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Editor in Chief of the South Seattle Emerald

South Seattle Gunman Arrested Protecting His “Home”

originally published on kirotv.com

By Joanna Small

Car ShootingSouth Seattle —A 63-year-old man is in the King County Jail Saturday facing assault charges after he was the victim of a crime. Seattle police say two suspected prowlers tried to break into the van where he was sleeping, and he shot them both.

It happened overnight near Rainier Avenue in South Seattle. Seattle police aren’t convinced his actions were in self-defense. They say when one of the men discovered the vehicle was occupied, he fled to a get-away car being driven by a second man. Officers say the 63-year-old van owner then shot the first man in the back and the driver in the leg.  He has been arrested.

“You can defend yourself but when somebody jumps in the vehicle and is leaving the scene the argument that you’re defending yourself disappears,” explained Seattle Police Department Capt. Neil Low.

People living in their cars in South Seattle is not uncommon. Saturday morning, about a block from the scene, KIRO 7 found more than half a dozen campers. The people who live in them tell us they know their lifestyle can be dangerous.

“There’s a lot of suspicious people in this area,” John Kamph, who lives in his RV, told us. He said he’s heard some of those people rattle the door handle on his camper.

Kamph said it’s not his vehicle; it’s his home. He has a gun, he said, to protect his home. (Read More)

Note: The original text of this article mistakenly identified Rainier Beach as the area where the incident transpired.

This Weekend In South Seattle: The Seattle Symphony Plays the Southend and Amy Yee Gets a New Sign

Events this weekend in the South Seattle area

Weekend

Saturday, October 18th

Community: Amy Yee Sign Unveiling and Harvest Party featuring City Fruit, Big Brothers Big Sister of Puget Sound and Councilmember Sally Clark from 10:00am – 1:00pm @ Amy Yee Tennis Center Orchard 2000 Martin Luther King Jr Way S, Seattle 98144 More Info: http://www.cityfruit.org

Community: Detective Cookie’s Urban Chess Club with Pro Chess Instructor H.R.Pitre. From 12:00pm – 2:00pm @ Rainier Beach Community Center: 8825 Rainier Ave South Seattle. Ages 7 and Older. More Info: 206-650-3621 (Detective Cookie)

Music: Seattle Symphony Community Concert starts at 2:00pm @ Rainier Valley Cultural Center: 3515 South Alaska Street Seattle, WA 98118. More Info: http://www.rainiervalleyculturalcenter.org/events/seattle-youth-symphony/

Film: Seed Arts Cinema presents Boy as part of the Fall Foreign Film Series begins at 6:00pm @ The Rainier Valley Cultural Center 3515 South Alaska St. Seattle, WA 98118  More Info: http://www.rainiervalleyculturalcenter.org/events/fall-foreign-film-series-tahiti/

Music:  The Cumbieros begins at 9:00pm@ The Royal Room 5000 Rainier Avenue South Seattle 98118.  Cost: Free. More Info: http://www.theroyalroomseattle.com.

 

Sunday, October 19th

Music: Dalava begins at 8:00pm @ The Royal Room 5000 Rainier Avenue South Seattle 98118.  Cost: Free. More Info: http://www.theroyalroomseattle.com

 

If you have an event to post, please email events@southseattleemerald.com

 

 

Meaning in Movies: Beacon Hill Group Hopes Films Spark Activism

by Marcus Harrison Green

"Meaningful Moviegoers" grab concessions prior to a screening.
“Meaningful Moviegoers” grab concessions prior to a screening.

Flooding to the movies on a Friday night is about as typical for the average American as a diet forsaking anything resembling a vegetable, but what is rarely found during those jaunts to the multiplex is any reason whatsoever to engage in discourse with your fellow moviegoers that extends beyond, “Excuse me,” while shuffling shamefully to your seat after the previews have already commenced.

You come alone, watch whatever brain cell deadening confection Hollywood has shrewdly marketed to you, and leave alone- more than likely never making eye contact with anyone associated with the hoard of strangers in whose company you just spent nearly two hours. As such, there is no surer bet than wagering that the inspiration to join them in attempting to change the world more than likely missed grazing your mind by a wide margin, let alone striking it. But if they have their way, a group in South Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood will push that inspiration a lot closer to its mark.

