In the summer of 2019, I had a very public breakup with the arts nonprofit where I had worked for six years. Two staff had just been fired, seemingly out of nowhere. They had been leading the organization on internal restructuring and equitable practices. The work was going well and conversations were fruitful. The board and leadership were vocally supportive. Until they weren’t.
I and several other staff members responded to the firings by writing a public letter to the organization’s community of supporters, asking for their help in holding leadership accountable, reinstating staff, and conducting a transparent investigation. Unfortunately, this threw the organization into more turmoil and ultimately led to my departure.
It’s still painful to process everything that happened that summer, but what I gained was a more intimate understanding of how the nonprofit sector is failing on its equity promises.
“This film is dedicated to the future memory of white supremacy, the new world’s original gangster,” a deep voice declares. That’s how Manifest Destiny Jesus begins. Orchestral music blares, white text fades onto a black background, the words of English writer William Gilpin come into view: “The untransacted destiny of the American people is to subdue the continent — to rush over this vast field to the Pacific Ocean.”
Seattle’s crane-filled skyline comes into view. Logos of the richest and most powerful corporations in the nation glide down towering skyscrapers. Weathered tent cities cling to a dusty underpass. Seattle: a paragon of westward expansion and capitalist conquest. Fast forward: Displaced Seattleites lament the relentless hammer of gentrification. “I can’t even afford to live here,” a man says.
A woman sits in Columbia City Church of Hope, a stained glass Jesus hovers above, his ivory hand points westward.
Manifest Destiny Jesus, which screens at this month’s “Local Sightings” film festival, is a documentary that explores how the widespread portrayal of Jesus as white influences everything from gentrification to police brutality. And how one small church in a gentrifying South Seattle found the courage to ask, “What does it mean to worship a white Jesus?”
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.”
This Saturday, Aug. 28, BAZZOOKAFEST will transform Beacon Hill’s Jefferson Park into a free music and film festival featuring a packed all-BIPOC lineup. Musicians include indie folk headliner Kimya Dawson, pop punk artist Haley Graves, alternative rockers King Youngblood, pop singer-songwriter CarLarans, five-piece femme band Razor Clam, dance pop trio Mirrorgloss, and soulful rock band Stereo Sauna. POC members of drag collective BeautyBoiz will perform, and once the music’s over, a screening of short films submitted by BIPOC filmmakers will take place. As if you needed another reason to attend, the event will also feature a pop-up market featuring all Black and POC vendors.
BAZZOOKAFEST is all-ages and open to all. The festival starts at 3 p.m. and goes till about 10 p.m. Masks are required.