by Elizabeth Turnbull
Seattle Together, a community response plan run by the City of Seattle, launched today, May 21, as a way for residents to share stories, resources, events, and connect virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the City.
“The short version is Seattle Together is a city-wide campaign to sort of combat feelings of isolation while we’re all forced to socially distance,” Randy Engstrom, the Director of Arts and Culture for the City of Seattle, told the Emerald in a phone interview.
Utilizing a website and social media channels, the campaign lives primarily online.
“At a time when cherry blossoms are blooming and our City is at its most beautiful, we must continue to stay inside and physically distance ourselves from our loved ones and neighbors,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a press release on the campaign. “Seattle Together is about creating a platform where we can build community and connection during this unprecedented time.”
SeattleTogether.org serves as the campaign’s main digital portal for Seattle residents to engage with one another, donate, and hear the stories of community members such as South Seattle’s Luis and Leona Rodriguez who own The Station coffeehouse in Beacon Hill. A one-minute video of the couple sharing how they’re navigating the crisis is currently featured on the site.
The campaign is leaning heavily on social media. Using the hashtag #SeattleTogether, the City is encouraging participants to create and share their own stories of what has provided them, and their communities, hope and connection.
Participants are encouraged to create visual segments called #SeattleTogether Stories and #SeattleTogether Originals. #SeattleTogether Stories consist of either a video testimonial or self-portrait where participants answer how they are really doing, what has provided them joy during this time and what are their hopes for the city looking forward, according to a press release. #SeattleTogether Originals are unique content pieces that residents create by sharing videos and pictures of themselves dancing, singing, illustrating, performing poetry, or other artistic forms of self-expression.
“At the end of the day we have this really unique opportunity not to build the world back as it was but to build the world better,” Engstrom said. “You don’t get a reset button like this very often, maybe every 100 years, so let’s get this right.”
Engstrom said that the idea for the Seattle Together campaign emerged after it became apparent there weren’t enough measures put in place to keep the community together at a time when staying apart is imperative.
“This is born out of a recognition that we all sort of adapted early to the reality of the public health pandemic,” Engstrom said. “But I think we don’t have a lot of structures in place for dealing with the in-between time as stay home orders go from days to weeks to months, we really have found that we need to put more energy into meeting people where they are and holding people up and holding people together while we’re forced apart.”
Engstrom hopes that the campaign provides a little relief.
“I personally hope that it gives people some hope,” he said. “And that it lets people know that the city is here for them and that people’s communities are here for them and that we will get through this together.”
Elizabeth Turnbull is a recent journalism graduate with a passion for writing human-centric pieces. Some of her most recent work includes writing for the Jordan Times where she highlighted issues faced by refugees.
Featured image by Atsushi Hasegawa.