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Tacoma

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.

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

Manuel Ellis has been a focus of national attention for the way he died: saying he couldn’t breathe while lying on the ground, handcuffed by Tacoma police officers, one night in March.

Ellis’ 33 years of life also were marked by trauma and struggle against forces pressing down on him ⁠— as well as a long, slow road toward stability, according to friends and family members. 

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.

John Gaines is a Tacoma-based mentor and motivational speaker.
Courtesy of John Gaines

Ongoing protests against police brutality are bringing much needed attention to racism in America. But all that attention can take a huge mental toll.

"As men, especially as Black men, we don't do a good enough job of talking about mental health," said John Gaines.

Gaines is a Tacoma-based motivational speaker and mentor who works primarily with young Black men. He spoke with KNKX's Simone Alicea about how he is thinking about this moment. Listen to their conversation above. 

A friend of Manuel Ellis, who died in the custody of Tacoma police in March, holds a sign demanding justice after Ellis' death was ruled a homicide. Four officers involved are now on leave.
Will James / KNKX

Nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis are hitting home especially hard in Tacoma, after the Pierce County medical examiner ruled the death of Manuel Ellis a homicide. In March, Ellis died in handcuffs while Tacoma police restrained him. The cause of death was respiratory arrest. 

Jamika Scott is an organizer who has worked with Ellis' family to bring attention to his death. 

Hundreds gathered at a vigil Wednesday night to remember Manuel Ellis, who died March 3 in the custody of Tacoma police officers. His death has been ruled a homicide by the Pierce County medical examiner, and the officers have been placed on leave.
Joel Schomberg/Longhouse Media

Marcia Carter says she cried for two months and 10 days, waiting for answers about the death of her son, Manuel Ellis. This week, she got some. But now the family is left with even more questions. 

“We want answers,” Carter said Thursday, outside the Pierce County Superior Court, flanked by representatives from the regional chapter of the NAACP and the activist group Tacoma Action Collective. “No more talking.” 

Four Tacoma police officers were placed on administrative leave Wednesday, after a report from the Pierce County medical examiner became public. It ruled Ellis’ death a homicide, caused by a lack of oxygen due to physical restraint. Ellis died in police custody during an arrest in South Tacoma on March 3.

A demonstrator holds up a sign in front of police and National Guard members in Seattle on June 2, 2020 during a protest over the death of George Floyd.
Shauna Sowersby / KNKX

After five days of protest against police brutality and racism, activists continue marching the streets of Seattle and Tacoma. 

In Seattle, hundreds of people flooded the streets of Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood on Tuesday.

People block traffic as they lay face down on the street in an intersection in Tacoma, Wash., for 8 minutes and 46 seconds during a protest Monday, June 1, 2020 against police brutality and the death of George Floyd.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Hundreds of Tacoma residents flooded the city's streets Monday, to protest police brutality and systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd's death.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards speaks during a demonstration over the weekend in response to last week's killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Will James / KNKX

At an event initially organized to highlight racial dispartities in the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of demonstrators in Tacoma also protested police violence on Saturday, highlighting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

At People's Park, Mayor Victoria Woodards addressed the crowd.

"This week has been especially hard. And I don't have to tell you why because you already know," Woodards said. "But what I will say is: Enough is enough."

Black church leaders gather on the streets of Tacoma to pray for their community's fight against COVID-19 and the "virus" of racism.
Will James / KNKX

As protests raged across the country over the weekend, dozens of black church leaders in Tacoma gathered on street corners to pray.

The event had been planned to highlight the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, but it took on new meaning amid nationwide unrest over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. KNKX’s Will James attended the event to talk with those faith leaders and record their remarks.

The view down 11th Street from Pacific Avenue in downtown Tacoma on March 15, 2020.
Tom Collins / KNKX

Washington cities are spending a lot of money to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and reduced business activity is putting a damper on tax revenue. In Tacoma, leaders are looking at a $40 million shortfall in the general fund.

The streets of downtown Tacoma are empty amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Photo by Tom Collins

Tacoma City Council recently issued a statement condemning acts of discrimination, citing an increase in reports around the region and nation from Asian-American community members and other marginalized groups experiencing racism amid COVID-19.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Tacoma's annual New Year's Eve celebration, First Night, returns this year after it was canceled last year due to a budget shortfall.

The event includes performances and celebrations throughout Tacoma's Theater District beginning at six 6 p.m. on Dec. 31. Some events are free, while others require the purchase of a button, which functions like a ticket.

Deanna Bender, owner of Over The Moon Cafe, says she wanted to do more than feed people at her restaurant. She wanted to create a space where diners could “check their stuff at the door,” break bread with the people they love and celebrate life.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Author's note: I’ve worked at KNKX Public Radio just over a year now. And it’s stories like this that brought me here. The words scribbled on love notes hidden in boxes at Tacoma’s Over The Moon Cafe belong on the radio. As I said in this story, reading them over a tasty meal feels like being engrossed in a good book you never want to put down. But hearing them spoken — by the woman who dreamed up the restaurant where they live in anonymity — is that much better. The audio injects life into these stories of everyday people, which is precisely what KNKX does best. I hope everyone enjoys this story as much as I do. And if you have time this holiday season, stop by for a meal and leave a note of your own. (This story originally aired Sept. 12.)  

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