News Brief: On Tuesday, the City Council’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee passed the bill to rezone the area around the Mount Baker Light Rail Station. On a 4-1 vote, with Bruce Harrell dissenting, the Committee moved the legislation to the full Council for a vote on Monday, June 23rd.
Echoing concerns from some area residents that the legislation has moved too quickly, Harrell proposed two amendments. The first amendment would have tabled the bill indefinitely for further study. This amendment failed when no additional Councilmembers came forward in support. The second amendment substituted a height limit of 85 feet (instead of the original 125) on the parcel currently occupied by Lowe’s Home Improvement. It too failed on a voice vote.
In last ditch effort to derail the legislation before going to the full City Council, opponents of the Mount Baker rezone came out in full force. They wore t-shirts saying “NO REZONE” and “Jobs NOT Apts”. As in previous meetings, they contended that they had not been fully included in the process, and that a rezone would fail due to slack demand for market-rate development while causing land values to escalate, threatening small businesses.
A final amendment by Councilwoman Sally Clark, one that sought to assuage fears that a 125 foot residential apartment complex may be built on the Lowe’s site, also failed without additional support. Clark’s amendment sought to explicitly limit the proportion of development on the site for residential development, if a structure nearing the height limit was, in fact, built.
Editorial: The PLUS Committee made the right decision to move the legislation for consideration by the full City Council. While opponents of the bill organized an impressive number of people to speak against the bill on Tuesday, they continued to provide an unclear sense of what they wanted with respect to the legislation itself, as well as a lack of realistic alternatives to bring about the one thing they all agreed they wanted: jobs.
In the course of three Committee meetings, opponents of the Mount Baker rezone have, at different points, said they want the legislation tabled so that it could go back to the community for reconsideration and that the rezone should not occur at all. They have also concurrently claimed that a rezone will fail to attract new development and that a rezone will result in gentrification. The opponents of the legislation give the impression that they are talking out of both sides of their mouths or throwing in every objection but the kitchen sink to stop the legislation.
On the issue of jobs, there is also more smoke than light. Opponents of the rezone have focused on the mere possibility that a developer could construct a 125 foot residential complex as a fatal flaw and a reason to reduce the height limit on the Lowe’s site, as proposed in Councilman Harrell’s amendment. They contend that the Seattle Mixed Use designation would result in residential units crowding out the possibility of commercial uses and therefore living-wage jobs. It has been pointed out multiple times, however, that the only structure rising to 125 feet that would make sense from a developer’s perspective would be commercial or mixed commercial/residential. Less flexibility in height restrictions would then only serve to limit the kind of potential commercial development that could occur. The “solution” to this problem would be counterproductive.
If bringing jobs to Rainier Valley is desired end, a rezone at 125 feet makes more sense than the alternatives that have been proposed. The process, one which began in 2009, has gone on long enough. Developers need a solid framework upon which they can predictably draw up plans and stakeholders throughout Southeast Seattle have long deserved a better urban environment than the one that currently exists. The PLUS Committee incisively recognized these facts amidst the panoply of arguments and made the right decision to move forward.
Young Han is a Columbia City resident interested in economic history and the economics of technological change as well as an advocate for cooperative development, and expanding economic democracy
Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of our series South Seattle Goes ToSIFF
We’ve all driven through those towns that seem like no one lives there – or that no one should. Bleak, dusty horizons, the occasional meth head ambling by, and a corner store that looks like it hasn’t had a customer in the last century or two. In BFE, director Shawn Telford seeks to portray the lives of those who live in these forgotten towns – particularly, those still young and figuring their shit out. Sound familiar? It is – we’ve seen this storyline more than enough times over the last 25 years. However, despite numerous glaring issues, the film turns out to be quite entertaining.
The loosely constructed storyline follows three high schoolers in the town of BFE: Ian, preoccupied with caring for his dying Grandpa; Ellie, living in a meth house while trying to protect her baby sister; and Ellie’s boyfriend Zack, who must deal with his attraction to his friend’s mother. Sound like a lot? Just you wait, we’re not done! We still have to throw in Tom, the Korean kid battling against the “old ways” of his stern father; a scraggly crew of drug dealers; and a horde of other teenage boys that are buddies with our leading crew.
