by Kelsey Hamlin
While hundreds turned out Saturday for a months in the making Black Lives Matter March 2.0 , another event sprouted up nearly two weeks ago among activist’s Facebook feeds: A “We Want In” rally and block party. The latter gathered local Black organizers, local artists, and resources all in one place Saturday afternoon at 23rd and Union, a historically Black neighborhood.
The Seattle Black Book Club, a central group to many of the city’s black liberation movements, expressed concerns over issues between the organizer of the BLM march, “Mohawk” or Miles Partman, and Black organizers, specifically women. In a Facebook post, the group said that he was not the leader of any BLM movement.
“Leaders must be accountable to the people in which they serve, which Mohawk is not,” Seattle Black Book Club’s Facebook post explained. “BLM has been a movement led by women, queer and trans Black people in a collective effort…Mohawk is a misogynistic person that has threatened multiple women in previous demonstrations, going as far as saying that he would do harm to them.”
But Partman feels these statements and narratives are false, going so far as to call them “fake news.” He also expressed that the allegations “divide and destroy a movement for black liberation.” In turn, he has lobbed the same criticisms at other organizers as they do of him: physical attacks, and co-opting other people’s hard work. Partman then referenced a YouTube video in which he said the Black Liberation Front, the group he directs, was “attacked” (conflict arises around 7:27, Partman is the one with the megaphone initially). The video shows no physical contact, however.
“All I seek is love and light for black liberation movement, not Malcolm X style stuff,” Partman said.
Seattle Black Book Club, in contrast, emphasized tying national movements and campaigns to local issues in their posts, especially in regards to the planned new youth jail to be built on 12th and Alder.
In addition, that morning, members of the No New Youth Jail campaign and a nonconforming individual were booed off stage at the Tax Day march. Shouting can be heard most noticeably in the hyperlink at 4:32. While some marchers claimed the heckling occurred because they had already sat through hours of speakers and people were antsy to get moving, the speakers themselves were upset and felt it was typical of sometimes pseudo-liberal Seattle.
“When the liberal Seattle is so concerned with the narrative Trump is pushing,” activist ‘RC’ said, “that same Seattle went very nasty.”
He explained crowd members booed, hissed, and later confronted speakers when they exited the stage.
But the anti-gentrification block party was an altogether different atmosphere. The sun was making everybody glow, children were doodling, people were dancing, and music was bumping.
At one point, a little girl told the speakers she had a question, resulting in organizers giving her a megaphone.
“Do dinosaurs eat meat?” she meagerly asked. The crowd busted up laughing.
Organizers and members of the We Want In block party and rally made a point to include local artists and musicians in their rally. They’ve put this event on for two weeks now, and will continue to do so every Saturday for the rest of the summer. They will also have resource booths and testimonials.
“I care about my country and my community,” said attendee and U.S. veteran Geronimo Whittaker. “I understand how money moves people, not that people necessarily want to move. If you can’t pay, you can’t stay.”
He was present in solidarity but also as a member of Artful Activism, a subgroup of 350 Seattle.
“We want to rally everybody,” organizer Geneiva Arunga expressed, “[and] work throughout the summer to make us visible.”
UPC plans to keep all of their events family-oriented. One of the goals, through working together, is to bring positivity to something that’s often seen as negative.
“It’s exciting to hear from everybody realizing the system isn’t working for us,” ‘RC’ said. “We’re not against development or growth, but these people need to be included. You can’t displace some people, and generations, that have been here. We need to stay here as the city moves forward.”
Gentrification continues encroaching southward through Seattle, currently impacting the South End and Central District. The change has already laid its hands on Capitol Hill, the previously LGBTQIA+ affordable safe haven. Moreover, Seattle’s history of redlining still has ramifications today, and is a primary factor in the city’s current segregation by class, ethnicity, and race.
“We can’t just push around hashtags,” ‘RC’ said. “When you see what’s going on on TV, you need to ask what’s going on in your backyard. We’re showing what we mean by community: A community that’s inclusive, values all lives, and not just black lives, intersectional lives.”
Some local artists that performed:
- St P@y (“Saint Patty”) — if you know where to find his work, please alert us
Resources and organizations discussed:
- Standing Against Foreclosure & Eviction in Seattle, which meets at Hillman City Collaboratory
- Seattle People’s Party (connected to mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver)
- No New Youth Jail
Kelsey Hamlin is a reporter with South Seattle Emerald, and interned with the publication this summer. She has worked with various Seattle publications. Currently, Hamlin is a University of Washington student, and the President of the UW Chapter’s Society of Professional Journalists. Hamlin is a journalism major at the University of Washington with interdisciplinary Honors, and a minor in Law, Societies & Justice. Find her on Twitter @ItsKelseyHamlin or see her other work on her website
Featured image Naomi Ishisaka