Our Trans Neighbors Are Under Attack, This is What We’re Doing

City Council June 14Trans and intersex folks face a lot of marginalization in our city as a whole, but also within the LGBTQ community itself. Since the election in November 2016, I’ve become even more in-tune with the struggles of our trans and intersex neighbors. They face discrimination and often a lack of safety when it comes to housing options, homeless shelters, landlords, bathrooms and other public spaces. What I’ve learned inspired me to speak publicly to City Council during a hearing about a proposed income tax for Seattle. Here is the text of what I said:

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Just days later, we saw the type of discrimination that our community is talking about. A worker at the downtown Seattle Public Library denied a trans person access to a public, family bathroom. Trans folks and allies immediately fought back against the library, calling them out publicly and forcing an apology, as well as a re-evaluation of bathroom policies within the library.

Only a day or so after that incident, I went to a forum about LGBTQ hate crimes in Seattle. The forum had been set at the same library as the bathroom incident, but it was planned before the bathroom incident happened. The crowd included many trans folks. In light of what had happened, the forum started with an apology conversation from the Library. But after the panel introduced themselves and the audience got to ask questions, the questions pointed right back to the bathroom incident. My friend Sophia Lee, a trans woman, expressed her outrage at the library’s actions. She asked the panel something like this: What can the library do to regain trust and mend the ties it has just severed?

Here’s a picture of the panel that I took.

20170612_202924The most imminent threat to our trans neighbors appears to be Washington Initiative 1552 which would strip trans folks of protections they’ve had in our state for 11 years. We’re working to fight the initiative. Just days ago we held an emergency action town hall to get more volunteers to be out signing up folks to join our fight. It was an important moment to have the town hall because the people trying to pass 1552 only have until July 7 to get 300,000 signatures and LGBTQ Pride started the day after the town hall, so there were many opportunities to encounter large, friendly crowds to educate them.

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In the same week, I went with my friends Daniel Goodman, Max Friedfeld, Sophia Lee, Ximena Velazquez-Arenas, Ty Nolan and others to be with our friend Carlos Padilla as they received an award from our Mayor for his work fighting for undocumented and trans folks. Carlos is head of Washington Won’t Discriminate which is leading the charge against I-1552. They’ve been an organizer for a long time and they are truly an inspiration.

 

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I was with Carlos again as we kicked off LGBTQ Pride weekend in Seattle. The first event of the three-days of festivities and marches was Trans Pride. During that huge event in Cal Anderson Park, we marched and we collected information from hundreds of folks who want to join our fight against I-1552. Here are some pictures from my phone:

20170623_17321720170623_18205820170623_19483920170623_183535I ran into Jon Grant who’s running for City Council Position 8 and who I’ve been volunteering a lot with. We marched together.

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And, here are some of the national headlines from The Washington Post:

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What My Life Was Like as Racial Tension Erupted in Seattle

To say this week is overwhelming with every emotion is an understatement. Nick got word from his brother, Nate, and Nate’s wife, Kelli, that they delivered twins–a boy and a girl on June 21, 2017. Their names are Grady Cole Savage and Sawyer Elizabeth. They’re in a hospital just south of Salt Lake City, Utah near where Nick grew up. We are so proud and excited this morning because of this news. The babies are five pounds each, with lots of hair and everyone is in good health. This is good news because they are more than a month pre-mature. Here are the first pictures of them in this world:

Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 5.24.15 PMScreen Shot 2017-06-22 at 5.24.43 PMScreen Shot 2017-06-22 at 5.25.03 PMIn Seattle in the days since Police killed Charleena Lyles, anger, grief, and tension has filled the streets. I share that fury and understand that people of color face a true struggle in our system that is biased against them, especially our policing. Here are some pictures from The Seattle Times:

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Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 6.34.03 AMIn addition to showing up at the vigil and rally the day Charleena was killed, I also went to City Hall and wrote this on my Facebook page afterward:

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The event I mentioned in the Facebook post above that I had to go to was a Community Listening Post with Mayoral Candidate Nikkita Oliver that a group of gay neighbors and I have been planning.

Nick and I have been going from one event to the next for different things in addition to working our full-time jobs. It’s starting to feel like a lot. Here’s a picture of us at the event with Nikkita. Nick and I are on the back row on the left:

Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 5.31.27 PMHere are some headlines from Seattle news that have been big, starting with news that Mayor Ed Murray may run as a write-in candidate after he stepped out of the race under allegations of child sex abuse:

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And, here are some of the national headlines from The Washington Post:

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P.S. Since I’m feeling so stretched for time lately and pretty stressed out, I haven’t had time to really sit down and enjoy writing this. So, you’ll notice this post is a bit rushed, but I feel it’s so important to capture what’s happening so you can see as it’s happening.