Telford has attempted to create a slice-of-life style flick that draws parallels between the intersecting lives of everyone in the town. And largely, he succeeds. The dialogue is witty, the scenes with the boys remind me of my own high school adventures, and there are enough characters to fill a movie three times the film’s length. Which actually turns out to be the problem with this cute little movie: it needs to be three times as long to successfully fit that many stories.
In the first half of the film, we see missed moments happen again and again –scenes that try to be both funny and poignant instead have to rely on the barrage of jokes flying throughout every scene, because with so many characters to get to, we can’t possibly get enough screen time with each to care about them. True, the jokes are well thought out, and everything rolled along relatively seamlessly, but I found myself wanting more from the first half of the film than giggles.
Things start to pack a bit of a punch as the movie progresses. We get a few brilliantly performed villains and start to feel for these teens stuck in a dead-end town. We do wish they would stop stating – very obviously – that they are stuck in a dead-end town… but no matter.
As a whole, the film did about 75% of what it set out to do. The town was there, the characters were there, the clichés were there, and the jokes were certainly there. I was rarely bored, and when I was, the kickass soundtrack was always there to distract me. Telford’s use of close camera shots was aesthetically pleasing, and though the ending was cheesy, it fit with the fluffiness of the movie as a whole.
What I missed from the film were the gut-punches, the investment in the brilliantly witty characters, the desire to watch them succeed and the hurt when they did not. The problem with throwing all of the moments in instead of selecting the best ones is that the audience comes away with none of them. In short, everything was there – just too much of it. The bottom line: Despite the film’s overall disjointedness and Telford’s desire to cram six storylines into a 90-minute film, the witty dialogue and killer soundtrack made the piece a very enjoyable bit of fluff. Go check it out!
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.
As concerns have recently reemerged over the level of violence in the South Seattle area, the Emerald spoke with Seattle City Councilman Bruce Harrell, who chairs the city’s Public Safety Committee, and who also recently led a community discussion on violence reduction at the Southeast Seattle Senior Center. Councilman Harrell currently resides in South Seattle.
Emerald: You recently led a community forum on the topic of violence prevention in the South Seattle area. Community Meetings, as they relate to violence, are dismissed by many as a “token” response that rarely ever results in any action being taken. Why should residents have cause for optimism after this particular meeting?
Bruce Harrell: First of all we are developing an actionable plan that we should be able to announce this month. We’re putting not only resources behind it, but best practices we’ve taken from other cities, as well as some creative ideas about how to protect our community in the South End of Seattle. So my attitude about meetings like that are, number one, I try to make sure that we can talk about everything, including things our own community can do. An example would be that one East African attendant spoke up and said that: “You know, I don’t see East Africans here and you need to do better outreach to make sure that my community is represented at these kinds of meetings.” I told him that he was right, and that we would do everything possible to do that, but I added: “You need to do the same thing. You need to figure out, how we can reach your community, as we have tried to reach out.” We established an immigrant/refugee commission, specifically for that purpose. We now have an East African person in our Police Academy, which we’re proud of.
That’s a prime example to me of, when people are demanding that others do things, that they feel empowered to do it themselves. I live by a quote: “You either accept things the way they are, or you accept responsibility for changing them.” So, I think that the meeting was a very good one. It gave people the chance to meet our police officers and to let them know that we do care about South Seattle, and that they do have leaders who are developing plans to protect our community.
Emerald: Some people say that the easy remedy to violence in the area is to simply have more police officers around, however, an expanded police presence is a very polarizing issue amongst South Seattle residents. How can it be assured that police officers are viewed as actual partners with the community in fostering a safer South Seattle?
BH: The fact of the matter is that we can not have police officers on every corner arresting kids for just standing around being who they are. We also have to give our own community leaders the tools to empower themselves.
I think that there are people who have come from the street life, and have found a way to overcome it. They have dealt with the negative messaging that they have received in their lives and now are giving back and can help us improve our communities. I think that as an investment strategy we need to know who these individuals and groups are, and we need to double down on them. Again, we all know that we can’t arrest ourselves out of all the problems we have. We need to flood the streets with these kinds of good folks.
