponnekanti plays the double bass for Pakak, a walrus at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, in late July. Ponnekanti, who works for the communications team at the zoo, composed music that prompted musical responses from the walruses.
Courtesy of Point Defiance Zoo

Walruses have a huge vocabulary of sounds. They whistle, they grunt, and they can even sound like a steam train.

But, Rosemary Ponnekanti says, they also can sound musical. 

“They make bell-like sounds and they can use their flippers to make percussive noises,” said Ponnekanti, who works on the communications team at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma. “They also get this funny, guttural kind of (sound) — I can’t even do it myself because I don’t have the right equipment in my voice.” 

Saiyare Refaei stands in front of the Parkland Community Mural project she organized. The mural on the side of the Post Office building spells out “PARKLAND,” with each letter representing a theme drawn from community discussions.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Saiyare Refaei’s art and activism does not prioritize the prestige of spaces like galleries or museums, but rather the value of community. The Tacoma artist’s work lives at the intersection of the issues and the communities affected by them.

“I feel more like this conduit or bridge,” Refaei says.

A man holds a sign that says "Community safety, not police domination" during a protest in Tacoma on June 5, 2020.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Like many cities across Washington, Tacoma is gearing up for a difficult budget season. The city is facing a $67 million shortfall. Many residents also are pushing new priorities, like reducing funding for the police department in favor of spending money elsewhere.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards has encouraged the public to get involved in the budget process. The city put out surveys and a new online tool that allowed people to build a budget.

courtesy of Alayshia Baggett

When Alayshia Baggett, an 18-year-old from Tacoma, saw the video of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, she said she felt a lot of anxiety.

“I was going back and forth through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, just refreshing, refreshing,” she said. “Because things were just popping off.”

Protesters gather in Tacoma on June 2 to demand justice for Bennie Branch, who was shot and killed by Tacoma police in September 2019.
Ashley Gross / KNKX

Two cases in which police in Pierce County shot and killed Black men in their 20s are getting renewed attention following weeks of protest sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Bennie Branch, 24, and Said Joquin, 26, were shot and killed in separate incidents eight months apart. 

Manuel Ellis
Courtesy of Tacoma Action Collective

The Washington State Patrol will take over an investigation into the death of Manuel Ellis, a Black man who was killed in Tacoma police custody in March after telling an officer, "I can't breathe, sir."

Gov. Jay Inslee made the announcement in a written statement Wednesday afternoon.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

The protests over police killings of Black people have broadened into calls to dismantle systemic racism — including in schools.

In Tacoma, a Black Youth Matters march on Saturday drew hundreds of people of all ages and races. One woman held a sign that said “No Cops in Schools.” Some children wore t-shirts that said “I can’t breathe” in honor of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes.

A person kneels with their fist in the air at a June 5, 2020, demonstration against police brutality in Tacoma
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Now that Gov. Jay Inslee has said he will ensure an independent investigation into the death of Manuel Ellis, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards is outlining her hopes for what that will look like.

"That we get a fair, independent, clean investigation," Woodards told KNKX. "That we trust the agency who’s doing it, we trust that they can do it fairly, and we trust that they can get it done in a reasonable amount of time. "

Ellis died in March after being restrained by Tacoma police officers. His death has been ruled a homicide.

The family of Manuel Ellis and their attorney, James Bible, address reporters during a news conference Tuesday in Tacoma. They renewed calls for the state to lead an independent investigation into Ellis' killing on March 3.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Gov. Jay Inslee says he’s convinced the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department shouldn’t lead the investigation into the killing of Manuel Ellis. He announced Wednesday that the state is reviewing how the investigation should proceed, including who will make charging decisions.  

Tacoma activist Shalisa Hayes chooses, among other things, to sit out marches and protests for her own mental health. She talked with KNKX about navigating personal pain, mental health and activism.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Americans have now lived through more than a week of intense national focus on Black people dying violently.

Tacoma activist Shalisa Hayes says, for some Black Americans, that barrage of news takes a personal toll.

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