Featuring chairs drawn in tight assembly as neighbors hang on each others every word as intently as Moses during dictation of the Ten Commandments, heads alternating between nods of unflappable agreement and a state of stoic repose upon introduction to profound ideas, and spirited discussions that make the atmosphere pulsate with a vivacity that is more typical of an EDM dance club on a Friday night than a community gathering space – with issue focused documentaries that act as the catalyst of the foregoing- Beacon Hill Meaningful Movies,in its fourth month of operation,is seeking to show that despite what currently seems a preponderance of evidence to the contrary-Jeffersonian Democracy is indeed alive and kicking, and in South Seattle nonetheless.

The “Meaningful Movies” brand, first begun in the Wallingford neighborhood 11 years ago, has become distinguished for screening thought provoking films that challenge residents to engage in deliberate discourse and community activism. The end goal being for them to apply what had just been shown on screen to the improvement of communal daily life- in addition to formulating a collective solution to the litany of problems that the films touch on- including human sex trafficking, climate change, and income inequality.

It was seeing this living, breathing cauldron of the civically engaged upon visiting a Meaningful Movies venue in Wallingford that sparked the desire of Christina Olson-the community steward of Beacon Hill Meaningful Movies-to create an offshoot of the film series to the south end.

“I had always been interested in engaging documentaries that sparked conversations, but the best places around Seattle to catch them were at Meaningful Movie venues that were only located in various north end neighborhoods. I used to always think: Wouldn’t it be great if I didn’t have to go across the ship canal on a Friday night just to see a great movie. It occurred to me that probably the only way I could stop doing that was if I brought them here to us in South Seattle,” exclaims Olson.

Olson, having previously succeeded in securing a grant from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods for a garden project, was emboldened to apply to them for funding she used as start up money in getting Meaningful Movies off the ground in Beacon Hill. She ended up partnering with Beacon Arts, the primary organizer of art related events in the area, to help with marketing efforts.

In June, Beacon Hill Meaningful Movies became the newest affiliate of the network’s 11 venues and the only located in the South Seattle area. In its brief time it has attracted those residents who are looking to foster an actual community amongst the people they casually interact with on a daily basis.

“So often neighbors just pass by each other, and don’t discuss topics or engage with each other in any significant way. This acts as a gathering post where people can come and exchange ideas.” says Olson.

The Beacon Hill Meaningful Movies – which shows films every third Friday of the month at the Garden House on Beacon Hill- has gone out of its way to make sure the movies that are presented to its community vary both in tone and message, and have featured topics as diverse as the extinction of honey bees, to the acidification of our oceans, to worker co-operatives.

“It would be easy to provide only environmental films, but we want to stay open and attract a variety of interest and a variety of people instead of becoming: That movie group that’s always harping about migration, or is always on an environmental kick,” shares Olsen.

As important as the films themselves are, they function as only appetizer to the main course, which is the moderated community conversation that ensues just after credits roll, allowing even the rhetorically shy to chime in.

“After each movie we draw the circle of chairs together and everyone shares what they thought about the film how if resonates locally,” says Olson.

“All of our discussions are facilitated because my experience has been that often times in public forums there are strong personalities that can dominate and we don’t want that. We have a series of guidelines so  that whoever wants to be heard can be heard. We realize  there are some people who are just not quick thinkers and talkers and we want to honor that too.”

It is this parsing of community opinion that Olson believes can serve as a launching pad for transformation within the community which is why she often invites local advocates to the films to enhance the topics being broached.

“The next film we are showing cooperatives in Spain and how they function and we want to have a discussion about how we translate that to possibly forming other cooperatives in the South Seattle area.We’re actually going to have a speaker from “People’s Memorial Association” which is a funeral and burial co-operative to talk about how they formed. We want the neighborhoods of Beacon Hill and beyond to asks questions such as maybe we can form co-operatives of our own here, and not depend on the mercy of a developer for jobs in our area,” says Olson.

But the movies are providing an even more practical purpose according to Beacon Arts director Betty Jean Williamson-who along with Olson heads up Meaningful Movies’ promotion. “I do think that we fill in that gap for people on specific issues where they might only be subject to talking points or “junk food” news that our media currently reports.”