Seattle Police Murdered a Black Pregnant Mother of Four, This is How We Responded

Screenshot_2017-06-18-22-34-38That’s a picture of Charleena Lyles. She’s a mother of four. She was pregnant. She called 911 to report a burglary. Police arrived to her home in northeast Seattle and shot her multiple times, killing her in front of three of her very young kids.

This happened on Sunday morning. I learned about it by about noon. Nick and I had been being lazy in our apartment. We’d cooked a big breakfast in our kitchen. I opened my phone to scan Facebook and the news and saw the report shedding light on this developing nightmare.

I got on the phone with a couple activist friends. We decided to wait to see what the family and community of color was going to do in the way of a vigil. We didn’t have to wait long before this post went up on Facebook. As you can see, I then shared it:

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Nick and I were at the grocery store when a plan finally came together with a few friends to get to Magnuson Park to be with Charleena’s family for the vigil. I arrived close to 8:00 p.m. to find a crowd of about 100 people at the scene of the murder, Charleena’s apartment. We listened to her family members, as well as the brother of Che Taylor, a young man shot and killed by Seattle Police about a year ago. Here are pictures I snapped:

20170618_20463420170618_20074820170618_20374820170618_21060320170618_21055920170618_202226Many folks were crying, shouting, overwhelmed with grief. Some lit candles and laid flowers in a makeshift memorial. We changed things like, “NO JUSTICE! NO PEACE! NO RACIST POLICE!” and “WE WANT JUSTICE RIGHT NOW!”

Screenshot_2017-06-18-22-33-40Mayoral candidates Nikkita Oliver and Bob Hasegawa were there and spoke, Jessyn Farrell showed up as well. There were notable absences. Our current Mayor Ed Murray was not there. Neither was mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan.

I saw a lot of Neighborhood Action Coalition members there, it was a show of solidarity that our Coalition has become persistent with. We show up when it matters and even if it’s for a breaking, last-minute vigil where we have to drop our previous plans.

I’m not sure what’s next. Before this happened there was a Black Lives Matter march planned for Downtown Seattle on July 9 to protest the acquittal of the officer who killed Philando Castile in Minnesota. We haven’t heard yet how this event may be changed in light of Charleena’s murder. This was the event page on Facebook prior to the murder Sunday:

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I am so angry and distraught over this. I want the world to change! Our systems must change! Police need to de-escalate, not shoot! I will keep you updated on what happens next.

Here are the other headlines crossing The Washington Post in the past few days:

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I Heard Fascists Yelling Anti-Muslim Hatred, This is How We Responded

On Saturday, for the first time in my life, I heard fascists yelling anti-Muslim and anti-gay hatred, in-person. It at once felt like a joke and a nightmare. Around 60 people gathered, some of them carrying weapons, in front of Seattle City Hall. They’d planned an “anti-Sharia” rally that attracted fascists from the region. They were carrying signs that had anti-Muslim messages written on them.

This rally was part of a series of rallies like it across the country. This was the news headline in The Washington Post:

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We learned about the rally days ahead of time, so hundreds of people organized a counter-protest. I joined them. We far out-numbered the fascists. I walked there with my friends Hannah and Max who I’ve gotten to know through our Neighborhood Action Coalition. This is what we looked like in the crowd standing with our Muslim neighbors. In the first picture we’re with Aneelah Afzali, who is a key Muslim leader in our area, she’s the head of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS):

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This is what the fascists looked like. They were behind a police line that was protecting them:

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You can see how much we outnumbered the fascists by in this aerial pic. The top of the pic is the fascists, the bottom is us:

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I left the rally after two hours to head to Wallingford to door-knock for Jon Grant’s City Council campaign.

The previous night, Friday, the event we’d been planning, “Pride Launch Party with Nikkita Oliver” happened at Re-Bar in downtown Seattle. I’d been planning for weeks with a group we now call #Queers4Oliver. Nikkita Oliver is running for Mayor and she is running a grassroots campaign that is embedded in community.

