Tag Archives: Community Organizing

After Seven Years of Service, Hillman City Collaboratory Fights to Survive

by Beverly Aarons

I first discovered Hillman City Collaboratory in 2016 while working with housing activists to save a Central District family from displacement — the collaboratory was a space where we could strategize and discuss. The second time I engaged with the space was when I attended a clothing swap in the main mixing room. High-quality clothes were neatly folded into stacks — anyone could grab some pretty decent threads and it didn’t matter if they had money or something to trade. And then there were the films and the talks and the discussions and the various events — social, political, cultural, artistic, and business-related — that I attended at the collaboratory throughout the years. 

But as I approached the Hillman City Collaboratory headquarters on April 30, I could see, even from across Rainier Avenue, that the social change incubator that once teemed with life was completely deserted. This was the final day of the community hub — they had to vacate the premises. An older man, who looked to be in his 60s, stood about 30 feet from the entrance. He smoked a cigarette and peered down the empty sidewalk. As I tugged on the collaboratory door, the man took a final draw on his cigarette and approached me. I wanted to know more about the closing of the collaboratory, I explained. He nodded in understanding as if he had been expecting me and we went inside. 

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An Abolitionist in Olympia: How Kirsten Harris-Talley Became the 37th District’s New Legislator

by Mark Van Streefkerk

Representing the 37th district position 2, newly elected Kirsten Harris-Talley built her campaign and platform by organizing with her neighbors. In fact, she ran for office because members of the community asked her to. The first out, Black, queer femme to serve in the Washington State Legislature, Harris-Talley has spent the last 20 years building movements for progressive change. She was a founding board member at SURGE Reproductive Justice, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, and former program director of Progress Alliance of Washington, as well as being involved in grassroots movements like No New Youth Jail. In 2017, she was the second Black woman ever to serve on the Seattle City Council, where she introduced the first version of JumpStart Seattle, a progressive revenue measure that passed this year to help fund COVID-19 recovery.  

Now that she’s on her way to Olympia, Harris-Talley pledges to be transparent about policies and decisions that affect people in the 37th district through a future podcast, accountability council, and other tools. Her work is informed by aunties and elders in the community, as well as youth-led activism in the South End, where she has lived with her husband and family in Hillman City since 2004. “I’m going to be organizing with my neighbors. It’s the only way we can win,” she said. “Because I think politics is an organizing game. I don’t think it’s an ideas game — it’s an organizing game.”

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Seattle Protests Stand at 150 Days and Counting

by Elizabeth Turnbull 

On Monday night, the cold streets surrounding Westlake Park transformed into an echo chamber of drum beats, footsteps, and chants of “No good cops in a racist system! No bad protesters in a revolution!” as roughly 500 protesters marched to where the protests began in Seattle roughly 150 days before. 

After an anticipatory drumroll, several protesters stood up on the park’s stage and unfurled a banner that read, “You Can’t Stop This Revolution” on one side and “Montgomery Bus Boycott: 381 Days, Seattle BLM Protests: 150 Days” on the other.

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Rahwa Habte Memorial March to the Ballot Box

by Susan Fried

Sounds of cheering rose from the crowd as people lined up to drop their ballots into the ballot box by Garfield Community Center on Saturday, October 24. A group of about 100 people had marched from Pratt Fine Arts Center near 20th and Jackson to the ballot box on 23rd and Cherry to honor the memory of Rahwa Habte, a community organizer and a fierce advocate of voter rights.  

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In Memory of Constance Blakeley: A Transcestor Too Soon

by Jasmine M. Pulido

She was my mentor.

Not in an ethereal, vague way. But in a literal way. She was assigned to me through the Alphabet Alliance of Color’s summer institute where experienced local QTBIPOC (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community organizers pass down their skills to newer ones. We were prompted to pick our top three choices for mentors and, I’ll be honest, Constance Blakeley wasn’t in my top three. My top pick — an Asian American columnist writing about social justice, culture, and equity with a focus on marginalized communities. I thought the best pick for me would be someone with a similar background, in profession or in identity, or both.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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Increased Community Efforts Seek to Thwart Gun Violence in South Seattle

by Jack Russillo

Over the first weekend of October, “close to 140 rounds” were fired in multiple incidents across parts of West and South Seattle. A hit-and-run occurred shortly after the biggest shooting, both events left victims dead.

“That isn’t a normal weekend. This is where we have to call upon our community and say that this violence has to stop,” said Seattle Police Department Interim Chief Adrian Diaz in a panel discussion with Converge Media and South Seattle Emerald on October 8. “There are victims in this. The community is traumatized by the rounds that are constantly being fired.”

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“For A Greater Purpose”: Community Aids in Clean-Up, Pushes Back Against National Narratives About Previous Day’s Protests

by Carolyn Bick

The Emerald wanted to show the community taking care of each other the day after a peaceful demonstration against systemic racism in the nation’s police force was hijacked by, from many accounts of protestors on the ground, white people who attended with the aim of causing destruction. Mayor Jenny Durkan also acknowledged in a statement on Twitter that “much of the violence and destruction, both here and across the country, has been instigated and perpetuated by white men.” 

