Category Archives: Arts & Culture

‘Flying Blind!’ Shares the Everyday Experiences of Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals

by Mark Van Streefkerk


Blind or visually impaired (BVI) people navigate a world built for sighted people everyday, but how often do sighted people truly see these individuals or understand their experiences? The audio play Flying Blind! offers a candid look at life for BVI people, with plenty of insights for sighted folks to take note of. Produced by South Seattle-based Anything is Possible Theatre Company (AIP) and written by and with the blind and low-vision community, the play is a series of audio scenes, sounds, original songs, and music that together illustrate some situations BVI people encounter — situations that can be frustrating, misunderstood, or even comical. 

“Please don’t tell me that I’m an inspiration just for getting out the door today. / Can you see that the main obstacle is not what I can’t see, but a society that’s not set up for people like me?” asks the opening song in Flying Blind! 

“Our society is not set up for people who have blind or low vision — or any kind of disability really,” said Kathleen Tracy, composer and music director for Flying Blind! “[BVI] people are amazingly resourceful and can totally live their lives [in spite of] impediments, some of which are hilarious and some of which are infuriating.”

Continue reading ‘Flying Blind!’ Shares the Everyday Experiences of Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals

POETRY: Go Back to Africa

by Helen Collier


“Go back to Africa!” the white man screamed in my face as if to say this country belonged only to his race.

“I would go back,” I said to him, “if I could only go alone, but I must take you with me.”  

“What do you mean take me with you?” he said. “I’m already living in my country.”

“All your genes and your DNA must go along with me as well as your white skin, you know.”

“And what, might I ask, does that mean?” he asked. 

“You cannot imagine,” I told him, “how devastating it was for some of us when we discovered we were not white but Black.

“Our DNA from the man who caused our conception, even our skin color, indicated that we were white while the genes of our mothers said that we were not.

“Yes, I would love to go back to the motherland, but I’m afraid you would have to come along.  All those genes of yours you have given to us from the pleasures you enjoyed from using our Black female bodies from centuries back must come along with me as well and spill their deeds upon that land, which most likely would send us all to hell.”


Helen Collier says writing has been in her spirit since her mother placed a pencil in her left hand and told her, “God made you a left-handed writer for a reason; it’s up to you to share with the world what that reason is.”  She resides in Auburn, Washington.

📸 Featured Image: Original photo by CreateHERStock via Nappy.co used under a Creative Commons 1.0 license. Image transformation by Emerald staff.

Before you move on to the next story …
Please consider that the article you just read was made possible by the generous financial support of donors and sponsors. The Emerald is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet with the mission of offering a wider lens of our region’s most diverse, least affluent, and woefully under-reported communities. Please consider making a one-time gift or, better yet, joining our Rainmaker Family by becoming a monthly donor. Your support will help provide fair pay for our journalists and enable them to continue writing the important stories that offer relevant news, information, and analysis. 
Support the Emerald!

Self-Love Champion, Purrdie Burrdie, Is Here to Help Kids Spread Their Wings

by Bri Little


Danitra Hunter has declared that after years in the making, 2021 is finally the year of Purrdie Burrdie. Hunter, an illustrator and preschool teacher for the YMCA in West Seattle, has been working on the Purrdie Burrdie brand for nearly a decade, acquiring various copyrights on her logo and her image of the stylish skateboarding bird. Now she’s finally ready to send her delightfully colorful children’s book out into the world. 

Purrdie Burrdie I Love Myself, Can You See? helps children, particularly Black and Brown kids, how to love and have confidence in themselves. The book teaches affirmations and a 30-Day Self-Love Challenge — fun activities that encourage readers to treat themselves as worthy and explore what makes them unique. 

Purrdie Burrdie was born from a coloring page that Hunter created and shared with children she worked with. As an educator, she realized that there was a need. Children, especially Black and Brown children, were not used to seeing themselves as beings who are worthy of their own love. 

“A friend of mine who works in a YMCA program told me that kids, little Black girls, were denying their skin color … That just broke my heart,” said Hunter, “That’s really why I decided to dive deeper into [Puurdie Buurdie’s] story. To represent Black people, to represent us. Because I didn’t have a character as a kid growing up.”

