A report culminating nearly two years of community engagement and policy analysis to bridge gaps in equity and inclusivity for people of color, called the Welcoming Kirkland Initiative (WKI), has been completed and is available for review on the city of Kirkland website.
The initiative was developed to address issues that were identified in a 2018 incident at a Menchie’s in Totem Lake, where the store’s owner called 911 on a Black man sitting at the shop. The officer who arrived at the call asked the man to leave without questioning the reason why— it turned out he was at the yogurt shop as a court-appointed special advocate to watch a custody visit taking place, as previously reported in Kirkland Reporter.
The city says the events of that day highlighted concerns that people of color in general, and Black people, in particular, have lived experiences of an unwelcoming and inequitable community in contrast to the city’s stated goal to be safe, inclusive and welcoming for all.
In response to the 2018 incident, the Kirkland Police Department immediately changed its protocol addressing “unwanted person” calls. The city also partnered with Leadership Eastside (LE) to reevaluate and make recommendations for policy and protocols, and to implement community learning about racism and equity. The WKI planning and work groups included more than 20 leaders, representing a variety of public needs including the Kirkland Assistant City Manager and Kirkland Police Chief. Community talks included topics such as Preparing to be Color Conscious and Color Brave, which brought nearly 100 attendees. The community talk series was cut short in March due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the WKI efforts began in 2019, the tragic killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota in May 2020 spurred protests, marches and rallies in Kirkland and nationwide, calling for an end to structural racism and affirming that Black lives matter. These events underscored the necessity of these efforts by the city of Kirkland.
In August 2020, the city passed Resolution 5434, affirming that Black lives matter and committing to end systemic racism. The upcoming biennial budget includes approximately $5.6 million committed for initiatives related to this resolution.
“We’re extremely grateful for the effort, thoughtfulness and dedication of all those involved in the Welcoming Kirkland Initiative,” Councilmember Neal Black stated in a press release. “The city is committed to continuing the difficult but productive conversations about racism that are needed to create a Kirkland where Black community members feel safe and respected. WKI has helped foster the relationships and groundwork that will help us identify and implement solutions to racism in all its forms.”
For more information on the WKI, or how to get involved, visit kirklandwa.gov.