I also think that our officers need to be better trained to build community trust, and community relations at every opportunity. I recently attended a meeting at Rainier Beach High School, and I watched a couple of officers stand by the hallway and simply watch the crowd for a long period of time, to then only walk out of the school and get right into their car. What I wanted to impress upon the officers is that this is the time you build community, and public trust. So I want to see more officers, like Captain John Hayes, who seems to know everyone’s name in the community, and who can walk around and mix it up. Because when we couple that with the right kind of outreach, we can move the needle. The other component is that the “no snitch”policy is a cancer to our community, and when we see shootings, we need to be able to break that. What has been effective in some other cities is to get high profile spokespeople, athletes, celebrities, people that come from the community, to help us change that cultural norm and that has to be very intentional when we are losing these lives.
Emerald: How do you think the city can empower organizations that are currently working in South Seattle to address the public safety issue?
BH: Right now I’m trying to figure out what organizations have the ability to scale up, and provide us some capacity to move the needle in terms of cultural norms, and can really make a difference. So, I think the first thing we need to do is take an inventory of these organizations and invest in them. The city’s role then is to be the quarterback or the facilitator in allowing these organizations to do what they do best, and that is reaching the community and changing the conversation, so that communities can feel empowered to protect themselves.
Emerald: Economic Development has often been trumpeted as a silver bullet for public safety concerns around South Seattle, however, many people view it as a “trojan horse” for gentrification. You would be hard pressed to find a resident who wouldn’t love all of South Seattle to be a consistently safe and vibrant place, but they would also love to still afford to reside there when that happens. Could you address that issue?
BH: I think it first starts with a vision, and that vision has to be described with some level of specificity. So if I was to describe a great vision for South Seattle it would be that it remains affordable, so that you wouldn’t see huge seven figure homes in these areas with very few affordable homes and it would be safe. so I don’t think that you compromise price just because it becomes safe. That’s where the beauty of small business comes into play. You have to have a barbershop, a pizza place, a small restaurant, or a store where you can buy clothing. You have to have a vibrant small business atmosphere that, again, is safe and has parking, that you can use transit to get there. It has to be vibrant, so that anyone, from any part of town, feels comfortable going there. A great example is the resident led resurgence going on in Hillman City.
You don’t have that vibrancy in some areas of South Seattle. The medical cannabis dispensary is not the kind of small business that attracts a lot of patrons; they only attract a certain kind of patron. So the vision is of safe, active, vibrant, small business development, affordable housing, open space, parks that are activated, police officers who walk and ride bikes around, that’s a good community and an affordable community.
Emerald: With our potential police chief, Kathleen O’Toole, being an outsider to the city, many have questioned if a person who lacks a familiarity with the area can really hope to address the concerns of South Seattle. What is your feeling on that?
BH: I would have absolutely loved to have had a chief who knows all parts of our city, in particular the South End, but we don’t have that. The mayor made it clear that it was his preference to go outside the existing culture, and I accept that. So now, what’s most important is that Chief O’Toole gets the intel needs and that she has actual experience with dealing with some of the roughest neighborhoods in the country, and she does. I sat in on her interview panel, and that was exactly my line of inquiry. She spent a lot of time overseas as well, and I wanted to make sure that she had the credibility and experience in dealing with some of the tougher areas, and I’m fully convinced she does. In fact I think she will shine in that regard. She will have a learning curve to know the players in the community and so forth, but I think she is a quick learner and I think we’ll be very pleased with her ability to adjust.
Emerald: There’s a lot of conversation that if Rainier Beach, Skyway, Othello, etc, where instead Fremont or Wallingford, the type of violence and crime that’s been experienced wouldn’t be accepted by the city. What can be done to fix the perception that there is a divide in what the city tolerates in certain areas in comparison to others?
BH: If you walk other neighborhoods, and parts of this city, as I do, such as Lake City Way, University District, Pioneer Square, you will hear the exact same thing, that conditions are intolerable, yet the city leaders do not make the right level of investments into those areas. The fact of the matter is using federal funds, state funds, and city funds, we should again double down on the South End, because of the rates of poverty, the rates of unemployment, the graduation rates that aren’t where we need them to be, and I think that while we can greatly improve that, we don’t have leaders who are neglectful of that part of town.
I go back to what I said earlier, for those people who want more attention and resources, join me in making sure we get them. a lot of time, when I do my inventory organizations in the community, I ask: “What do you need? How can we help you succeed?”