Nikkita took the stage to talk about her own queer coming out story. She also talked about how spaces like Re-Bar, where the LGBTQ community can gather are quickly disappearing and that trying to keep spaces like this is so important. At the end of her talk, she emphasized that her campaign did not hire staff until recently and that most campaign members have kept their paying jobs while also running the campaign. She says her Seattle Peoples Party campaign is training people to run for office who might not otherwise have thought of it before. She says it’s too difficult to run for office, the process is too institutionalized and prohibitive to those without money or privilege. And, she says that has to shift if we want equity.

Here are pictures of me and Nick at the event. I spent a lot of time running the door check-in table:

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During the party, in the middle of the bar, some of us continued to organize other groups and events. The work of activism does not stop in our current climate:

20170609_205118As you’ve gathered, we worked on various activism all weekend, including Sunday during an LGBTQ Pride rally and march (one of many this month in Seattle). It was a beautiful summer day in Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill. As speakers got on stage, I joined the folks moving through the crowds gathering signatures against Initiative-1552 which would strip trans friends of their rights, our version of a bathroom bill. We have until July to stop it from getting on the ballot. On stage, organizers urged people to stand up for our trans neighbors. At one point, Carlos Pedilla, head of Washington Won’t Discriminate said into the microphone to hundreds of people, “If you showed up today and didn’t sign the Decline to Sign sheet, you didn’t show up.”

Here’s what that work looked like:

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There has been a heated discussion boiling within the LGBTQ community about corporate involvement in the parades. In Washington, D.C. this weekend, LGBTQ protesters stopped their massive parade to bring attention to the fact that some corporations sponsoring the parade continue to fund oil pipelines, prisons and things that are violent and abusive toward LBGTQ people of color, and all of us.

I saw many gay folks get upset about the protesters, but I stand with the protesters. If our Pride marches are not going to stand for all gay folks, especially the most marginalized among us, then what the hell are we doing? It is always the right time to bring attention to injustice around prisons, water, native land and rights, among other issues. Here was a headline:

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I Only Have Five Minutes to Write, This is What I Want to Tell You

I don’t remember a time where I felt more busy. This week is so packed full with activism and special work events that I barely have a down moment. It pains me because I would like more time to sit here writing to you, diving deeper than I’m going to be able to right now.

I have to leave in five minutes to go to a gathering of African American Seattle business leaders at a historically black church in our neighborhood, First AME. I’m going to network for TeamChild, but I’m also very interested in finding out what they’re talking about at their meeting this morning.

Because I’ve been so focused on the following list of activities, I have not paid a lot of attention to the national news. It feels strange because there is a lot going on. Here is what my outside-of-work agenda has looked like this week:

Monday, June 5:

I spent the whole evening at the ACLU’s training forum with Washington Won’t Discriminate to help train new volunteers who will fight Initiative 1552, our state’s attempt at legislating hate against trans folks. This is a picture I took of the training and my friend Carlos Padilla who is leading Washington Won’t Discriminate.

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Tuesday, June 6:

I spent the entire evening door-knocking for Seattle City Council Candidate Jon Grant in Madison Valley. I was recently in this video advocating for him:

Wednesday, June 7:

I woke up early to meet with my good friend and activist Daniel Goodman to discuss a handful of initiatives we are trying to launch together. We only had time to meet very early, before going to work as we are both so booked this week.

After work, I helped TeamChild host a talk at a major law firm downtown, K&L Gates. We talked about how those attorneys can join us as investors to end the school-to-prison pipeline. This is a pic someone snapped on the 29th floor in their fancy office:

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Thursday, June 8:

Tonight will be a long night spent at the final planning meeting of a group we’re now calling #Queers4Oliver. It’s the final meeting before our event for Mayoral Candidate Nikkita Oliver Friday night at Re-Bar, an historic bar for the LGBTQIA+ community in Capitol Hill. Nikkita is our candidate for mayor. We’ve spent the past six weeks planning this event. This is what our signs for the event look like on the poles in our neighborhood:

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Friday, June 9: 

Tomorrow night is the Nikkita Oliver party we’re putting on. I’m so excited! This is what the event looks like on Facebook:

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Like I said, I’ve been so busy that I’ve been a bit out of the loop on national news, other than these sorts of major headlines from the Washington Post.

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Here’s how a friend of mine who lives in London and who is British is reacting to the election in his country, which is today:

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Also, another friend, this one in the U.S., had this to say on his Facebook status update and I think it is a very clear sign of the times:

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I Spent the Night in a Homeless Community and Woke to Witness Police Pushing People Back to the Streets

“I lived at The Field and police swept us out. So, I moved to the Spokane Street camp and then police swept us there. Now, I’m here,” said the first man I talked with who’d given me and a friend permission to put up a tent near his RV. It was past sunset, cool, and raining. I’d come from a day at work, but I’d stopped by mine and Nick’s apartment to pick up a backpack and sleeping gear, and to say goodbye to Nick for the night.