“We want to give the opportunity for people who want to have discussions and want more in depth information about topics that affect us as a society to join us in doing just that. We are currently inviting people from around the area to come be a part of our steering committee to decide what topics should be presented.”

In its brief tenure, the south end affiliate of Meaningful Movie’s steering committee- made up of local Beacon Hill residents- has had the great fortune of choosing films that couldn’t be more timely than if they were in synch with the US Navy Observatory’s Master Clock.

“When we showed Migration is Beautiful it just so happened that we screened the film during the time all the news broke about the children migrants coming across the border into Texas. The government was planning to house them in military institutions. One of our guest that night happened to be involved in immigration issues and she said: We’re proposing an alternative. Why don’t we accommodate them at Discovery Park where the decommissioned barracks of old Fort Lawton could house and provide adequate services in a group setting?”

The relevance of the movies continues to not only attract a huge swath of southend area residents, but has been patronized from those living as far away as Mountlake Terrace and Poulsbo, something that both Olson and Williamson have a growing ambivalence about.

“My greatest fear is that the work that I am doing to facilitate access to arts and creating art in our community can become a lever for gentrification and that is my nightmare. Look at what happened to Belltown and what’s currently going on in the Central District,” says Williamson.

Still, Olson is doing all she can to make sure its local flavor stays intact as she wants to showcase local filmmakers-and by local she means with a capital L, as in within a 5-10 mile radius of Beacon Hill. “Though we didn’t select any this season, we’d like to eventually serve as a venue for local filmmakers within our community, even immigrants. We are currently looking into one that deals with the Ethiopian population of South Seattle.”

As Olson and Williamson embark on making the series a year round affair with viewings and discussions taking place at least twice a month, they face an uphill battle as the initial funding from the Department of Neighborhoods runs out in December which means that the fledgling franchise will have to more than likely depend on the graces of local philanthropists to keep operating beyond the holiday season.

“People really love what we’re doing, and I think we will be successful. It is truly just a matter of time. We’re still under a lot of the neighborhoods radar and are seeking to reach out to them,” says Olson. “As we grow and more people from around the area discover each other and get engaged in the discussion around the topics our films introduce, we feel that the entire community will be strengthened!”

Meaningful Movies Showings ( All films are shown at The Garden House: 2336 15th Ave. South, Seattle, WA, 98114. Doors open at 6:15pm. Film Starts at 7:00pm and includes free popcorn):

Friday, Oct 17th: Shift Change: Film makers Mark Dworkin and Melissa Young will be in attendance along with People’s Memorial Society and a local group that provides assistance in creating coops.

Friday, Nov 21st: Princess Angeline: Film looks at the history of Seattle’s first people the Duwamish Tribe.  Film maker Sandy Osawa will be in attendance.

Friday, Dec 19th: Nothing Like Chocolate: Film centers around sustainable, organic, fair trade, bean to bar chocolate produced in Grenada.  Great door prizes guaranteed!

More Information: www.beacon-arts.org and www.meaningfulmovies.org

“While We Celebrate a $15 Minimum Wage, Let’s Remember It’s Not Enough”

by Jill Reese

Rent
Activist gather at Seattle City Hall during the campaign to raise the city’s minimum wage. Photo Credit: David Ryder/Reuters

There has been a lot of buzz around the Seattle City Council’s historic adoption of a $15 minimum wage, the highest in the nation. Now there’s also excitement over last week’s passage of a living wage ordinance by the King County Council that sets the same wage floor for county employees and contractors.

Yes, $15 is more than twice the federal minimum wage, which stands at a paltry $7.25 an hour and that Congress has failed to increase for five years and counting.

But despite the recent local victories, let’s not hang up a “Mission Accomplished” banner just yet; we still have a long way to go. In this debate, some have argued that $15 is too big of a jump. On the contrary, it does not go far enough.

First and foremost, $15 is not enough for King County families to meet basic needs.

In August, the Alliance for a Just Society and Washington Community Action Network jointly released “Families Out of Balance,” which calculates basic expenses for King County residents.

The report finds that the hourly wage full-time workers in King County need to make basic ends meet, ranges from $17.37 an hour for a single individual to $34.46 for a single adult with two children. These calculations include food, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, household, small savings, child care and tax costs. They assume a 40-hour workweek. (See http://www.thejobgap.org.)

