Days and Nights at Seattle City Hall and Community Meetings

I’m not sure how almost two weeks have passed since I last wrote you. It feels like it’s only been 24 hours. Things have been moving very quickly. I’ll start with the biggest news, and it’s about Housing For All. We’ve worked with three Seattle Councilmembers (Kshama Sawant, Kirsten Harris-Talley and Mike O’Brien) to introduce two very large budget proposals:

1.) A budget amendment to end the police sweeps of homeless encampments.

2.) An employee head tax on Seattle’s largest businesses (those that make $5 million or more in gross revenue annually, which amounts to 10% of the city’s businesses). The tax would bring in $25 million for housing and shelter.

Here was my personal Facebook post and the news headline:

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The opposition to both of these proposals has been fierce. There are many people in our city who are misinformed and just want to see homeless people wiped away from their scope of vision. We encountered this opposition during a full council budget hearing. And, so many of us working on the Housing For All campaign stood up and spoke out in defense of our homeless neighbors. Here are screen shots of us speaking out against the police sweeps and the misinformation during the budget hearing at Seattle City Hall on October 17, 2017:

Screenshot_2017-10-17-15-20-03Screenshot_2017-10-17-15-49-17Screenshot_2017-10-17-15-19-48Screenshot_2017-10-17-15-06-28Screenshot_2017-10-17-15-15-22Screenshot_2017-10-17-15-06-11Screenshot_2017-10-17-15-05-12Following that hearing, we were invited to present the Housing For All campaign at Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s Peoples Budget Townhall later in the week. The campaign field team asked me to present, so I did. Here is a photo of me with Councilmember Sawant presenting the campaign to about 100 folks at City Hall:

Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 9.10.41 AMI’ve spent a lot of time with other Housing For All coalition members in councilmembers’ offices lobbying them to support our platform and proposals. We are also now planning to have hundreds of folks campout inside and outside City Hall on November 1 to further pressure City Council to support our demands. Here was a post on Facebook about that upcoming event:

Screenshot_2017-10-21-11-08-31I’ve been doing all this work, more than 30 hour per week, because I’ve had the time. I am still searching for paid work at the same time that I’m volunteering to help organize this campaign. I’ve been back on Facebook, obviously, and it is honestly kind of annoying me how much I’m posting, but I get so worked up I can’t help myself. Here are some other things I’ve posted:

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Here are some things I’ve seen other folks posting:

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Here were some of the major Seattle headlines over the past two weeks from The Seattle Times and The Stranger:

Screenshot_2017-10-15-14-55-22Screenshot_2017-10-19-23-07-57Screenshot_2017-10-19-23-08-01And, here are some of the national headlines from The Washington Post:

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Massacre Kills Scores in Las Vegas, and Housing For All Takes Over Seattle City Hall

Nick and I have spent the weekend babysitting my three cousins who live in Seattle. Frankie, Gus and Park are the kids of my cousin Mark and his wife Sandy. They’ve lived in Seattle a long time and have been such a positive influence in my life. They were in Peace Corps in the 90s in Bulgaria, they visited me in Cambodia and they have helped me make Seattle home from the second I landed here in mid August 2014. I also want to say that my nephew Levi turned 3 years old on Friday. Nick and I sent a gift. We love him.

Now, let me start with the biggest news since we last talked. A white, middle-aged American shot and killed 58 people who were at a country music festival on the Las Vegas strip a week ago today. He did it from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Here are what the horrific headlines looked like.

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Because of the stranglehold on influence and power the National Rifle Association (NRA) has over our culture, the debate over gun control is STILL raging. We cannot unite behind the idea of something as basic as the fact that guns need regulation. Here’s what it looked like on Facebook as friends in Las Vegas checked in as “safe” and other headlines:

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I can’t help but be enraged at how brainwashed so many of us are around guns. We need regulation. But, so many people lost hope we’d ever regulate guns after a gunman killed scores of elementary kids in 2012 and WE DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT IT IN THE AFTERMATH. Here’s what I wrote on Facebook last week:

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 12.00.25 PMLess than 24 hours after the massacre in Las Vegas, we were taking our Housing For All demand letter and platform to Seattle City Hall. We had a great crowd. Here are some pictures of what it looked like as we packed City Hall to standing room only. Also, there’s a shot below of a Stevens Elementary PTA mom who I got to come and testify in support of the campaign. I also testified because I wanted to read quotes from two PTA presidents from elementary schools who could not be there:

Council chambersWaiting at the Mayor's OfficeScreen Shot 2017-10-03 at 10.29.27 AMScreen Shot 2017-10-03 at 1.05.09 PMOne of my favorite quotes from all the testimony was this:

“We are people who live in tents, vehicles, and shelters, we are renters and we are homeowners, we are parents, we are teachers, we are tech workers, we are social workers, we are faith leaders, we are members of the many communities that make up Seattle. We are linking arms in solidarity and demanding solutions to the Homelessness State of Emergency. Already 58 people (of the 4,000 who live outside here) have died this year in Seattle because they felt they had nowhere they could go that was safe, welcoming, and inside. This is unacceptable.”