Continue reading Self-Love Champion, Purrdie Burrdie, Is Here to Help Kids Spread Their Wings

PONGO POETRY: Hole For A Heart

Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. For over 20 years, Pongo has mentored poetry with children at the Child Study Treatment Center (CSTC), the only state-run psychiatric hospital for youth in Washington State. Many CSTC youth are coping with severe emotional, behavioral, and mental health challenges. Approximately 40% of youth arrive at CSTC having been court ordered to get treatment; however, by the end of their stay, most youth residents become voluntary participants. Pongo believes there is power in creative expression, and articulating one’s pain to an empathetic audience. Through this special monthly column in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald, Pongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience, and creative capacity of youth whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. To enjoy more of the writing you see reflected below, order a copy of The Story of My Heart, Pongo’s 16th anthology of youth poetry.


Continue reading PONGO POETRY: Hole For A Heart

Verbal Oasis Spoken Word Festival Offers Creativity and Celebration for All Ages

by Chamidae Ford


September 3 marks the beginning of the first annual Verbal Oasis Spoken Word Festival. The four-day event represents a multigenerational depiction of art — from poetry and dancing to music and visual art. The festival allows attendees space to go beyond observing by providing workshops for them to engage. 

The free event, located at the Rainier Beach Community Center’s outdoor pavilion, is being hosted by Monique Franklin (Verbal Oasis). The festival is supported by the Seattle Park District and Created Commons, a program of the Office of Arts & Culture Seattle. 

“I’ve been performing in Seattle for over 15 years now, but in the process of being a performance artist, I’ve also been producing shows for that length of time. And I produce shows from children all the way up through adults with a specific focus on bringing together a multi-gender generational community of Black artists,” Franklin said. “So in some ways, you could say that this festival is about 15 years in the making.”

Beginning on Sept. 3 and running from 6:30 to 9 p.m. will be the Muezz Poetry Show. Each night stars a different lineup of local poets and performers and will feature the Seattle Civic Poet Jourdan Imani Keith, Amber Flame, Robert Lashley, and many more. There will also be an open mic portion of each evening, with a writing workshop before the show to allow attendees to create something to share. 

“There is the invitation to engage in art. So when [people] come, we’ll have some art activities that they can participate in, including being a part of the show. …” Franklin said. “What they can expect is a warm welcome, some great music, some of the best artists in Seattle in painting, dancing, and spoken-word poetry.”

Creating a multigenerational festival was very important to Franklin. That’s why on Sept. 5 and 6, the Inspired Child’s open mic from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. will encourage children from 2 to 12 years old to take the stage. 

“Young people will be featured in those events to give them opportunities to build their performance resumes, perform, and curate their own performances for an audience,” Franklin said. 

This weekend is not just for performing but discussing the power of spoken word, art, and community. Franklin challenges those in attendance to come with an open mind and be willing to participate. 

“I think [the festival] is gonna be an experience,” Franklin said. “I would love it for people to come open to that experience and leave inspired. I think art is healing and art is also transformative and it allows us to learn from others. And so I think to be engaged in a community where everybody is participating in that is truly a give and take, whether the audience is choosing to become a part of a show in the open mic or if they’re just choosing to give that energy and attention to the artist who’s on stage, they’re a part of it. I think what people can expect is to feel.”

Events like these also represent a cost-effective way to explore different artistic routes before investing deeply in them. Cipher Goings from Northwest Tap Connection will be teaching free tennis shoe tap lessons. There will be writing workshops and painting sessions, allowing families to explore whether they are truly interested in pursuing an artistic path. 

“It gives exposure so that families and individuals can say, wow, I actually liked that. I actually want to invest in this now,” Franklin said. “Exposing people to art creates an opportunity for them to activate the artist that I think is in all of us and find the road that best suits them.”

The festival represents an opportunity to get outside with your family and connect with your community through art. The weekend offers a wide range of artists across different disciplines and generations expressing themselves. 

“Being able to celebrate and to share and keep an open mind provides an opportunity to really share your experiences with other people and for other people to hear what’s going on in the hearts and the minds of their community members,” Franklin said. “Activating these [public] spaces is critical, especially right now.”

Admission to the festival is free, but there will be capacity limitations to allow for social distancing. You can secure a spot by going online and claiming a ticket for the Muezz Poetry Show and Inspired Child Open Mic before the event. Masks are required for admittance and attendees are asked to wear them throughout the entirety of the event. Temperature checks and contact-tracing will also be done upon entrance. 

The community partners of this event are Inspired Child Studios, Northwest Tap Connection, Central District Forum For Arts and Ideas, Seattle Filmmakers of the African Diaspora, Abstract Media, ONYX Fine Arts Collective, and African-American Writers’ Alliance.


