“Who Keeps Us Safe?” is a podcast by Asian Americans living in Seattle that explores safety, policing, and abolition in our communities and beyond. Join us monthly as we speak with organizers in the Seattle area, and reflect on their work and learnings. We hope that our listeners will use this podcast to begin and/or supplement their own conversations about safety and policing in their own communities. This is a project of PARISOL: Pacific Rim Solidarity Network, a grassroots anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, Hong Konger, Taiwanese, and Chinese* diaspora group based in Seattle. PARISOL is dedicated to local & international solidarity, community building, cultural & politicized learning, abolition, and anti-racist work.
Who Keeps Us Safe? (WKUS) is a podcast by Asian Americans living in Seattle that explores safety, policing, and abolition in our communities and beyond. In each monthly episode, we speak with organizers in the Seattle area, and reflect on their work and learnings.
In partnership with the South Seattle Emerald and KVRU 105.7FM, WKUS is relaunching a previously recorded podcast each month at the Emerald.
The production crew is a small volunteer team of Asian American community organizers in the Chinatown-International District (CID): Andy Allen, Alex Chuang, Jenn Shaffer, and Ryan Fang. Together, they record their conversations with other Seattle organizers and explore the idea of community safety. In this first episode of WKUS, previously released in July 2021, they interviewed participants at a CID cleanup event, hosted by the CID Coalition. They also talked to the Rainier Beach Action Coalition (RBAC) about innovative projects organized by community members to create safety and community in the Rainier Beach neighborhood.
Listen to the episode at the official WKUS podcast website.
For their first 6 episodes, WKUS partnered with KVRU 105.7FM to air their podcast on the radio. For this reason, you’ll hear some brief station IDs in some of the episodes.
Here’s an excerpt from Episode One:
Hi, my name is Sarah, I use she/her pronouns. I’m part of PARISOL, and I’m also here today in the capacity of a street medic collective.
I think one thing I’ve noticed in my time living in Seattle, is that the CID is a community — even though there are a lot of different components of that community, it really is a community. And within any community that has some sort of cohesion, there’s the ability to create structures independently of the police, and independently of 911, to take care of each other.
I’m IC, I use she/they pronouns and I’m here today as part of CALM, which is Community Action for Liberation Medics. I [also] recently joined Anakbayan Seattle, and I’ve been involved in different medic and community defense initiatives in Seattle over the years.
We need to know: What does it mean for our elders to be well taken care of, to be housed? What does it mean for unhoused persons who are not part of Asian diaspora to be cared for? Who are our neighbors, right? So to me, safety looks like a conversation between everyone who has a stake in the safety of our communities. And from there, it’s deciding what that looks like together. I feel like there’s a lot of folks out here today (to echo what Sarah said) you know, being autonomous in the way we build that safety, I think that’s really important.
My name is Aretha, my pronouns are she/her. I’m with a lot of orgs, [and] right now currently [with] No New Youth Jail, Block the Bunker, Seattle People’s Party, Decrim Seattle, Asians4BlackLives, SouthAsians4BlackLives, all of the things. I’m here today — well, oh my gosh, [for] so many reasons. I mean, the CID especially is just an area that is very, very close to my heart. I grew up here in Seattle. And my Auntie Satabdi Basu — a lot of the organizing that she did, as an immigrant woman who came to the U.S., was in the CID [which was] the neighborhood that she grew up in. And so I grew up in the CID, all of my earliest memories with her are in the CID. You know, like a lot of the people that I call aunties and uncles, that’s where we built community together.
And the CID, I think, is really indicative of the resilience of the last stand that our city really has right now. Because there’s so many fights that really come to a head in the CID, like around gentrification, around public safety, around small businesses. So it’s a very, very important place in our city. You know, I think the conversation that’s popped up over the last year, this is one of the things that we talk about, right? Like when we say “safety,” for one it’s redefining what safety means. Because for so long, “safety” has meant cops, courts, jails, prisons. What we all are trying to do here in the community is actually say no, “safety” is when people are cared for, fed, have resources, and are able [to have] their basic needs met. And one of the most basic needs people have is just hygiene and clean areas, access to food and water, and like the stuff that really makes you settle so you can process what’s going on in the world. So today’s organizing and today’s work is the core value of that. It’s making sure that we’re able to do that for other people, so that we’re not relying on the State, we’re not relying on the City. Because they’ve been failing, and their response has always been violent and has led to so much harm in multiple communities.
Sometimes the CID is seen as a place just to grab a bubble tea, just to grab food. [But] you know, there are residents here — the majority of the residents in CID are seniors, the median income in CID is $30,000 [in 2018]. So this is a unique neighborhood that is oftentimes not seen as a neighborhood and it becomes very transactional.
Jenn (Narrator) 15:24
When talking about community safety, folks naturally had to address the role of policing in the CID. We wanted to know, what were experiences with the police like in the CID? And how did those experiences affect feelings of safety in the neighborhood?
For a full transcript, head to this link.
We hope that our listeners will use this podcast to begin and/or supplement their own conversations about safety and policing in their own communities. This is a project of PARISOL: Pacific Rim Solidarity Network, a grassroots anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, Hong Konger, Taiwanese, and Chinese diaspora group based in Seattle. PARISOL is dedicated to local & international solidarity, community building, cultural & politicized learning, abolition, and anti-racist work.
Stay tuned for the second episode in June.
📸 Featured Image: Members of “WKUS?” interviewing Jerrell Davis from Rainier Beach Action Coalition (RBAC) about their thoughts on community safety. (Photo: Yin Yu)
Before you move on to the next story …
The South Seattle Emerald is brought to you by Rainmakers. Rainmakers give recurring gifts at any amount. With around 1,000 Rainmakers, the Emerald is truly community-driven local media. Help us keep BIPOC-led media free and accessible.
If just half of our readers signed up to give $6 a month, we wouldn’t have to fundraise for the rest of the year. Small amounts make a difference.
We cannot do this work without you. Become a Rainmaker today!