Our City Hall presence came the same week that a judge dealt a setback to our neighbors who live outside:

Screenshot_2017-10-06-08-59-42As if this week wasn’t emotionally charged enough with everything I’ve told you already, we also had a forum to hear from the dozen or so people who applied to be the interim City Council member until the end of November (after the seat was vacated by Tim Burgess who became mayor). After that forum, the Council selected Kirsten Harris-Talley who is an activist who helped lead movements like Block the Bunker to halt the building of a new police precinct campus, and No New Youth Jail which is a movement that is aiming to stop the construction of a new youth jail in Seattle.

The appointment was a major victory for the Seattle Peoples Party and folks who quickly organized TransparenSEA Seattle to force the Council to have an open selection process for the short-term position. I am so grateful for the activists who worked so hard on this. I’ve gotten to know so many of them over the Summer through the Nikkita Oliver for Mayor campaign, and consider many of them friends now.

Here’s what the headline looked like:

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Also, since this is my first post in October, I wanted to say that I had such an amazing time catching up with some of my favorite people who visited this summer including my parents, Jessica who lives in Cambodia and who I know from my years living there, and a friend from college Daniela.

20170811_14324720170831_194447Me and Daniela

Finally, here are some of the other headlines we’ve been seeing from The Washington Post during the last week:

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And, one more picture that speaks volumes of the disgraceful shitshow we’re in right now. Trump visited hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico and said terrible things as well as threw out paper towels to a crowd as if it were a gameshow.

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Housing For All Campaign Turns into Full-Time Volunteer Work

It feels like it’s been a long time since I checked in with you. I’ll lay the blame on the increasing scope of volunteer work I’ve taken on with our newly-launched Housing For All campaign. I’ve been going to coalition meetings, one-on-one coffees, candidate forums, City Council meetings and more, all across the city. At the same time, I’m also still applying for paid work. I do need to find an income, and the urgency around that is increasing.

Here are a couple things from our work with Housing For All. These are pictures of campaign leaders and volunteers at our regular Saturday work sessions. During these sessions folks hear campaign updates, make signs for our upcoming public events like the press conference at City Hall Monday, and also email and call city council members.

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My scope of work has still been mainly focused on connecting with public school PTAs. In the past week we presented to our first full 50-member elementary PTA and they unanimously voted to endorse the campaign! I’ll be speaking at another elementary full PTA meeting in the upcoming week. Also, I’ve been going to the north and south ends of the city to have coffees and drinks one-on-one with PTA parents to get them active with contacting council members and lobbying their PTAs to endorse our campaign.

Here is a post I put on my Facebook page (I reluctantly got back on Facebook because it seems necessary with this work). To my delight, more than a handful of PTA parents saw my message and reached out to set up meetings with me!

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In addition to Housing For All, Seattle Peoples Party is continuing its organizing work following Nikkita Oliver’s exit from the mayoral race. Seattle Peoples Party had a summit this past weekend to build community and the party and to discuss next steps and visions for the future. The work is becoming more important, more intense. Here are some pictures I took of Nikkita speaking with the crowd of about 200 people in the International District:

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Most of the summit consisted of folks getting into groups with their neighbors, sorted by city council district. We discussed our vision for the party and what’s working and what isn’t. I’m very excited to stay involved with this and hear about next steps. I’ll keep you posted.

Here are some local Seattle headlines that struck me. They’re from The Seattle Times and The Stranger:

Screenshot_2017-09-26-13-13-43Screenshot_2017-09-26-08-37-38Screenshot_2017-09-25-08-49-15And, here are some of the national headlines from The Washington Post and The Intercept. I have to say things continue to get more frightening. As one friend put it, “We’re like a frog in boiling water, things are gradually getting worse.”

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Seattle Gets Third Mayor in Less Than Five Days, Pressure Building Behind Housing For All Campaign

On Monday Seattle City Council voted to place retiring Councilmember Tim Burgess in the Mayor’s seat until the regular election at the end of the year. This happened because the Council President Bruce Harrell had five days to turndown the Mayor position and he did. Harrell still has more than two years left in his Council term and he didn’t want to give that up.