“You all can put your tent wherever you want. That looks like a good, flat spot right there,” the man said, pointing, a camp fire blazing in the distance behind him.

I asked him if we could put up signs protesting the police sweep of the community that was reportedly coming in the morning. “Yeah, anywhere you want. We’re glad you all are here. If anyone else is coming can they bring cigarettes?” he said.

Community members have named this spot Camp Sanctuary. It’s on Seattle’s south side between Georgetown and South Park in an area far from any houses, and nearly hidden from the road. One man here told me that more than 60 people call this home. Most of them live in cars or RVs parked around the lot which the State owns. Many I talked to moved here about a month ago, having been swept by police from previous homeless communities.

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That’s me just after setting up the tent with a volunteer and friend from Neighorhood Action Coalition.

And, that’s the moment they found themselves in yet again as we joined them Wednesday night, May 31. Police say they informed the community two weeks prior, telling them that if they don’t get out by 8:30 a.m. on June 1 that officers would be there to force them out. This has become the new normal in Seattle. I’ve witnessed two other homeless community sweeps, one of them  just last week.

One man who used to live in the community had come to show his solidarity. He wore a baseball hat with a pin on it that read “JUSTICE IS NOT POLITICAL”. He told me that the problem is that the City is making decisions about homeless communities based on research done by “somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who is homeless”. He said that government leaders don’t know the people in this community. The man said they certainly don’t feel represented in the City’s decision-making process that has led to the police sweeps over and over and over again.

I’d come to Camp Sanctuary by bus, about 30 minutes south of our apartment. I’d made

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Our tent the morning of the sweep.

plans with my good friend and activist Daniel Goodman to spend the night here. Daniel and I had communicated with two folks living in the camp and they’d invited us. I also reached out to Seattle City Council Candidate Jon Grant and his campaign manager Kate Brunette. I have a relationship with them since I’ve been volunteering for the campaign. They immediately replied that they wanted to join us.

20170601_062246Jon is a fierce advocate for the houseless among our neighbors. And, he’s spent his whole career fighting for folks who are living on the streets or being displaced by skyrocketing rent and home prices. When he and Kate arrived, they said hello to some of the community members they had already long known. One of the former residents who was there for support was so happy to see Jon that he walked him around the camp introducing him to everyone and letting them know that Jon’s running for Council and that he will be their voice.

Jon called out city officials in a Facebook live video from Camp Sanctuary:

“What is the City doing? The City is actually perpetuating the problem. We have dozens of

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Seattle City Council Candidate Jon Grant and Campaign Manager Kate Brunette.

people here who have homes, RVs, that are about to be impounded by the police department, in a vacant lot that is surrounded by no residential homes, there’s no one here to file a complaint. This is a self-inflicted wound that the City is doing to our community members who are homeless. We can do so much better than this.”

Through every conversation I had, one theme stood out. Camp Sanctuary is a community, it serves as a support network, a place to find hope and solidarity. One man I talked to has been homeless 23 years. He says it would be hard to go back to sleeping inside again without other folks from this community living near him.

I talked to a houseless and disabled U.S. war veteran who said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs did not care for him, but his homeless community has helped him find meaning and support in his life. Another man told me that he lives in this community in order to stay sober because going back to his family of users would mean he would be susceptible to that. That’s not to say drugs aren’t used in Seattle’s homeless population, they are. But, that’s true of other communities in our city too.

We found ourselves at Camp Sanctuary the same day that the headline of The Seattle Times proclaimed the horrific news that deaths of homeless people are on the rise in our city, with 48 people dead already this year between January 1 and April 30. The following day, the Times led with another devastating headline that there are nearly 12,000 homeless folks in King County. The tracking measures are imperfect, but that’s somewhere around a 10% increase over last year. This is a growing crisis.

image000000_2The crisis is obvious the moment I walk out the door of our apartment. Take for example my walk to get to the bus as I was heading to Camp Sanctuary. I passed one man sleeping on the sidewalk, steps from our apartment on Capitol Hill. Once I was downtown, people lined the sidewalk wearing large bags, pushing carts carrying life necessities, and holding signs. Some of them asked me for money as I waited at the bus stop.