Chamidae Ford is a recent journalism graduate of the University of Washington. Born and raised in Western Washington, she has a passion for providing a voice to the communities around her. She has written for The Daily, GRAY Magazine, and Capitol Hill Seattle. Reach her on IG/Twitter: @chamidaeford.

📸 Featured Image: Photo courtesy of Verbal Oasis Spoken Word Festival.

Before you move on to the next story …
Please consider that the article you just read was made possible by the generous financial support of donors and sponsors. The Emerald is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet with the mission of offering a wider lens of our region’s most diverse, least affluent, and woefully under-reported communities. Please consider making a one-time gift or, better yet, joining our Rainmaker Family by becoming a monthly donor. Your support will help provide fair pay for our journalists and enable them to continue writing the important stories that offer relevant news, information, and analysis. 
Support the Emerald!

Local Comedian ‘The Mad Bus Driver’ Returns to the Stage This Sunday

by Chamidae Ford


This Sunday, Sept. 5, Anthony Session, known for his comic career as The Mad Bus Driver, will return to the stage for his show, “The Mad Bus Driver and Friends Are Back!” The performance will take place at the Rainier Arts Center, with J Will hosting and comic J Rock Owens joining the bill. The event will also feature music by DJ Diph

Session, a St. Louis native, is a King County Metro driver by day, and his experiences driving the people of Seattle sparked the creation of his Mad Bus Driver character. Although he began his career in the late ’90s, The Mad Bus Driver was born later. 

Continue reading Local Comedian ‘The Mad Bus Driver’ Returns to the Stage This Sunday

Louis Chinn’s Communal Perspective: Multimedia Artist Brings Creations to West Coast

by Samira George

(This article was originally published by Real Change and has been reprinted under an agreement.)


Since the beginning of Louis Chinn’s art career, he has felt called to make art accessible and free for people from all social standings. It’s one of the philosophies that helps guide him to any new project.

So when an opportunity to install a stainless steel sculpture in front of the entrance of a Plymouth Housing building for folks experiencing long-term homelessness in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District arose, it was an easy decision for Chinn.

“I don’t think art should be something that is only for an elite social group,” Chinn said. “I was very much inspired by the fact that this was going to be a piece that was in a building for homeless people.”

Continue reading Louis Chinn’s Communal Perspective: Multimedia Artist Brings Creations to West Coast

POETRY: A Promise of Love

by Alex Leviton


wrapped softly in an off-white threadbare blanket
with stained yellow satin trim
is a legal document
spun of the finest papyrus
rolled into a delicate shell
burnt edges gilded with flesh
‘you will love hotter than the sun’
it promises
… and it
warns
you will crest a thousand waves
and descend ten thousand feet
look for the starfish hidden in the crevices
they will be your guide
when the waters run dark

Continue reading POETRY: A Promise of Love

Reel Youth Film Camp Introduces BIPOC Kids to the World of Filmmaking

by Chamidae Ford


Last week, the Rainier Arts Center premiered its first BIPOC Youth Film Camp. Reel Youth Film Camp is a week-long program that allows Black and Brown kids, ages 7–11, to learn the ins and outs of filmmaking and explore their creative side. 

The idea for a BIPOC film camp stemmed from program instructors, Tiffany Bennett and Obadiah Freeman, who were feeling disappointed by the lack of diversity at other youth film camps. 

“Originally we started doing camps with the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) and doing those camps was amazing,” Freeman said. “We both love teaching students of all ages of all types, but we recognize that SIFF was really only providing service to a certain demographic because of the network that they help. So we found that there are opportunities to make that opportunity for others as well … I’ve always been inspired by filmmaking and being Black. And that’s kind of what brings all of what I do together and, I think, what we do.” 

Continue reading Reel Youth Film Camp Introduces BIPOC Kids to the World of Filmmaking

FICTION: Fishbowls

by Megan Christy


Mrs. C sprinkled the fish flakes into the bowl. They floated down, down to the rocky bottom. Minos drifted toward the flakes, his elegant fins fluttering in the water. The schoolteacher looked up from the bowl and scanned her home. What would she need for the new school year? What was she allowed to bring? Nothing that can’t be disinfected. That’s what the principal had said. No more carpet in the classroom, no more story time books ’n’ beanbags, no more Holly the Horse for the kids to hug when they were scared. All those things were gone now, replaced with cold tile floors and plexiglass barricades. All to keep the virus at bay.

Continue reading FICTION: Fishbowls