While some of the international fervor that resulted from the murder of George Floyd has faded, there is still a group of community leaders in Greenwood that will not let the Black Lives Matter cause disappear from our neighborhood.
Every Wednesday from 5-6pm, they are out at the corner of 85th and Greenwood with signage and smiles, dedicated to not letting those passing by forget that our society still has an enormous amount of work to do for equality. All are welcome, and supporters are asked to are asked to wear masks and practice social distancing. This is a family-friendly endeavor, and kids are encouraged to participate.
Even with an upsetting amount of darkness descending by the time they meet and with the holidays upon us, they plan on being out there on Wednesdays into the foreseeable future.
One local participant, Joshua, was kind enough to share with us his experience and why he chooses to stand for equality each week and how he came to be on a rainy, traffic-filled intersection each Wednesday.
The seeds of my antiracist birth were planted by a coworker at the restaurant I worked at in Fremont a few years ago. Having grown up in the suburbs of Seattle, Andi was the first black, queer woman I’d been friends with. She was unapologetic in her blackness, in her queerness, in her femininity, and the space where all collided to create fireworks. As a blossoming queer person myself, I was in awe of her swagger. I was stunned by her brutal honesty, especially when it came to race.
“Silence is compliance,” she told me during one of our candid talks. This concept, alien to my white ears, felt like a punch to the gut. Unlike the sugar coated morality I’d been fed, this bitter reality shook me. I felt judged. I felt ashamed. My response was the natural one of my white kin: resistance. STRONG resistance. How could my whiteness, anchored in an inability and unwillingness to acknowledge and address basic concepts of objective reality as it related to race, be responsible for propping up this giant monster of “racism”? It has taken years to cycle through all the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I don’t live in any one of these stages permanently. In fact, I bounce around quite a bit, depending on the latest news story or statistic I’ve stumbled across. However, having sat with these feelings and reflected on the truth of our country and history, I am convinced and strong in my resolve that I actively participate in racism in this country. If I wish for the U.S. to rid itself of racism, I must have an active participation in this as well.
Like many this year, my world has been rocked by perfect storm of a global pandemic, callous national leadership, and a series of undeniable exhibitions of racism. Regrettably, it has taken these monumental events to spark a fire of activism in me. 2020 has thus far been marked with protests, calls to city councilmembers, writing letters to swing state voters, and educating myself via Black authors. I want to capitalize on the momentum this year has provided, to ride the energy towards progress and concrete change.
I was thrilled when I first saw protestors on the corner of N 85th St and Greenwood Ave N during the summer, shortly after the George Floyd murder. For a couple weeks, folks showed up every afternoon and evening to protest, to hurt, and to heal in the heart of Greenwood. It has since mellowed considerably, in frequency and attendance, which is to be expected. Continued activism and resistance isn’t sexy work. It’s emotionally draining, often boring, and requires a patience and resolve that is almost inhuman. North Seattle and white folks at large need to do the work of making combating racism sustainable for themselves and each other.
Fortunately, activism has many lanes, and I’m confident all of us can find one that works best for our individual circumstances. Whether you have time, money, energy, knowledge, or any combination of these, there are ways you can make a difference in fighting racism. Right here in Greenwood, you can support Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) owned restaurants like Hummus Café or Gorditos because BIPOC economics matter. You can encourage Taproot Theatre to produce shows that feature BIPOC stories, actors, and designers because BIPOC representation matters. You can call or email city council members (like CM Dan Strauss or CM Deborah Juarez), state legislators (like Rep Noel Frame or newly elected Rep Liz Berry), and Congress Members (like Rep Pramila Jayapal, Sen Maria Cantwell, and Sen Patty Murray) asking what they are doing to prioritize BIPOC lives because antiracist policies matter. You can buy and read books about racism by Black authors (like Seattle’s own Ijeoma Oluo) bought at Couth Buzzard Books or Phinney Books because BIPOC literature matters. If you have kids, contact the school board and demand they a) hire more BIPOC educators and b) prioritize BIPOC history in lessons because BIPOC education and BIPOC children matter.
You are also invited to join our group that supports Black Lives Matter on the corners of 85th and Greenwood on Wednesdays from 5pm-6pm. Our event is family friendly, non-violent, and seeks to engage our neighbors in dialogue on topics of race, justice, economics, and the pursuit of a better tomorrow for everybody. We typically have a few signs to borrow or keep, and we’d be thrilled if you’d join us for 5 minutes; the bar of entry is very, very low. We all need to start somewhere, and we hope to be accessible enough to plant a seed that might grow in time. Kindness and a little bravery are required, there is no doubt about that, but you’ll be in good company and we’ll move forward together.
2020 has certainly revealed to us that there is no shortage of work to be done if we are sincere in confronting and ultimately ending racism. I hope that I, you, Greenwood, North Seattle, and white people all across this country have the courage and the conviction to do this work, consistently and tenaciously. To quote the Hebrew pearl of wisdom: “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
Be well and be safe. I’ll see you around the ‘hood, and, hopefully, on Wednesdays! -Josh