Last week when Nick and I went to the grocery store, we saw the anger about the housing crisis on a sticker pasted prominently on a refrigerator. It was a photo of our current Mayor Ed Murray with the angry, sarcastic words “BUILD MORE HOUSING FOR RICH PEOPLE”.

Jon, Kate, Daniel and I stayed in a five-person tent. As we went to sleep with the rain pattering outside, we talked about ideas around how to approach and end our city’s crisis. We discussed treating the immediate needs first, providing medical care, social workers, and more on the site of the camps. Then, have those professionals get to know the residents over a period of weeks or even longer so that they can gain understanding of what the best next move is for each individual. Only once IMG_8031that stabilization has happened, that’s when we can think about moving folks to housing, if that’s indeed what they want. Otherwise, the city could create more sanctioned places for folks to form communities like this one, but with appropriate city services like trash.

During our bedtime conversation I learned that Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien introduced legislation that would have halted the homeless camp police sweeps. But, shortly after O’Brien introduced that measure, it died because of lack of support from other council members.

We woke around 5:00 this morning to the frenzied sound of folks in Camp Sanctuary trying to gather their things ahead of the 8:30 a.m. police-imposed deadline. Some folks were moving out their RVs or cars. Others had RVs and cars that are not in driving condition and would have to be towed to get them out. Kate made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for everyone that wanted one. Neighborhood Action Coalition volunteers brought support signs and coffee.

By 8:00 a group of about 30 people, residents and their supporters, had gathered and were standing in a circle–a community meeting. An organizer with Nicklesville had come to offer his advice.

“The City expects you to be powerless and just move when they come to sweep these camps. But, you can change the way they view you if you decide to stay here and take a stand!,” he said. Nicklesville started as an organization advocating for homeless folks after residents of a camp refused to leave until they were granted permission to stay.

The group entered a debate about the best approach to the situation—to go, or to stay and resist the police sweep. There were mixed reactions as some folks didn’t have a choice to try to stay because they are already facing serious records. The group continued talking, but it was perhaps too late, the police were already arriving.

I saw one SUV, then two SUVs, three, then I lost count. Officers stood outside the gate of the community for some time, talking with one of the residents who’d gone out to speak with them. These are photos I snapped during that time and as police entered:

20170601_09192420170601_09193520170601_092044The officer who appeared to be in the lead of the force, stopped just inside the gate and talked to a few of the residents. He told them that police had already gone out of their way to give them two weeks notice about the sweep. He told them that he would allow them more time today to move their things, or to find help to move their things.

But, things sounded really daunting after that. One elderly woman who lives in an RV at the camp asked the officer where she could move her home. The officer replied saying that he wasn’t there to help them find a place to go, that that was beyond the scope of his work and that they’d have to find a place on their own. He mentioned that around the city there are spots to park RVs for 72 hours, but he said he didn’t know where they were. He mentioned nothing about permanent parking spots for folks that need a place to live longer than 72 hours.

I heard chatter among the residents about different places they might try to go to, but one thing was clear. They were not going to be able to stick together as an entire community. What the police were doing here was tearing apart a community and support network, a unified voice that may no longer be unified.

So, the police will give you a few more hours to vacate your community, but good luck finding a new spot and good luck staying there very long before police come to sweep that location too.

Shortly after the sweep began, a day-long gong ringing ceremony got underway downtown at City Hall to focus attention on the nearly 12,000 people experiencing homelessness here. This is what the event page looked like on Facebook:

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I don’t have the answer to the homeless crisis. But, I know the answer is not continuing to sweep these communities without first taking weeks, or even months to get to know the folks living there, what they want, what their individual struggles are, creating places to set up community elsewhere and finding ways we can all work together to achieve those goals. We have to start with getting shoulder-to-shoulder and realizing that we are all part of this city. The suffering of the homeless as we continue to displace them and strip them from community is our issue to work on, and urgently.

Memorial Day Weekend: Normal and Not Normal

I could write to you only about some of mine and Nick’s best friends, Brett and Kaelen, inviting us over for a cookout at their new apartment. They’ve only been back in Seattle about a month after living nearly a year in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Here’s a selfie Brett took of us eating a home-cooked fajita dinner in their community yard with their friend Kelsey on Saturday:

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I could write only about the fact that I spent an afternoon on Madison Beach (which is in Seattle on Lake Washington) with friends during one of the first weekends with temperatures in the 80s in many months. Here’s a picture I snapped:

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But the fact that I enjoyed this three-day holiday weekend seems almost selfish and out of touch with a more grim reality that reminds us that we are not living in a time of comfort, but one of tension, misunderstanding and hate. If we, privileged white folks, don’t step the fuck up and play a strong role in resisting the general direction of things, I am fearful the situation of the country we’ll be living in will be even worse than it is now.