As someone who sees these drive bys and shootings, I understand the frustrations people have, and I don’t mean to minimize them, but many of us have been dealing with them for 30 to 40 years, and I think it’s symptomatic of what’s happening in our country. You notice in almost every city, in every state, you have under invested areas, but I’m very optimistic that we’re putting strategies in place to improve them. Cleveland High School is a great example of that. The graduation rates have gone up 20 percent and the PTA has broken records in fundraising! So there are things that are rising in the right direction and what sets us back is another dead body found in the street.
Editor’s Note: The Emerald was extended an invitation to cover the Seattle International Film Festival. As our arts reportage serves the dual purpose of showcasing the amazing array of artist and their projects, who reside within the South Seattle area, and also to draw attention to unique artistic works which are rarely highlighted elsewhere, yet have the potential to be enriching cultural experiences for our readers, The Emerald accepted the opportunity to cover a few select films playing at the festival which we felt would be of particular interest to our readership.
by Mary Hubert
The opening of Obama Mama began with a black and white picture of Stanley Ann Dunham amidst audio recordings of people lauding her intelligence and spirit. As the video progressed, I realized immediately that this was going to constitute the bulk of the film. The first hour of the film consisted entirely of interviews with Dunham’s old classmates, recounting how smart, curious and progressive she was through a combination of anecdotes and a very, very extensive history of the civil rights movement. Though the film did an adequate job of beating into the audience that Dunham was, for being born and raised primarily in Texas, progressive and a mental force to be reckoned with, as an audience member I felt inclined to announce, “Okay, I got it!”
The history of the 1950s-1970s, as well as interviews with the same five high school classmates, was repeated ad nauseum, and I found myself wondering whether the director had placed any faith in her audience that they had knowledge of basic history. The persistent repetition of basic facts was drilled into our brains still more thoroughly through the use of short animated sequences to further clarify the points being made. For example, a drawing of a black and a white hand joining to create a cartoon baby was used when an interviewee spoke of Dunham and Barack Obama Sr.’s marriage. The combination of illustration, repetitive interviews, and historical facts succeeded in creating a strong picture of who Dunham was as a young woman, but the information that was relayed could have been achieved in half the time that the movie utilized.
Some of the most interesting aspects of the film centered on Dunham’s work campaigning for the rights of Indonesian female laborers. Though the film did effectively detail this it was again with the over-thoroughness that made me uninterested by the time this chapter was over. As a result, we didn’t get to her life’s work until over an hour into the film. This had the effect of boring me enough that I was much less invested in Dunham’s fascinating work in Indonesia than I ordinarily would have been. That being said, the section of the film dealing with her work in Indonesia was the strongest aspect of the piece, mostly due to the stand alone strength of her labor. The Indonesian culture that was detailed in the film was additionally fascinating, but again had little to do with Dunham and felt once more like a history lesson.
Ultimately, the film felt as if the director did not have enough material to fill an entire 90 minute SIFF piece, so instead of shortening the work, she simply dragged out each section to fill the time. This was even apparent in the vagueness of the interview candidates – many of their points centered on speculating what Dunham “would have done” or “would have liked”, as if they did not know her in the slightest – and in fact, many did not. Additionally, they used the same five photographs of her, as if they did not have any others. Although the film made a bold choice in not involving Obama in its production – it focused on Dunham’s work by itself rather than her relationship with the President – the result was a dearth of material that made what they did have too lengthy and overly sentimental. By the time the film got to Dunham’s 1995 death, rather than being saddened by the passing of a truly remarkable woman I was relieved that this would be the final montage I had to sit through before the end of the film.
The bottom line: A truly remarkable life of a wonderful woman was made boring by over-explanation, lack of information, and pointless montages that took away from, rather than added to, the uniqueness of Dunham’s life. The documentary was unsuccessful in creating a compelling story out of her life – if you’re interested in Obama’s mama, Obama Mama might not be the best source.
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.
SouthEast Effective Development (SEED) and Artspace are partnering with Sound Transit to present “Connect the Dots,” a free neighborhood art event — celebrating community, culture, entertainment and sustainable transportation. Connect the Dots will take place on Saturday, June 28th from 11am to 3pm starting at the Mt. Baker Light Rail Station Plaza (2415 South McClellan Street, Seattle, WA 98144), where many of Artspace Mt. Baker Loft’s commercial spaces will be open to the public (2915 Rainier Avenue S., Seattle, WA, 98144). Also—street food, live music, and skateboarding demonstrations by Skate Like A Girl can be found in the Plaza.
