Indigenous peoples and communities have long used stories to understand the world and our place in it. Seedcast is a story-centered podcast by Nia Tero and a special monthly column produced in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald about nurturing and rooting stories of the Indigenous experience.
One of my earliest memories is of my grandfather waking up every morning before the sun came up. I was born in 1969 and in my early years, before my mother married my father, we lived with my grandparents. By the time I was maybe 4 or 5, my grandfather had retired. He had served in World War II in the motor pool in the South Pacific, and then, when he came to Seattle, he got a job at the Naval shipyards down on the piers here in the sound, later working with the transportation department until his retirement in the early ’70s. He came from a family of tenant farmers who migrated to the Northwest from the South who were used to working on the land. Their work ethic never left him.
Growing up, I was very involved with the people and happenings around me. I was always aware of my surroundings; coming home from Head Start at Dunlap Elementary School right off Cloverdale and Henderson, I paid close attention to the street signs, the houses, and all of my classmates on the bus. But the South End of Seattle hasn’t been looking the same as it did 10 years ago. More and more of the small businesses I grew up around — like Hong Kong Seafood, Pho Bo, and Randy’s Restaurant off of East Marginal Way — are starting to disappear. And I’ve also started to notice more and more blueprints being posted saying “New Modern 2-story Townhomes” and images of new condos and apartments being built.
David Hackney’s victory over 18-year incumbent Zack Hudgins to serve as a representative in Washington State’s 11th Legislative District was decisive, with Hackney earning 61% of the vote.
For Hackney and his supporters, it signalled that the 11th District — which encompasses Renton, Tukwila, part of Kent, and a slice of South Seattle that includes SoDo, the Industrial District, Georgetown, and South Park — wanted new leadership. “I think they were ready for change,” said Hackney in an interview with the Emerald. “I think they saw in me the energy of an organizer — someone that was going to be fighting inside and outside of Olympia on critical issues.”
Rat City Records & Relics — gone. Cow Chip Cookies — gone. The famous downtown Elephant Car Wash — also gone. If you just arrived in the Emerald City, you can be forgiven for not noticing that Seattle’s cultural and business landscape has been … terraformed. Yes, I know the old saying: “The only constant in life is change.” But what happens to a city when the places where people gather, connect, and build community disappear? What happens to a city’s soul when locally owned and quirky is replaced by corporate-owned and … well, boring? Since 2018, Vanishing Seattle filmmakers Cynthia Brothers and Martin Tran have been documenting Seattle’s rapid transformation in a six-film series, so they’re intimately acquainted with the city’s metamorphosis. I had the opportunity to speak with them about how the city has changed, why they’re documenting disappearing places, and how they’ve been personally impacted by it all.
Since the Seattle protests began in late May, demonstrators have gathered in front of various police precincts and city buildings to protest police brutality and systemic anti-Black racism. Two protests this summer, including one held two weeks ago, have shifted to focus on the issue of gentrification in general, and on one pot shop in particular: Uncle Ike’s.
On the evening of Aug. 7, a rally organized by the Engage Team, a group of young activists who posted their first rally in July of this year, gathered in front of the pot shop’s newly-opened location on East Olive Way, and marched to the original Uncle Ike’s storefront on 23rd Avenue and East Union Street, in the Central District (CD), calling for a boycott of Uncle Ike’s weed shops and a halt to predatory development.
“The main goal is to pretty much expose gentrification, expose what’s going on and how it’s working in Seattle,” said Peyday, one of the organizers with the Engage Team. “We want to expose the little details of racism that people don’t really understand, and so now we’re trying to expose gentrification as well.”
Columbia City Gallery smells, unsurprisingly, like oil paint. There’s a slight breeze in the gallery, and it’s quiet except for the air conditioner’s hum. An artist, one of the gallery’s current members, is working a shift in the gift shop and says hello. There’s an ease to being in the space.
Half a dozen candidates for the Seattle City Council’s District 2 spot met for a Tuesday night forum at the New Holly Gathering Hall as they answered questions on transportation, housing, and the environment — three of the most important issues for local residents facing gentrification and displacement, pushing them farther and farther away from their jobs, forcing them into cars, and driving up carbon emissions.
People have blamed the houseless crisis in Seattle on a lot of things: mental illness, chemical dependency, even laziness. In truth, they point a finger in every direction except toward the root cause: gentrification.
As a senior on disability, Laura Hale lives on exactly $971 per month, not counting the $182 per month she receives in food stamps.
The 65-year-old Hale lives in the basement of her son’s house, a few blocks away from the Southeast Seattle Senior Center, where she regularly plays bingo on Wednesdays. Like many seniors who live on fixed income, such as disability payments or Social Security, Hale cannot independently afford to live in the area anymore, thanks to increasing costs of living, as developers move in. And like many seniors, Hale is on several city housing waiting lists that are literally thousands of names and several years long.
Rainier Beach is the new gentrification ground zero. I have a front row seat. I recently celebrated my seventh anniversary of being a homeowner. I have watched my neighbors get foreclosed on and pushed out. I have watched the house flipping teams come through and trim up the yards, slap up new fences, and paint over bright color with the neutral blues and grays white people seem to prefer. When I walk through my neighborhood now, it’s a lot less like the vibrant diverse place I chose to live in and a lot more like Pleasantville.