Case in point: this weekend just 175 miles south of Seattle in the middle of Portland, Oregon, a white supremacist man on a public train shouted anti-Muslim slurs at two women of color, at least one of them was wearing a hijab. Three white bystanders jumped in to stand up for the women against this white supremacist, this terrorist. That man then stabbed and slit the throats of the three people who were trying to stand up for the women. Two of those men died on the train. This is what the headlines looked like in our national media:

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This hits so close to home for us in Seattle. This nightmare, in a string of so many lately, tries to wake us, to tell us privileged white folks that hate lives among us, and sometimes within the communities we think are safe from this kind of violence. Yet, following these murders, so many of us continued our holiday weekends as planned, drinking on the beach, going to bar-b-ques. And, that is really weird, isn’t it? I at once feel guilty for not doing more and also feel at a loss for ideas of what I can do in the immediate aftermath.

So, I did what I’ve been doing. I spent hours Saturday afternoon door-knocking in Seattle’s Madison Valley neighborhood for Council Candidate Jon Grant before I headed to the beach to see my friends. The houses I went to are palatial and many are on Lake Washington with extravagant wrap-around porches. Some people brushed me off immediately upon answering the door, before they heard anything except that I’m a volunteer with a city council campaign.

One additional thing I can and did do this weekend is listen to Muslim voices and other voices of color as those members of our community reacted publicly to the news on Facebook. Here’s the first post I read from a Muslim neighbor:

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I also read what Seattle Mayoral Candidate (and my friend) Nikkita Oliver had to say about it:

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I am enraged with the actions of this Republican administration in the aftermath of the Portland murders. Here is a national headline we saw in the hours after the murders:

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Also, during this holiday weekend, we’ve seen Europe further and more officially distance itself from the United States. We are watching as Trump makes his first foreign trip, which did not go well. We’re watching as the power dynamics of the western world shift before our eyes and as we start to lose allyships with countries who’ve been strongly on our side, namely Germany:

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Here are other headlines we’re seeing from The Washington Post (including incredibly alarming news about Oklahoma’s education system):

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An Ugly Week: Homeless Sweeps, A Bombing, and Anti-LGBTQ Hate

I’m writing you in the midst of the first long, warm, and sunny days we’ve had in more than eight months. Nick and I felt like we were in a different city Sunday when we went to breakfast at one of our favorite spots, Linda’s Tavern, and the sun was scorching. Here’s what Nick looked like sitting across the table from me:

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And, this is what I looked like:

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The joy of the sun was all consuming until news broke of a bombing at an Ariana Grande pop concert in Manchester, England. ISIS has since claimed responsibility. England has dispatched more than 1,000 more police officers across the country. They’ve raised their country’s terror threat level. More police–this is one of the only ways western countries respond these days. This was the initial headline in The Washington Post:

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And, in other terrible news, Texas is about to pass hateful, anti-lgbtq laws that will limit where queer folks can use the restroom and allow adoption agencies to deny children to lgbtq and/or non-Christian folks. It’s disheartening especially because Washington state is working on its own version of this too. Here was that headline in The Washington Post:

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I had taken a five-week break from Facebook. I had gone as far as deactivating my account during that time. But I got back on because I think it’s important to be loud right now in every channel possible. Here’s what I wrote on Facebook moments after I found out about the Texas laws:

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Still, my focus right now is local.  Days earlier in Seattle I went to a townhall for my District 3 Socialist councilmember, Kshama Sawant. The townhall was part of a series of townhalls in each of Seattle’s City Council districts to discuss an initiative to pass an income tax on Seattle’s wealthiest.

Seattle and Washington state have some of the most regressive taxes in the country. This means that our taxes impact the poor disproportionately more than the rich. That’s because much of our tax revenue comes from sales taxes and we have no income tax.

20170518_181435During the packed Neighborhood Action Coalition-organized townhall with Sawant we heard from a vast array of marginalized voices. We heard from homeless folks who are organizing their communities to fight against city policies that are unfair to them and in some cases even destroying their lives.

We heard from Amazon workers who have faced inhumane working conditions and who have been discriminated against by the company because of their skin color, culture, and religion. We also heard from community activist leaders, and teachers from the south end of the city who face classrooms that have students who are homeless.

