Changing Perceptions of Our Community Begins From the Inside

by Maia Segura and Daimian Lix

(The following is a transcript of a speech given at the Rainier Chamber of Commerce in recognition of excellence in business and community  practices within the Southeast Seattle area.)

Daimian and myself are truly so honored for the Rainier Chamber of Commerce, 2015 Business of the Year Award.

First I wanted to say that we get a lot of questions about our name: Penniless Projects. No, it does not mean that we work for free, as some of you may have hoped (although, truthfully we end up doing more of that than we let on).

Penniless Projects is actually homage to the Republic of the Penniless, a group formed here in Seattle during the Great Depression. This was a group of neighbors who pooled their resources to help others do what they could not do for themselves.

It was a word of mouth referral system of people, many of whom homeless, and most of them jobless, which grew to be 4500 strong at a time when there was no internet or cell phones. By sharing what they had, the Republic of the Penniless changed the conversation from one of victimization to one of empowerment, and they built a community.

When we first started Southend, this was our vision: to connect neighbors, pool knowledge and resources, and change the conversation in the Rainier Valley from one of victimization to one of empowerment and celebration of a unique, extraordinary community.

To our great fortune, many of you stepped forward immediately and told us that you shared our vision for the South End and became some of our first contributors – Sam Osborne from the Rainier Valley Food Bank, Susan Davis from the Rainier Chamber, Kristin Pula of HomeSight, Laurie Rose, Jerri Plumridge & the SEEDArts team, Evelyn from Southeast Seattle Senior Services. We’re proud to have  passed the torch onto the South Seattle Emerald, a publication we helped to influence.

They all knew what we did – that the real work starts from breaking down barriers, and changing perceptions first from the INSIDE. It is precisely for that reason that we are standing here today.

Through our work, and because of YOUR work, we have been able to hold up a mirror to some of our neighborhoods and watch them bask in their own beautiful reflections.

Through our work, and because of YOUR work, we have been able to pool our resources, empower our incredible communities, and allow the conversation to change organically.

Our work together has had an impact across the globe – people from the outside ARE paying attention and they want a piece of what is happening here.

Because of these things, we are honored to share this award with all of you that do the good, hard work to pull down silos, connect neighbors, and empower the Rainier Valley every day. Thank you.

Maia Segura and Daimian Lix are  co-founders of Penniless Projects. Maia currently sits on the board of the South Seattle Emerald.

One thought on “Changing Perceptions of Our Community Begins From the Inside”

  1. How about rather than changing “perception”, we change facts on the ground? Rather than changing the “spin” we change the reality. Rather than changing people’s perceptions of risk from crime, actually reduce it (happening over the last 6 months or so). Rather than changing people’s perceptions of Southend Schools as lousy academic performers, how about we actually improve student performance (E.g. Cleveland High, Rainier Beach). If we change the fact on the ground and measure that change with valid, universally recognized, metrics, Maia, the perception will take care of itself.