LQ Lion Dance will make an appearance and at 12:00pm, the Chaotic Noise Marching Band will lead the way in the “Connect the Dots” parade, followed by Boys and Girls Scout Troops heading south on Rainier Ave towards Walden Avenue and then to the Claremont Apartments (3333 Rainier Avenue South, Seattle WA 98144) for more activities. OneSevenNine, a local artist who focuses on color, folklore, imagination, and fairytales, will be teaching art classes in one of the Claremont storefronts. There will also be a pop-up arts and crafts fair showcasing local designers, record collectors, vintage clothing outfitters, handmade goods, and more. DJ Wizdumb will be spinning records in the Plaza while specially selected food trucks from the SouthEnd serve up some fine eats!
SEED is a non-profit community development corporation with the mission to improve the quality of life in Southeast Seattle by creating partnerships and inspiring investments in housing, arts and economic development – with a special focus on residents with fewer opportunities and resources. In 2011, SEED developed the Claremont Apartments, a new mixed use project on Rainier Avenue South — offering affordable living units and commercial space.
Artspace is a non-profit real estate developer whose mission is to create, foster, and preserve affordable space for artists and art organizations. Artspace Mt. Baker Lofts opens in June, and includes 57 units of affordable apartments for artists and their families and a commercial ground floor of community-focused businesses.
Together SEED and Artspace, along with Sound Transit will start the transformation of Rainier Avenue South into an “urban village” where friends, family, commuters and community members can easily indulge in an affordable, safe, and sustainable lifestyle.
As an Asian-American therapist with a multi-cultural focus, I can attest that an ethnic person’s identity can be mired in self-hatred and self-loathing during the process of integrating into mainstream American society.
In therapeutic circles there’s a process known as the Minority Identity Development Model. The first phase is one called the “Pre-Encounter Stage” where a minority member devalues himself, his ethnicity (i.e. culture, customs, the way he/she looks) in comparison to the accepted, mainstream culture. In the U.S., minorities may think the country or region they live in is anti-minority or non-minority and may act or behave in ways to be more “American” as a means to fit in.
The complexities related to Elliot Rodger’s mental health is vast and speculative but from his writings it’s clear it hinges on three prongs: race, class, and gender. Mainstream media has expounded on the class and male entitlement aspect of Rodger’s life but very little is mentioned on the racial component.
If anything, it seems race is the last subject they want to address. While his Asian background didn’t directly lead to his carnage, according to his manifesto it was clearly one of the contributing challenges he faced as someone who struggled with his mixed Chinese heritage as early as nine years old.
“On top of this was the feeling that I was different because I am of mixed race. I am half White, half Asian, and this made me different from the normal fully-white kids that I was trying to fit in with…my first act was to ask my parents to allow me to bleach my hair blonde. I always envied and admired blonde-haired people, they always seemed so much more beautiful.”
Rodger’s desire to fit into mainstream society and be accepted as a minority during this vulnerable stage can not be understated or ignored (like it currently is by the media). He was looking for acceptance from numerous sources: blonde women, his father, and peers but felt rejected or “not good enough” without the acknowledgment that one the biggest rejections he was grappling was his rejection of self.
His struggle while ostensibly looking like a young man plagued with a number of mental health issues should not be relegated to that classification alone. Instead, we as a society need to understand Rodger was a young man who was stuck in a process where he was not able to integrate his ethnic Chinese side with his Caucasian side. His writing of his ethnic self-hatred is evident even if it’s cloaked by his veiled attempt to bolster himself with his grandiosity (itself a defense mechanism).
I came across this Asian guy who was talking to a white girl. The sight of that filled me with rage. I always felt as if white girls thought less of me because I was half-Asian, but then I see this white girl at the party talking to a full-blooded Asian. I never had that kind of attention from a white girl! And white girls are the only girls I’m attracted to, especially the blondes. How could an ugly Asian attract the attention of a white girl, while a beautiful Eurasian like myself never had any attention from them?