Here’s how the headlines have looked in Seattle in both The Stranger and The Seattle Times:

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I was at the Seattle City Council meeting when this vote happened on September 18, 2017. Here are some shots from inside the meeting.

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Council chambers were packed with dozens of activists who’d come to speak in support of Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s Medicare for All resolution and for our campaign, Housing for All. In addition, many folks put pressure on the city to be transparent as they select the replacement, temporary councilmember to fill Burgess’s seat. People held signs saying “#TransparenSEA”.

I spoke for one minute during the public comment period (they only gave one minute to each person because so many people wanted to speak). I used my time to call out the City for its use of police evictions of homeless communities as a way to stop our Homelessness State of Emergency. I blew up a photo of Eliana and Sue being arrested for coming to help our homeless neighbors during the eviction last week. You’ve seen the picture and heard about this. I told the story of how the City is arresting folks for trying to help our most vulnerable community members and how crazy that is. Is this really who we want to be? This is what I looked like:

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The Seattle Weekly also did another story about Eliana and Sue’s arrest on the same day as the Council meeting. Here was the headline:

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Here are other national headlines we’re seeing in The Washington Post. Note this is a second and more deadly earthquake in Mexico, this one was in Mexico City, the previous one had been in the southern part of the country:

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Police Arrest Our Peaceful Neighbors for Helping Homeless, and Mayor Murray Resigns Amid Exploding Scandal

History and the course of this City have shifted since I last wrote to you five days ago. So, I find it hard to decide where to begin. I’ll start with a lay of the new land I write you from.

Ed Murray is no longer the Mayor of Seattle. He abruptly resigned this week, three months prior to the end of his four-year term. This came amid a scandal that has been growing since the beginning of 2017. This week a fifth person came forward accusing Murray of sexual abuse when the victim was a child. This time the accusation was from Murray’s cousin. Murray stepped down from the head of our city within hours of the news. Here are what both national and local headlines looked like:

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City Hall has fallen into chaos as everyone scrambles to read and understand what our City Charter says about the transition here. We’re in the midst of a mayoral campaign that will place a new mayor in the seat at the end of the year, but there are months to cover before that. The last time a mayor resigned was almost 50 years ago when the mayor left to join President Nixon’s administration in Washington D.C.

As for the next few days, Council President Bruce Harrell has been sworn in as the new mayor. Here’s what the headline looked like yesterday in The Seattle Times:

Screenshot_2017-09-13-20-23-47Harrell will decide by tomorrow if he’ll remain mayor or appoint another council member. Harrell has more than two years left on his Council term, so it’s likely he’ll hand over power to someone else. That would mean we will have had three mayors in the span of less than a week!

After that, the Council has to choose a temporary replacement for the council seat, whichever seat becomes vacated. Here’s how The Seattle Times explained it:

Screenshot_2017-09-13-20-29-38During this same time period, the City and Police evicted more than 100 homeless folks from their community under the Spokane Street Viaduct in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle. As you know from my posting on this site, this trauma and displacement at the hands of the City has happened many times before.

Opposition to the police evictions of homeless encampments here has been mounting. My neighbor and friend Eliana organized a protest this time. As you’ve read, we visited the community last week and worked with them to plan our action.

Here’s what the group looked like as we stood with our homeless neighbors in the midst of police trying to kick them out of their community. Eliana and Sue, two of the most kind-hearted activists and community caregivers I’ve ever met, both put their bodies on the line and were arrested—for merely showing their love for their neighbors and showing up when asked by those neighbors who were telling police they had nowhere else to live. (Eliana was also arrested in the same group of 26 folks that included me on May 8.)

Can you believe our City and country are so militarized and that stuff like this happens? Help your neighbors who are most in need and you get arrested!

20170912_09485320170912_09471220170912_09474420170912_09494920170912_085002As police surrounded Eliana and Sue, I talked with reporters from our ABC and NBC affiliates, I also talked with The Seattle Weekly newspaper and a government official in charge of the sweeps.

I spent time explaining that we were there to stand in solidarity with our neighbors who live in this encampment and that the police evictions only exacerbate the problem because most folks have nowhere to go. I emphasized over and over and over that the crisis in our city is a severe lack of deeply affordable housing. And, the solution to all of this is to create more deeply affordable housing. I also emphasized over and over and over that shelters are only good for a small portion of people living outside because there are so many barriers to entry like not bringing your dog or car or husband.