Meanwhile, if you can’t make ends meet, it’s not as simple as just finding another job. Another study the Alliance released last year found that, for every living wage job for a single individual in Washington state, there are eight job-seekers.

For a single parent with two kids, there are 21 job seekers for every living wage job. Seventy-eight percent of all job openings in Washington don’t pay enough for that parent to survive.

Quite simply, many King County families aren’t making ends meet, and $15 is not a living wage.

Our improved minimum wage falls short by other measures as well. A Center for Economic and Policy Research report finds that, had the federal minimum wage kept up with economic productivity, it should have been $21.72 an hour in 2012, about three times the current minimum wage.

It is also worth noting that several exceptions have watered down the policy. The Seattle minimum wage is phased-in, getting to $15 an hour gradually between 2017 and 2021, depending on the size of the business and whether it offers health care.

The Seattle wage schedule gets us closer to an actual living wage than we’ve been in the history of our living wage study, which goes back to 1999. But in reality, it remains a modest step in the right direction.

In the end, the triumph of $15 is that it was a bottom-up approach to progressive policy change that succeeded. After all, it was Seattle’s low-wage workers who first had the courage to demand a $15 minimum wage — and they got it.

Many families face impossible balance sheets, paying living costs, maybe student loan debt or medical bills, and are having excruciating kitchen table conversations.

A $15 minimum wage is a huge step in the right direction, but we must remember that this is only the beginning in the movement for a more prosperous Washington and America.

Jill Reese is the Associate Director of the Alliance for a Just Society, a Seattle-based national network of grassroots organizing groups. Visit http://www.allianceforajustsociety.org.

South Seattle Gems: Lisa Cooper

Lisa Cooper
Lisa Cooper

Gems is a column devoted to spotlighting the various denizens who contribute to the rich mosaic that is the South Seattle area.

Who: Lisa Cooper

Best Known Around South Seattle As: “That” lady who never met a volunteer opportunity she didn’t like

Special Trait: Inexhaustible charm she disseminates freely throughout South Seattle

Motto: “Yes!!!” (To whatever wide eyed idea you just presented her with that will improve the southend)

 

What do you like most about South Seattle?

The people.  The ‘struggle’.  You know in horticulture, the sweetest fruits are from plants that have endured some stress in order to survive. When the roots have to look harder for water and nutrients in the soil, they produce more sugar.  I think that process is alive and well in the varied and vibrant communities of South Seattle.  People from all walks of life seem to come together more readily here than elsewhere in the city.  Conversations tend to flow easily- even when not speaking the same mother tongue.  Everyone is wanting the same thing essentially which are solutions and fixes to the myriad challenges we face.  We may all have different ideas about how to go about bringing  the change that is  needed- but it is precisely these differences in perspective that make our group dynamic so powerful.  Worldly people working together to make it happen, all while embracing our differences and celebrating each other.  Folks from Somalia, South America, South East Asia, Ukraine, Japan, the  Philippines, the USA – making great change together.   Making art and music together.  Crafting policy together.  Teaching children together. Building community together. It is the quintessential Great American Story. Of course, the process is not without its strife- but even that part is essential.  Making our victories all the sweeter.

 

You live in the much maligned area of Skyway, which some call South Seattle’s red headed step child. What is the most surprising thing about it in comparison to other areas of South Seattle?