This is why his race matters. Because we as Asian-Americans hurt knowing he was never able to get to the second phase of the minority identity development known as the “Encounter Stage” where an ethnic minority learns to see himself as valuable, loved, and cherished not in spite of his culture but because of it. In other words, minorities in this stage learn to embrace their heritage despite the surrounding that may convey contrary messages.
This explanation isn’t to simplify Elliot Rodger’s malicious actions, rather it’s to shed light and understanding to the public that race matters.
Sam Louie is an Asian-American psychotherapist with a private practice in Seattle and Bellevue. He focuses on issues of culture, race, and addictions. He is also a Los Angeles Emmy-Award Winning former t.v. news journalist and can be reached at:www.samlouiemft.com. firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SamLouieSpeaks
The flourishing Hillman City business district reminds one of a tenacious wild flower, sprouting up between the cracks in the sidewalk. The energy of the neighborhood and its local entrepreneurs is in stark contrast to the derelict buildings and deserted businesses one might have previously rushed past on their way to the well-established Columbia City business district scant blocks away. The hope of this fledgling strip of independent entrepreneurs is that you will forgo your familiar, fast paced visit to Starbucks and instead take a few moments to chat up your neighbors at the Tin Umbrella or sample the seasonal menu at the Union Bar while testing your trivia knowledge (note that a yoga class at Rocket Crossfit may be in order afterwards). It may take a few moments longer to get your coffee but as you leave you’ll feel like you just left a friend’s living room and yes, their baby is indeed eating Cheerios off the floor.
The newest additions to the growing business community in this neighborhood include a home furnishing store & a soon to open rotisserie chicken restaurant with outdoor seating. These join, among other neighbors, a thrift store, a halal pizza café, a martial arts academy and a local brewery. Nestled amongst these locally grown endeavors is a gem of an idea, the Hillman City Collaboratory (http://hillmancitycollaboratory.org/).
The Collaboratory, self-described as an “Incubator for Social Change” offers shared office space, mixing chamber (a large, multi-purpose area), learning kitchen, community garden and drop in center. Drop in hours are Monday through Friday from 10-2 while partners have access anytime. The idea is that dreamers and doers have a place to go, echoing the vibrant spirit of the neighborhood. The community building HCC has become a pick up location for a local CSA (http://www.farmigo.com/join/growingwashington/summer2014), offered organic gardening classes, hosted fundraisers and are possible future partners with Families of Color Seattle (http://focseattle.com/). FOC Seattle hopes to partner with the HCC to open a Cultural Cornerstone Café in the fall, hosting multilingual family events for the community. The Hillman City Collaboratory seems to represent the very earnest spirit of regrowth throughout the neighborhood, bringing light back to what had been in shadows.
Robin Boland is a contributing columnist, South Seattle Enthusiast, and is often referred to as “little bird” by friends of hers with heights over 5 ft 7
Editor’s Note: The article was heavily influenced by the following poem
The Rose That Grew From Concrete
Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk without having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.
Gems is a column devoted to spotlighting the various denizens who contribute to the rich mosaic that is the South Seattle area.
Who: Drina Turner
Avocation: Library Assistant
Favorite Area of South Seattle: Skyway
Where You Would Know Her From: Perched vigilantly behind Skyway Library’s front desk, ready to combat belligerent loudness and delinquent book returns.
What’s your favorite thing to do in South Seattle?
Working as a Library Assistant. It’s not a passive job as some might think. It’s actually quite dynamic. You get a diverse range of thoughts and ideas when you’re helping people with their problems. The clientele changes throughout the day. In the morning you have job seekers and people who work nights, along with the elderly. The library becomes somewhat of their social scene and a place for entertainment. Then in the afternoon, you have students coming from school and in the evening you have people just getting off from work, so throughout the day you have various needs being met. You many times become, “that person,” for people to talk to when they don’t have anyone else. Sometimes just “being there” helps them a great deal.
So what is the difference between a librarian and a library assistant?
It can be confusing! A librarian is someone who has their master’s degree in library science. A library assistant is someone who has at least a high school diploma.
Are there any amusing stories you can share as a library assistant?
One that stands out had to do with someone forgetting their library card and not having any identification. Usually when people come up to the front desk and need their library card, but don’t have any way of identifying themselves we ask them a series of questions to ascertain that we are giving the correct person the correct information.There was this young lady who came to the desk and didn’t have any identification but she said, “but my name is tattooed here!” and then proceeded to pull her shirt down to reveal this large tattoo of her name on her neck. I was thinking, “Well you more than likely are who you say you are… but that doesn’t exactly meet our verification criteria.”