Here are some quotes that stood out to me. They’re straight from my notes. They’re from various folks who spoke and in no particular order. But I want to share them and I’m short on time:

“We packed Washington Hall on a Thursday night to talk tax policy!”

“We have become a sanctuary city for money, not people.”

“Corporations are organized for this fight, we the people are not. We have to get 20170518_191603organized right now!”

“Two of the world’s eight richest men live in this city. We’re talking billions of dollars. Yet our homeless crisis is out of control. How can we have so much wealth and so much poverty?”

“How can I assign homework to students who don’t have a home?”

“Our city has its priorities so backwards.”

“Economic inequality and racism reinforce each other.”

20170518_174902During her talk, Councilmember Sawant said police swept and displaced homeless communities hundreds of times in 2016. Another speaker said that the latest homeless “sweep” happened just one day before the townhall near I-90. I shared one that I witnessed back in March at a community called The Field. It was awful to watch.

Days later, I woke up early to go witness Seattle Police sweeping yet ANOTHER homeless camp. This time I watched AGAIN as police forced dozens of homeless folks from their community. I joined a group of protesters from Neighborhood Action Coalitions across the city. These are pictures from my phone when I went to the intersection of Dearborn and Rainier in Seattle’s International District (in the first pic, I’m on the far left in the shadow):

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This is what I shared on Facebook:

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This treatment of the homeless in Seattle is nothing new. And, we seem not to have evolved much on the issue. Get this, according to The Seattle Times (I like this because the homeless folks eventually won!):

“Seattle’s long struggle with homelessness was brought to the forefront in the 1930s, when eight settlements called ‘Hoovervilles’ sprang up as far north as Interbay and as far south as present-day Sodo.

“Tension over the settlement, built on port land, started a week after the first group of 50 shacks was built. The health department posted eviction notices giving one week’s warning; when time was up, Seattle police burned the homes down.

“But rebuilding began. And after two 1931 attempts by the city to stop the settlement, the city finally let the Hooverville stay in 1932 due to the nationwide unemployment crisis of the Great Depression.”

Here are pictures of what Hooverville homeless community looked like in Seattle in the 1930s:

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All I can say to wrap this up for now is this: We have to do better and we can do better for our most marginalized and struggling neighbors!

Here are other recent and horrific national headlines from The Washington Post:

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What My Life Was Like as the Trump White House Started to Implode

I felt numb to the headlines I was seeing from Washington D.C., so much so that the first time I understood the true weight of them was when Nick sent me this text while we were both at work:

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As a rule, any message that involves the phrases “Oh my fucking god” and “What the fuck” is not a good one. Nick’s shock made sense to me though. I had already read these headlines as the U.S. appointed a special counsel to investigate Trump following his firing of FBI Director James Comey:

Screenshot_2017-05-16-08-06-09Screenshot_2017-05-17-06-13-25Screenshot_2017-05-16-08-06-15Screenshot_2017-05-17-06-13-37Screenshot_2017-05-17-17-45-18Screenshot_2017-05-17-21-20-14Since the election I’ve shifted my news consumption habits in large ways. Prior to November 8, 2016 I would be inclined to check CNN or listen to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Today, I see those sources (including the NBC affiliate I used to be a reporter for in Kentucky, WLEX) as tied to the corporate powers that have perpetuated the struggle for equity in our country.

Today, the first thing I do is check an array of local print and online sources in Seattle: Crosscut, The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, and The Stranger. I’m following local politics closely. Next, I check Jacobin which is a socialist narrative on what’s happening. Finally, I look at The Washington Post headlines, and if I have time, I read a few of their stories in full, on my phone.

These historic and explosive allegations about Trump’s White House trying to obstruct justice are not surprising. They’re expected. I find myself not so much angry as dreadful of what’s to come. Even if we go through with impeachment, I have no confidence that the Democrats can do anything to get us to a better place. I have lost confidence in our political system, in the form it currently exists. Something big has to shift. So, my dread comes from wondering if we’ll finally start to make the kind of necessary big shifts to change our system to be more equitable, or if we’ll do what we’re so good at—going back to capitalist business as usual.

Part of the reason it feels like this major national news is not my first priority is because in the ten days since I was released from jail, I’ve been solely focused on local campaigns and organizing with my neighbors. One of the most urgent campaigns is Washington Won’t Discriminate which is fighting against a concerted, moneyed, and statewide attack on our transgendered friends and neighbors.

