Behind mask, a man with a message
Sketched June 12, 2012
You may know of Phoenix Jones, the self-appointed "Guardian of Seattle" who patrols the streets dressed as a superhero to stop crime.
I thought his type of costumed activism was bizarre, but after meeting him in person, I don't really know what to make of it.
Is he a vigilante or a role model?
I caught up with the 24-year-old martial-arts fighter at the Jewish Day School in Bellevue, where he encouraged a fifth-grade class to act or speak up in the face of crime or bullying. He also showed slides of a new superhero suit and a video of him on patrol. Kids were so excited to get his autograph, and one had the superhero sign his forehead.
Teacher Shannon Rubin called him a dynamic speaker, "a man who stands up for values and speaks to kids from the hip, in their language."
School Principal Maria Erlitz said Phoenix's message ties with the school's mission of empowering children to be upstanders, to stand up when they see something bad happening.
Phoenix Jones himself admits, "People think I'm nuts until they meet me."
Despite his masked superhero persona and efforts to remain anonymous, Phoenix Jones' real identity was revealed last year when he was arrested for intervening in a crime. That may be one of the reasons why he left the suit home when he met me with his superhero partner, Purple Reign, a few days later.
Sketched June 18, 2012
Purple Reign said she also patrols with Phoenix Jones and his band of Rain City Superheroes, but her main cause is to help victims of domestic abuse. So far, she's organized a fundraiser and started a nonprofit, The Purple Reign Campaign.
I asked her if dressing up as a superhero is really necessary to stand up for something you believe in and make a difference.
She said the costume works. "It's kind of sad to admit it, but these days you almost need a gimmick to draw people's attention."
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