How do you get on a library assistants good side besides being a lover of silence in the library?
One of the things I find extremely helpful when you visit a library is to just approach whoever is sitting behind the desk as someone who really is there to help you. The best thing to do is not assume that you’re going to be met with resistance or negativity, that way your interaction goes lot smoother. That’s works so much better than giving them a hard time for no apparent reason. And yes, as librarians and library assistants, we do understand that there are policies in place that we may not all agree with, but they’re in place for a reason, and part of it is to protect your own confidentiality. If we just gave your information out to anybody who just knew enough to get it, then you would be here for a completely different reason and not a good one. It’s important to assume first that you can get help if you ask for it, and there’s never a need to escalate a situation if you are not getting the help you want.
What’s the strangest request you’ve ever received at the library?
Well, this is a broad answer, but people tend to think that we know everything, as if we are a walking Google (laughter). So, people think we have mastered the most recent version of Microsoft Publisher, or that it’s second nature to us to decipher complex federal and county law, so request can run the whole gamut.
What 3 books do you recommend people read right this very moment?
Good Lord Bird by James McBride, which is going to be made into a movie starring Jaden Smith (Will Smith’s son).
Dear Girls Above Me by Charlie McDowell, about a young man who can hear the conversations of the women who live above him, with many of them being true to life.
Giant George by Dave Nasser, about a Dog who is larger than any great dane
How do you think South Seattle can be improved?
I think that there is a lot of potential for development here. My feeling is that areas go through periods of time of vitality and depression before they are revitalized, and I have a feeling that this area is on the upswing.
I’m hoping that when people see the new (Skyway) Library being built that it will draw more commerce to the area of Skyway, so that people have more choices for shopping needs and anything else. Many of the residents in this area are at a financial disadvantage in comparison to other areas, and as a result of that there are several services that are lacking. I hope that the county finally decides where this area belongs, as right now it is unincorporated, neither tomato or tomatoe, in not belonging to Renton or Seattle. There is much more that can be done in this area and I’m hoping it will soon experience a growth spurt.
Finally, people should go to the library because?
There’s a lot that the library can provide,at no cost to you other than having an ID card. All we ask is that you have picture ID if you are 18 and over, you can come here to request movies, books (in various formats), as well as having access to different programs we offer that are inclusive to young and old. We are currently making a push for health and trying to offer classes and presentations, where people are here to talk about what you can do to get healthy, foods and exercises. We try to challenge the thinking that the library is just a place where you can come and be quiet. We have a game day that is geared towards young teens and programs for small children. This is your tax dollars at work for you. If you need help and there is no place that you think you can go, come here and find out. The library of your youth, is not the library of today! In lieu of a photo Drina preferred that we use a picture of a bird as it perches vigilantly
Editor’s Note: Race Matters is a new column which provides a nuanced take on race and its impact on the culture of the South Seattle area.
by Sam Louie,M.A., LMHC
Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA team Dallas Mavericks provoked controversy following his interview with Inc. Magazine regarding his views on race and culture.
“I mean, we’re all prejudiced in one way or another. If I see a black kid in a hoodie and it’s late at night, I’m walking to the other side of the street. And if on that side of the street, there’s a guy that has tattoos all over his face — white guy, bald head, tattoos everywhere — I’m walking back to the other side of the street. And the list goes on of stereotypes that we all live up to and are fearful of. So in my businesses, I try not to be hypocritical. I know that I’m not perfect. I know that I live in a glass house, and it’s not appropriate for me to throw stones.”
His comment comes after the NBA’s actions against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught on audiotape making racially charged comments. The NBA banned Sterling for life and fined him 2.5 million dollars after he told a female friend, V. Stiviano, not to bring Black people to Clippers games. Sterling is in the midst of having the NBA force him to sell his team as well.