Skyway may look funny or scary  or inconsequential on the outside- but true riches are tapped by scratching the surface.  There are some very, very cool people and places here.  Full on creative class.  I am surprised and delighted that you can have roosters here.   I did not realize that they are against the law in King Counties incorporated parts.  There are a few in my neighborhood and it is  a joy to hear them crowing  on sunny mornings.  The little dudes are kind of lazy actually (thankfully) so they tend to crow later in the morning rather than at the crack of dawn.  Either that or they are very well trained.  Unincorporated King County Roosters Rule.  Another pleasant surprise is that we have among the best water standards in the entire nation in Skyway.  Serious shout out to the Skyway Water and Sewer District.  At what other utility around here can you call and actually have a friendly , knowledgeable person answer the phone and take your payment while chatting about the neighborhood?  Its a throwback to easier times.  Where I live we have well water that is so pure I now notice how bottled waters  taste ‘off’.  The views of Lake Washington and Mt Rainier are insane from this perspective.  There is a vantage point a few blocks from me where the panorama of Lake Washington looks like Switzerland.  Mt Rainier looms majestically from points all around the West Hill.  We are so very lucky that this area is  beautiful, relativity untouched and still quite pastoral.  It is an asset to be carefully protected from the run-away train that is the overly dense urban development here in the Puget Sound region.  Biggest surprise of all is that there are no current residents or any recorded history of the Duwamish Tribe up here on the West Hill. They inhabited this land long before we came along  with our maps, boundaries, claims and county lines.  Duwamish villages stood all along Lake Washington, the Black, Cedar and Duwamish rivers. How did they use this land up here on the hill- of which Skyway is centered?  It was Duwamish hunting grounds for goodness sake.  I have a hunch that if one were to follow the origins of Renton Ave South, it would trace back to a trail made and used by the Duwamish People.  Somewhere there is a Duwamish burial ground up in the Earlington neighborhood.  Chief Seattle’s Mother was Lake Washington Duwamish- from what I gather her people lived in a longhouse on the ground that is now the Boeing/Renton Municipal Airfield.  The last Chief of the Duwamish- Henry Moses- grew up on that land.  He attended Renton High School and was their star football player in the 1920s.  How cool and how mind blowing is that?  I feel strongly that we need to invite the Duwamish People back to the area.  They would be a potent force in helping to envision and construct a new way of life here in Skyway, the West Hill and all of South Seattle.

One more surprise and then I will stop.  Surprised that the Renton School District is the largest employer in Skyway.  And that they are so readily engaged in helping make this a stronger community through open thinking, accountability and access.  They are a huge resource.  But we need family businesses here.  That could change things for the better.  A restaurant like the much beloved and recently closed  Silver Fork on Rainier(still mad at Safeway for that land grab) , a coffee house, a bakery, a pizza place, Mom and Pop hardware store, thrift shop.  Right up there by the new library that is being built.  Gathering places for our ready community.

 

You work at Ebbets, which is a throwback jersey and vintage flannel maker, if you were going to produce throwback jerseys for some South Seattle neighborhoods what would they look like?

This is such a fun question I can hardly stand it.  I am one of the founders and owners of Ebbets Field.  We have been crafting products based on sports history for 26 years now.  Teams most always derived their names from something specific to a town or a region. So having said that…

Columbia City Millers.

Columbia City used to have multiple saw mills.  Once cut and stripped,  logs would shoot down to Lake Washington- to be then transported around the region by boat or by train.  Colors could be Dark Green and Blue.  Logo would be a Doug Fir

Seward Park Owls.

Natch. Did you know that Owls do not poop? They regurgitate everything.  And that coyotes wrongly get a bad wrap about missing cat when owls are usually the true culprit.  You learn all of this on the evening owl walks  in Seward Park.   Colors would be brown and gold like their eyes

Rainier BeachBoyz.

Nod to resident great Jamal Crawford who (I believe) coined the phrase.  There is something truly special and different about the talent coming out of Rainier Beach High School. In basketball they have a drive and a talent and a vibe that is unmatched. And it keeps going on and on and on.  Stress=sweeter fruit could be at play. Colors Royal Blue and Orange.  Mt Rainier is the sleeve patch.

Skyway Transformers

The Coast Salish- of which the Duwamish are a tribe- have stories to explain the origins of everything.  These are called Transformer Stories. This name also acknowledges all of the dedicated residents that are living and working together to transform Skyway into something even better. As lastly- it ties into the giant electrical transformers cutting a swath thought the heart of the area- bringing light and heat and compromised views.  That would be the logo- a giant transformer.  Colors  silver and black

Mt Baker Capitalists.

Sorry- I couldn’t resist.  Mt Baker has the most money of all of these neighborhoods and is known for its mansions and its views. Unimaginative- I know.  Colors: 3 shades of Green.

 

If you had the power of the goddess Athena what would you bestow upon South Seattle?

