by Mark Van Streefkerk
On July 6, a POC-led group of over 50 community members published An Open Letter to Artist Trust, a nonprofit arts organization that provides funding and resources for artists in Washington. Each year, Artist Trust offers annual Fellowship Awards of $10,000 to eight artists, and two $25,000 Artist Innovator Awards, but this year the longstanding organization abruptly cancelled the Fellowship Awards without any community consultation. The cancellation included a unilateral dismissal of a majority Women of Color jury panel and rejection of that panel’s selected award nominees. The open letter demands accountability for these actions and calls to center Black and Indigenous leaders and artists within the mostly white Artist Trust leadership. Those in agreement with the letter’s demands are able to endorse it by electronically signing their name or the name of the organization they represent. Since the open letter was published, half a dozen women have also come forward calling out the sexism, vulgarity, and rape culture perpetuated by Program Director Brian McGuigan, behavior they say is ignored and protected at Artist Trust.
Continue reading Artist Distrust: Open Letter to Artist Trust Demands Accountability for Sudden Dismissal of Majority POC Jury
by Taylor Hensel
Indigenous peoples and communities have long used stories to understand the world and our place in it. Powerful, prophetic teachings can be found in our stories which explain reality but also give us the momentum to imagine and make urgent change. Among these lessons, there is one that tells of a time when Mother Earth will be in pain and Indigenous stories and teachings will be needed for healing. I firmly believe we are in that moment now. In the midst of a global pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement, the world is on fire and we are faced with the challenge of confronting deep truths about inequity and injustice. This challenge must be met by a solidarity between Indigenous, Black and Brown peoples speaking up for change. In this spirit, the South Seattle Emerald is proud to launch a new monthly column in partnership with Nia Tero as a creative platform for Indigenous voices and narratives. Our first story is an op-ed, by colleague and Indigenous creative Taylor Hensel (Citizen of Cherokee Nation), who brings light to the power of story and the storyteller. Her analysis of narrative as power encourages us to ask — What new stories can we tell to help create the better world we desire?
—Tracy Rector, Nia Tero Managing Director, Storytelling
One of the most effective ways to disempower a group is to disturb its unity. The ongoing systemic attempt to erase Indigenous peoples through division has deep roots in the foundation of government and most western constructs, including storytelling. As a Cherokee filmmaker and journalist, this is a reality I know to be true.
For centuries, false narratives imposed on Black and Brown people about themselves and their communities have been used as tools of disempowerment. In the midst of a pandemic and civil rights reckoning, the need to rebuild and reform systems that continue to promote injustice is clear. One of the ways institutionalized oppression is continually reinvigorated is through the misrepresentation of marginalized peoples. This is done through the stories that have been told and continue being told about our past, present, and future.
Continue reading Seedcast: Indigenous Ways of Being — Reclaiming Authenticity in Storytelling
by Ramone Johnson
My name is Ramone Johnson and I’m 17 years old. I’m from Illinois originally, and ever since I’ve been to school out here in Washington, any situation in school has been blasted way out of proportion. I want to share my experience to help students and teachers understand each other and learn to value every student and make schools a better environment for everyone.
I started recognizing I was being treated differently as one of the only Black kids in my Seattle middle school. The school administration and security guards came as hard as they possibly could towards me. If I called out the way they were treating me differently than other students, they would call me disruptive and send me out of the classroom. It’s like they wanted to prove a point when I refused to adapt to their environment. I watched them give some students extra time to finish assignments, and they wouldn’t do the same for me. What made him better than me? We were both students that needed help. Instead, they’d treat me like a terrorist. They’d have the cop and school security guard following me around all day and blame me for things I didn’t do.
Continue reading OPINION: What Teachers Should Know About the Experience of Being a Black Student in Seattle Public Schools
by Ruchika Tulshyan
It was apparent to me from the moment I immigrated to the United States in 2012 that civil unrest was coming. The seeds of despair were sown in this country long before any of us were born.
Moving to Atlanta eight years ago forced me to confront social inequities I didn’t believe existed in the West. The last time I’d had to examine them so closely was when I lived in India two years prior.
It was clear that there was a wealthy (white) Atlanta and a poor (Black) one. At lunch, the media organization I worked for was divided into Black tables and white tables. As a Brown Indian woman from Singapore, I was often caught in the middle. Many wealthy CEOs I interviewed as a business reporter would make off-the-cuff remarks about how “Atlanta was doomed because we can’t have a good white mayor” and how I should “stay away from Black people.”
Continue reading On Making Sense of Anti-Blackness in America as an Immigrant Person of Colour
by Ari Robin McKenna
This is the second in a series of articles featuring the words of local ethnic studies educators who are doing work to address systemic racism in our classrooms. To read the first, click here. To read the series intro, click here.
When Bruce Jackson was a child, his household was swept up into a greater story that still reverberates across the world today. His uncle, Zayd, was killed defending writer and civil rights activist Assata Shakur during a confrontation with police on the New Jersey Turnpike. A documentary about Shakur’s life ends with the following words regarding her chosen surname:
“It is a name that I took to carry on the name of Zayd Malik Shakur in honor of his family, and in honor of the forces of beauty and good on this earth which I’m grateful for. That is my name.”
Continue reading Ethnic Studies Educator Bruce Jackson and the Beautiful American Story Never Told
by Racial Equity Education
A cultural revolution is happening in Seattle and around the country as we experience a collective awakening of individuals and institutions to the damages caused by centuries of white supremacy and systemic racism. It is becoming more apparent that K–12 schools continue to contribute to racial injustice, even in some of the most progressive districts.
Seattle Public Schools, despite passing a resolution in 2017, has yet to mandate, implement, and fully fund ethnic studies curriculum districtwide. While the Seattle district office claims to be committed to centering youth voices and serving students furthest from educational justice, they continue to merely pay lip service to the demands that have been clearly voiced by Garfield students for years. Yet the district’s recent decision to remove Tracy Castro-Gill as Head of Ethnic Studies for Seattle Public Schools has set back years of work by discrediting their own Ethnic Studies program and the many dedicated educators who have built it.
Continue reading OPINION: Racial Equity Education Launches National Crowd-Sourced Public Education Campaign
by Liz Covey, LMHC
“Miserable is exactly how the white people who want to help should be feeling right now, and then they should sit with that misery until something breaks in their brain, the narrative changes in their psyche, and the legacy of emotional paralysis lifts entirely.”
—Rebecca Carroll, The Atlantic (June 2020)
I’ve had this saying about my work for years now, and it goes like this: I will spend the rest of my career indebted to the (mostly Black) kids and foster families with whom I worked early on, and who had to put up with my sorry self, before I knew the damage I was causing as a white practitioner in Black spaces. I dedicate any good work I do today to these kids. In the spirit of Black Lives Matter, I Say Their Names, to myself, in my heart, on the regular.
Continue reading Calling Out White Supremacy in Seattle’s Mental Health Establishment: One Therapist’s Confession
by Melia LaCour
This is a call to white people. No, this is not a list of ten things you can do to end racism. Nor is this a multi-step roadmap to guide you from racist to ally. And no, this is not a solvent to relieve white guilt. This is in fact a call, erupting from the soil, soaked with the blood of my Black ancestors who have suffered multi-generational trauma from the intentional destruction and lynching of beautiful Black people. The call is to fully step into your role in the fight for justice.
This call has resounded for generations. Why won’t you hear us?
Continue reading A Call to White People: It’s Time to Live in the Answer