Not all the people interviewed here were at the protests, but all came out specifically to help their community. The Emerald wanted to capture the range of thoughts and feelings among these people. They are couples with children and without; community organizers and everyday citizens trying to do their part; demonstrators who said they watched up close as police officers incited violence at the previous day’s protest; and people who did not attend the protest, but felt they had to come down, because doing something was better than sitting with their anxiety at home.

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Writer and Organizer Alex Gallo-Brown Grief, Healing, and Masculinity

by Reagan Jackson

Alex Gallo-Brown is a writer and labor organizer who grew up in Ravenna, but went to school in the Central District. He graduated from Garfield High School and went on to get a bachelor of fine arts in Creative Writing from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and a master of arts in English from Georgia State University in Atlanta.

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Civic Salvos: What Is .vs. What Is Possible

We’re stuck!

With all of the options out there to act on our ideals, we are mostly still just looking at 75 different ways we can react.  Media and advocacy groups daily describe things that are going terribly wrong, which means most of us are lingering in the realm of what is.   We look at things from the point of view of the status quo, then decide what choices we have.  This can be a grim way to operate.

Another way to look at the world is through the lens of what would be ideal.  Then we can begin to negotiate between the two, not just pushing against things we don’t like, but picturing what would make our lives better, and working methodically toward them.  This is a more effective, powerful position to take, so I am mystified by why I don’t see more of it.

That is why I want to celebrate three of our city’s movement builders who are taking the time to craft a better world, strategizing for substantial, meaningful change.

  1. Take Back your Time starts with the question, “What do we need to live happy, healthy, satisfying lives?”  The conclusion they come to is that most of us need more time for ourselves.  This doesn’t seem like much, but in a culture where people humblebrag that they can’t get enough sleep because they are so busy, many people do not consider less work to be an impressive aspiration.  Take Back your Time begs to differ.  Here’s why we need more time.  Sleep is not a luxury.  Having time to cook real meals from scratch is not a luxury.  Spending time with your kids is not a luxury.  And taking time off is not a luxury.  No matter who you are or what you do, we are social animals and we need to be with each other. We need to make the space in our minds and lives for growth, change, love, exploration, art, and a million other things that make us and keep us human.  Take Back your Time strives to achieve this.
  2. Working Washington sprung from the rib of a union.  Like other unions, Service Employees International Union was fighting a losing battle for decades.  Systematic union busting was working.  Membership was declining.  But SEIU is different.  They have a unique, visionary style. They engage in the usual ways of supporting their members, both negotiating with employers and helping to elect those who have the best interests of their members in mind.  This is what collective power is all about.  But they realized that to see more success, they were going to have to change the context of workers’ lives from the outside, and fight for a fair economy.  Working Washington started with a listening campaign. They knocked on 10,000 doors in the South Seattle area and heard working people’s stories.  What they found out was that SeaTac, the airport run by the Port of Seattle, which ostensibly works for us, was the source of poverty wage jobs—jobs that not so long ago had provided a good living to families in the area.  That changed when the airlines subverted all collective bargaining had achieved, and subcontracted everything—baggage, fueling, concessions.  Those contracts went to the lowest bidding companies.  It was a race to the bottom for thousands.  People were struggling to support their families, working two or three jobs, but still unable to escape poverty.  So Working Washington first supported the workers in another attempt at bargaining.  Cutting to the chase, the Port, Alaska Airlines, and the subcontractors all failed to negotiate, so the workers took their plight to the people with a visionary suggestion—people should be able to earn a living wage.  The voters in the City of SeaTac won a historic $15 an hour minimum wage, showing that it is possible.  At the same time, fast food workers sparked a movement in Seattle, winning the support of the City Council and the mayor.  They won because they weren’t afraid to picture the world as it should be, and fight for that vision.
  3. Backbone Campaign is a national organization based on Vashon Island.  Full disclosure: I’m serve as their board president.  That is how I happen to know that they have begun the process of picturing what our area would look like with a robust rail transportation system. One way to derail (heh heh) the “jobs” argument for coal export through Washington is to invest in strategic rail transportation upgrades.  Solutionary Rail envisions a revitalized, 21st century, sustainable, electrified rail system.  Rather than posing a threat to world climate, as rail does using diesel and potentially carrying more fossil fuels, Solutionary Rail demonstrates how to meet transportation needs with vast reductions in carbon emissions.  First, Electrify rail lines in the Northwest.  Worldwide, about 50 percent of freight rail ton-miles are powered by electricity.  This is energy efficient and a green job producer.  Second, increase investment in rail infrastructure and track maintenance. Third, leverage electrification to build renewable generation such as wind farms, as well as transmission lines to deliver electricity. Fourth, move freight and passengers from roads to rail, which uses the rail lines to capacity, severely constricting room for coal and oil transport.  Sustainable rail networks will provide a resilient foundation for locally-based economic activities that create wealth, stable employment, and prosperous communities.

These are real proposals created by serious people.  The difference between them and much of the progressive left is that they offer something concrete to work on, instead of business as usual within the realm of what is, which more often than not leaves us grappling with impotent rage.  Rather, these organizations and initiatives give us, the people, something to move toward, and a better future to look forward to.  If these stories have a take-home message, it is this:  Next time you are feeling beaten down by the news, or by emails from an advocacy organization, spend some time looking for the rare few who paint a vivid picture of the world that is possible, instead of bickering over the world that is.

Sandra Vanderven is a Community Organizer and Board President of the Backbone Campaign.