The under-belly of the local community, the seamy side, has some in Sunnyside intimidated...to the point where some are fearful of venturing out alone once the sun sets.
In an effort to regain control of the local streets, ensuring that all are safe no matter the time of day, several community organizations are banding together to host a "Take Back the Night" event. The community-wide rally, open to everyone, will be staged this coming Friday, April 29.
The driving force behind tomorrow's rally, according to Lower Valley Crisis & Support Services Executive Director Julia Hart, "...is to promote a community where it is safe for people of all ages and genders to walk around at night."
Friday's event, too, is intended to provide support and empowerment to those in the community who have already been victims of violence, particularly sexual violence, said Hart.
Sexual assaults, it seems, are not all that uncommon here in the Lower Yakima Valley area. Hart said the Sunnyside-based agency she represents has serviced 120 sexual assault victims since just July of last year.
"Seventy-seven percent of our clients are Hispanics," Hart said, noting those numbers are reflective of the racial make-up of the community.
Teaming with the crisis center employees and volunteers to help stage the April 29 rally are such notable groups as Sunnyside's Promise, Sunnyside Community Hospital and the Sunnyside Police Department.
"All of the sponsoring groups are asking all local residents to be part of the solution," Hart said.
The first step to taking back the night, she said, is showing up at 7:30 p.m. this Friday evening at Sunnyside's downtown Centennial Square. From there, at about 8 p.m., a candlelight march will proceed to the Sunnyside Community Center, where several speakers will address the problems facing Sunnyside, and explain what can be done to make the community safe again.
Light refreshments will be provided at the community center.
"It is going to take all of us to return our community to what it once was," said Hart. "Friday's Take Back the Night rally can be a starting point for a lot of the people who live here."