Photo Essay: “Pay The Fee” Gathering Puts Emphasis on Stories of Artists and Small Businesses

by Susan Fried (photos) and Jack Russillo (words)


On July 18, the final Saturday before a statewide prohibition on all live entertainment began, an all day gathering of pop-up food and streetwear vendors, music artists, and interactive art took to the streets directly west of 23rd Avenue South and South Jackson Street.

The art-centric rally — titled “Pay The Fee!” — was meant to bring together small businesses and artists of color to a space to freely tell stories, showcase products, list demands for social equity, and bask collectively in the sunny midsummer vibes while they still could.

“For this rally, we wanted to tell a story and promote our demands in a new way, a way that hasn’t really been done before and in a way that would allow for people who are not traditionally invited to this stage, even for the crowd to share their thoughts and messages around what’s happening right now,” Wole Akinlosotu, an organizer for King County Equity Now, said. “This was about giving artists the platform to share about what’s happening and their stance on it. The pop-ups allowed for the crowd and people attending the rally to participate in what’s going on instead of just sitting and listening, people could create visions of what a world without police would look like.”

King County Equity Now and Mediums Collective organized the rally and spoke about their demands for community investment, which included a youth achievement center, more affordable housing and anti-gentrification efforts, and increased Black and Brown community ownership.

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Jack Russillo is a Seattle-based journalist living in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.

Featured image by Susan Fried.