Some have accused Cuban of being a bigot but I think this misses the point. In the interview he adds, “While we all have our prejudices and bigotries, we have to learn that it’s an issue that we have to control.” Control and how we handle our prejudices is the operative word here. Just because Cuban has prejudices doesn’t make him racist. Being aware of race, culture, context and the implications it poses to us personally is much more valuable than people ignoring the subject matter by hiding behind the veil of being blind to color when they say, “I don’t see color”. What these people are implying is that their decisions and how they treat someone aren’t based on another person’s ethnicity, skin tone, or appearance. I believe for the most part, Americans don’t discriminate in hiring practices, housing, and other significant racial issues, but when it comes to issues of socialization and our own personal comfort zone, we do discriminate and have our prejudices.
Despite our best attempts to not think about race, there will be times and situations where race, culture, image, and stereotypes form our decision-making. I believe if we deny this part of ourselves, we deny our humanity. We are at our core, primal creatures. We make automatic decisions that are unconscious, reflexive, and based on our need for survival.
There’s an almond-shaped part of our brain in the temporal lobe, called the amygdala, that is hard-wired to any threat (real or imagined). The amygdala, controls autonomic responses associated with fear, arousal, and emotional stimulation. This is the “fight or flight” portion that we hear about and as much as we may want to turn this part off in the name of cultural sensitivity, the neurons that fire in this region are automatic and can’t be shut down. Now I believe we can learn and grow in our sensitivity to threats but that takes much effort since what you perceive as a threat is based on your upbringing and as adults hard to change without significant work.
For example, I grew up in South Seattle and graduated from Rainier Beach high school. I lived, played, and went to school with African-Americans for my formative years. Consequently, in my adult life I gravitated towards Black journalists when I was working in t.v. news because I felt most comfortable around them. This didn’t make me a racist but since I never knew or was surrounded by “middle-aged, white men” growing up (except teachers), I had no context of how I would be treated and hence saw white men as more threatening to my sense of security. I remember at one point, my girlfriend at the time asked me, “Why do you only hang out with Black people from work?” I got defensive because I wasn’t purposely ignoring White folks but had just gravitated towards African-Americans since I thought had more in common with them.
This same logic applies when I’m in other urban areas around the U.S. I don’t have fear being in ethnic communities (i.e. Asian, Black, Latino, etc.) because there’s a certain familiarity I’m accustomed to. However, if this isn’t your upbringing you’re going to feel uncomfortable, wary, and possibly scared or fearful. The same applies to people who present a certain stereotypical image. Whether it’s the stereotype of an Asian gang-banger, a White Supremacist, or a Black thug, I know for myself these images create different responses to me depending on the context. In all the conversations and stories I hear about race, context is often left out. Context is vital because context is what make the amygdala in the brain is searching for on a real, everyday, moment-by-moment level.
For example, if there’s a group of young White men with tattoos and shaved heads walking around South Seattle, I’d think they were lost and this wouldn’t trigger my amygdala as a source of threat. Same thing if they were walking around downtown Bellevue. However, if I’m in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, a city close to the original headquarters of the Aryan Nations, and saw this same group walking down the street, my fight and flight response would be screaming at me. I’d be foolish to ignore it. This same response comes up when I see Asians who dress and look like gang members driving or hanging around South Seattle. I am vigilant not to look at them in any way that could be misconstrued to provoke them. Am I being racist? I don’t think so because based on the context, it’s simply my sympathetic nervous going into autopilot.
I will acknowledge there are times when clients I work with have undergone significant childhood stressors and threats to safety (i.e. consistently getting bullied, beat-up, teased, etc.) that in adulthood they remain in a hyper-aroused state of fight or flight around men of any ethnicity. Even if the perpetrators were of one race, the level trauma can be so damaging that any man, regardless of race, is seen as a threat. The same level of trauma happens to women who are raped. If race was a role then there may be extra sensitivity to the offender’s race but the damage can be so encompassing that the women don’t discriminate on race per se but the entire male gender could be seen as a threat.
Issues of race need to be further explored instead of simply compartmentalized or having people ostracized for their views. Honest discussion, openness, education, and socialization can break down our preconceived notions of those we know little of or know only through caricatures or stereotypes. It behooves us all to know where we fall on the continuum of prejudice, racism, and bigotry.
Sam Louie is an Asian-American psychotherapist with a private practice in Seattle and Bellevue. He focuses on issues of culture, race, and addictions. He is also an Emmy-Award Winning former t.v. news journalist and can be reached at: www.samlouiemft.com. email@example.com and on Twitter @SamLouieSpeaks
Amplifying the Authentic Narratives of South Seattle