Another great question.  Athena. Known as the Goddess of War. She was most adept at strategy.  And was equally adept at peacemaking.  It is said she created the olive tree. That is pretty powerful stuff: creator of food, shelter, fuel..  I would borrow her powers to help devise wise strategy for the future successes of South Seattle.  And to help people see when it is better to extend the proverbial olive branch rather than fight over it or fight with it.  A good listen reveals The Blue Scholars “The Long March” EP as Athena.  I think it is the soundtrack of South Seattle. Masterful in showing the duality of  our situation here. One hand open and the other closed into a fist.  That’s the other thing I would do – get everyone a copy of that album, a quiet room, a great pair of headphones, an easy chair and nothing but time to listen and ponder the message and the musicality of this fine work coming out of our area.  Its about 10 years old now- and just as on point today as when it first came out.  Perhaps more so.

 

Five years from now what would you want someone to  be able to say about South Seattle and Skyway that can’t currently be said now?

For South Seattle- that it is the most progressive area in Seattle with admirable success rates  in housing, education and job creation programs.  Envied and copied around the nation.

For Skyway-  Vast open space protected from development while our central business district is forwarded as a thriving retail and service sector resulting in multi-lingual  growth,education and job opportunities for our children and adult residents. And seeing the Duwamish people welcomed back to their home turf and in turn helping to forward our progress.

 

The Artists Have Landed: Artspace Mt.Baker Has a “Grand” Opening

by Curran Knox

Mt Baker Art Lofts
Younger residents play at Artspace Mt. Baker’s “Chalk Walk.”

On October 1st 2014, individuals gathered in droves underneath the Mount Baker Light rail station in a space referred to as the Plaza, for the Artspace Mount Baker Lofts grand opening to the public. The seemingly ordinary space that is typically rushed by commuters, students and families had been transformed into an outdoor amphitheater. Rows and rows of seating visitors and residents faced the honorary stage while many more stood in bunches peering with curiosity. What exactly is Artspace and what does it mean for the neighborhood? “It encompasses everything that we stand for,” Judith Olson from Quantum Real Estate, one of the major funders for the project, expressed.

Artspace works to provide low income artists, their families and arts organizations with affordable and sustainable places to live and work. They do this with the hopes that the artists and arts organizations plant roots within the community, and thus become an inseparable force of revitalization and growth.

The Open House for the new Mt. Baker Lofts project provided visitors with the opportunity to meet the residents and to view the lofts, as well as the organizations that occupy the commercial spaces. It also provided residents with the opportunity to feature their work. Residents overwhelmingly express love for the project and their new residences, ranging in price from $428-1,281 per unit. Some of the residents have grown up in South Seattle while others are new to the area. Robert, a local who lives on the hillside just behind Mt. Baker lofts expressed concern about the whether or not Artspace is supporting the life and community that already exist in the neighborhood. Robert, who has seen many of his tenants move south to Renton because they could no longer afford rent, expressed frustration with revitalizing a neighborhood that cannot support its tenants. Two of his housemates did not make the cut after applying to live in the Mt. Baker Lofts.

Artspace has shown a deliberate investment into building partnerships with community based organizations and artist in the area. James Wong from the Vietnamese Friendship Association (VFA) feels strongly that Artspace truly cares about cultivating the history and cultural identity of the neighborhood, referring to their efforts as “preserving the culture, language, and richness here,” as VFA prepares to launch the first Vietnamese-English bilingual preschool in Seattle out of the commercial space. A capoeira studio and a center that supports artist with disabilities have moved into two of the commercial spaces as well. Tobya Art Gallery, owned and operated by Admassu Guessese, opened to feature African artists. Urban Wilderness Works, an organization that has been in operation for 10 years out of South Seattle has also moved in, sharing a commercial space with Washington Trail Association, operating a gear lending library for leaders working with groups. These are only a few of the organizations that now call Mt Baker lofts home.

While Artspace does receive 10-15 percent of their funding from private funders, public funding makes up 75-80 percent of their funding stream, making Artspace residences quite sustainable. The public funding that each project receives is a combination of resources allocated for transit-oriented or cultural preservation real estate development, as well as Tax Credits reserved for Low Income Housing and also Historic Preservation. Other funders for this project include Impact Capitol, Washington Community Reinvestment Association (WCRA), The Department of Housing Trust Fund, and 4Culture. Representatives from all of the major funders shared some remarks on their willingness and excitement to continue funding the project. Since its inception in 1979, Artspace has opened the doors 36 artist residence projects and 11 more are in development. This does not include the 223 consulting projects that they have carried out. This particular residence is a transit-oriented space with no allocated parking associated with the building.