Washington State Initiative 1552 is trying to repeal protections for transgendered folks. It is a measure that:

  • Writes discrimination into state law.
  • Would make it illegal to use the restroom of the gender you identify with.
  • Would allow people to fine businesses and schools $5,000 if they allow people to use their preferred-gender bathrooms.

Initiative 1552 is discrimination. And, it’s getting five-figure donations from area churches. It’s paying people to be out canvassing at Wal-Marts and other stores to gather the 300,000+ signatures they need to get their initiative on the voting ballot this November. This is their second attempt to get Washington’s version of a “bathroom bill” on the ballot. They failed the first time, but we fear they might have gained more force under our current political circumstances.

Already I’ve heard stories about trans folks we know who are being severely impacted by the weight of the campaign itself—hearing about it in the news and having to organize the fight against it. This is in the midst of so much trans hate coming from our White House, and especially from Republicans. It’s all taking an extreme toll on those of our neighbors who make up this marginalized minority.

This is serious shit. And, it is beyond me that we are even having to have this conversation or fight this fight. Why are people spending time and money trying to strip one of the most marginalized groups in our community of protections?! WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!?

I had dinner with my friend Daniel, who I’ve told you before is a role model for me in terms of being an activist and leader. He invited me to his house so he could cook a belated birthday meal for me. Over dinner, we talked about the Washington Won’t Discriminate fight against I-1552. He told me it was important that I show up and signal my solidarity at a campaign event the following morning. So, I woke up early on a Sunday and went to the event in south Seattle along with some of our neighbors. We were also joined by Mayoral Candidate Nikkita Oliver, former Mayor Mike McGinn, City Council Candidate Jon Grant and current Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

The event, organized by Neighborhood Action Coalition, rallied volunteers to go out and collect signatures in support of the trans community and their legal protections. Here are some pictures I took of the event:

20170514_10351020170513_08565420170514_11205320170514_12011920170514_10561620170514_10301320170514_121139I’ve also spent time over the past ten days planning a community outreach event for Mayoral Candidate Nikkita Oliver. I’m working with my neighbors to create a “listening post” for Nikkita in June where we expect about 200 of our neighbors to show up for a question and answer session with her.

I’ve also spent several days over the last week with City Council Candidate Jon Grant and his campaign. Mostly I’ve been going door-to-door canvassing for him in a couple Seattle neighborhoods. Next week I’ll be the leader on one of the phone banking nights. It is so important that we elect another bold, socialist councilmember.

In the midst of all these activities since January 20, I’ve stopped going to the gym for the most part. I paid a full-year membership to Arcaro boxing gym, but have only been a few times in the past couple months. I am feeling it, I’ve gained a few pounds. However, I do walk at least a couple miles a day since I don’t have a car so I’m not completely inactive.

It’s been a busy news week. Here are some of the other headlines, including another person entering Seattle’s mayoral race, State Representative Jessyn Farrell:

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My Mugshot and Pictures of My Arrest

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That’s my first-ever mugshot. That was taken just three days ago after our Chase Bank peaceful direct action. I went back to the jail to request a copy because I wanted to document it here.

Jon Grant’s campaign manager also sent me video of my arrest. She was recording as we were all brought out in cuffs. Here are screenshots from her video of me being arrested:

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I also received an email addressed to the 26 of us who were arrested at 13 different Chase Bank branches. The email was from 350 Seattle, the organizers of the anti-Keystone XL Pipeline action. I think what they had to say is powerful so here is their email in its entirety:

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I also returned to work this week and have been very busy there. I didn’t tell anyone at work about my arrest, except my friend who’s our director of operations. She told me that she was proud of me. She thought I should tell the rest of the staff because it’s a good story.

In the midst of all this going on, this week has been earth-shaking in terms of Seattle’s mayoral race. Our current Mayor Ed Murray has taken the national spotlight in an extremely disturbing and growing scandal. Just one month ago, Murray was expected to do well in his re-election bid this fall. This week he quit the race amid increasing allegations that he repeatedly raped boys in the 1980s.

This week, amid escalating stories coming out against Murray other major figures have entered the race to be the next leader of our city. I still support Nikkita Oliver and am helping with some organizing for her campaign.

Here are some of those headlines:

Screenshot_2017-05-10-16-07-29Screenshot_2017-05-11-17-09-40Screenshot_2017-05-11-17-09-20Also this week, there has been what is arguably the biggest story yet to come from Trump’s time in office. He fired Director of the FBI James Comey as Comey was trying to ramp-up an investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia.

Here are the way the headlines looked on my phone from The Washington Post:

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