Artspace started with the intention to address gentrification in neighborhoods around the country. They strategized a way to keep artists in the district, moving from the approach of barriers, to seeing the infinite creative and cultural wealth. As a result, Artspace experiences artists as community builders, creators, and entrepreneurs.

Album Review: Mary Lambert’s “Heart On My Sleeve”

by Mary Hubert

 

Photo courtesy of Billboard.com
Photo courtesy of Billboard.com

When I settled down to listen to Mary Lambert’s first album, Heart On My Sleeve, I knew her only as the woman featured on “Same Love” by Macklemore. Being a Seattleite hipster, I of course know all of the words to the song, and very much appreciate Lambert’s voice on the track. Therefore, it was with excitement that I clicked the first track, a song called “Secrets”. The first lyric was: “I have bipolar disorder”. Okay, I thought, A bit overly direct, but it could work. The song was upbeat, a bit like the Alanis Morrisette song I always wanted, with a catchy chorus. Although not very insightful, it was honest, and though simplistic, I definitely didn’t hate it.

The next song was more of the same – entitled “So Far Away”, this one reminded me more of Kelly Clarkson than Alanis. It hearkened back to the music I loved when I was 13, depressing lyrics matched to a bouncy melody that any bitter preteen could yell along to. “Ribcage”, her third song, featured both KFlay and Angel Haze and was a pleasant, though slight, departure from Lambert’s previously established pattern. Though the Angel Haze feature was rather unnecessary, the song’s quality matched the lyrics in a far more effective way than the first two on Lambert’s album.

Fourth in line was a slam poem called “Dear One”. This would have been absolutely perfect for the first track – dark, short, and a bit corny, it would have set the mood for the album very nicely. However, as a fourth song, it was just plain too much. The emotion in Lambert’s voice by this time added corniness rather than honesty to the track, and I found myself tuning out what I might have been interested in had it come before three depressing songs.

“Dear One” was followed by the token ballad, “When You Sleep”, which might be described as the desperate girl’s anthem. That being said, when I was in my early teenage years it would have reduced me to tears. Not just quiet tears, either, but those deliciously messy bawling-and-screaming-lyrics-in-your-mom’s-borrowed-minivan tears. Again, a hearkening back to the early 2000s in a way that I didn’t quite hate. However, this song was a bit less innocuous than the other bits of preteen fluff. With lines centered on changing for another so that they will continue to love you, it reminded me of the trend in modern pop culture that taught me and many others everything I know about the wrong way to love someone: to give up yourself so that another will love you enough to stay. This sentiment is prevalent in most music geared toward teenagers, and it makes my hair curl just a bit – if Lambert is so keen on advertising herself as a progressive, queer, women’s right-oriented young lady, then that shit has no business on her album.

The rest of the songs ranged from Avril Lavigne to Fiona Apple and back to Alanis and Kelly, carrying through the 2001 angst sound relatively seamlessly. I found myself nodding along to many of the remaining tracks, and even genuinely liking a few. The title track of the album was among the best of these; with a strong base line and catchy hook, it channeled Sara Bareilles’s vivacity and charm. Others, including another ballad entitled “Wounded Animal”, were not so strong.  Regardless, the rest of the album ended without incident, and each song strung together to form a cohesive piece.

Ultimately, as I compared each track to different early 2000s female songwriters, and reminisced about the good and bad themes from my childhood favorites, I was struck with Lambert’s intelligence. This album seems marketed toward the current generation of young teenagers, which, let’s face it, is where the money is at. Though maybe not the most original writing I’ve ever heard, Lambert certainly isn’t offensive, and if her themes on love are a bit sappy and misguided, at least she isn’t promoting misogynistic views. Would I recommend this album to my music-savvy adult friends? Absolutely not. Might I buy it for my 14 year old cousin? Definitely.

The bottom line: Sounding like a mix of every female singer from 1995-2005, Lambert’s first album is rather immature, both in content and song structure. However, the work as a whole is inoffensive, and I found three or four tracks musically interesting. This CD might not make waves in music history, but would probably be a good Christmas gift for any young teenagers around the house.

Mary Hubert is a performing artist, director, and arts administrator in the Seattle area. When not producing strange performance concoctions with her company, the Horse in Motion, she is wild about watching weird theater, whiskey, writing and weightlifting.