Or, perhaps you’re transgendered and scared of abuse or you’re scared your stuff will be stolen in a shelter (and these types of theft are COMMON). People find stability and safety and humanity in living on their own, not crammed in a space with a handful of other folks sharing beds right next to them and having to abide by unrealistic time deadlines to get inside, especially if you have a job or family. And, bottom line, most folks just move right along to another camp where they’ll eventually be evicted again and again and again by police. We need more deeply affordable housing.

Here’s what I looked like on live TV on KING5 in Seattle. I was on for about 5 minutes:

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Also, here’s what the Seattle Weekly reported after my conversation with them:

Screenshot_2017-09-13-13-46-11Screenshot_2017-09-13-13-46-15Here are a couple other pictures, including one of authorities rummaging through people’s belongings, in some cases without asking the owners:

20170912_11123520170912_11193320170912_11103420170912_084043The day prior to the sweep beginning, a number of us had gone to the regular, full City Council meeting downtown to advocate for our homeless neighbors and urge the City not to go through with yet another heartless traumatization of our city’s most vulnerable. The topic was not on the meeting agenda, but there was a scheduled “public comment” period, so we jammed almost the entire time with this issue.

Here’s what each of us looked like as we took the stand to address Council and urge them to stop the police evictions of our neighbors:

Screenshot_2017-09-11-17-01-24Screenshot_2017-09-11-16-46-33Screenshot_2017-09-11-16-43-40Screenshot_2017-09-11-16-41-24Screenshot_2017-09-11-16-42-54Screenshot_2017-09-11-16-41-52Screenshot_2017-09-11-16-44-59Screenshot_2017-09-11-16-42-23Just a couple days prior to being at the Council meeting, we had packed a room downtown full of hundreds of folks for the campaign kickoff for Housing for All. This coalition is the result of so much work over the past few months. The coalition of dozens of organizations and homeless folks urges the city to address the real crisis, the lack of deeply affordable housing. Here’s what one of the lead organizers, Katie Wilson, said when she spoke to the audience, as reported by The Stranger newspaper:

Screenshot_2017-09-11-15-30-05Screenshot_2017-09-11-15-33-29Screenshot_2017-09-11-15-33-32One of the pieces of the Housing for All kickoff that I was most proud of and that I had a big part in organizing was a speech from the President of the PTA at Lowell Elementary School. Nick Hodges, his wife and two kids experienced homelessness in Seattle in the past year. He told his story and also shared that at Lowell Elementary alone 118 kids are experiencing homelessness. 118 KIDS! 38% OF THE SCHOOL! Can you believe we let this happen?!? Here’s a picture of Nick speaking at the kickoff, what an inspiration he is:

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Here are some other pictures from the Housing for All kickoff:

20170909_16203120170909_141511In the midst of all of this major news, there was also terrible news on the other side of our state in Spokane. A young man who is a student walked into his high school and shot four fellow classmates, one of them died. Here was the headline in The Seattle Times:

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Here are some other national headlines from The Washington Post:

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Seattle Police Prepare to Evict Homeless Folks AGAIN, Here’s What We’re Doing

It’s Saturday morning. Nick and I were up at 6:00 a.m. because he had to get to work to see a full slate of clients. That’s the usual for us on Saturdays. I think I’ve mentioned it, but just to remind you, Nick is a clinical therapist as well as General Manager of a therapy practice that has dozens of providers and three locations across the Seattle metro area. He works six days a week.

This morning I, too, was working in my capacity as a volunteer organizer for the blossoming Housing For All grassroots movement to pressure our city to provide housing and stability for all our neighbors, especially the thousands who are most marginalized, vulnerable and living outside. Part of my scope of work over the past two months has been reaching out to public school parents and teachers in all corners of the city to have in-person meetings and get them to support our campaign. Last year, city legislation to stabilize the situation for homeless folks was shutdown immediately, mostly because of blowback from misinformed parents and teachers who were scared homeless folks would move to their school playgrounds (which they won’t).

The meeting this morning consisted of five PTA members from four different elementary schools in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. A Columbia Legal Services attorney and an organizer from Transit Riders Union who are both heavily involved with the Housing For All campaign also joined me.

I’d already had several meet ups with a couple of the parents, but this meeting was really good. They were very supportive of our ideas and asked excellent questions. They also told us that homelessness is a crisis in their schools. Two of the schools have between 30% and 40% of their student bodies experiencing homelessness! Overall in Seattle Public Schools one in 15 students is homeless. Can you fucking believe that?!? Seattle declared a Homeless State of Emergency two years ago and we are even more deeply in crisis today with the number of folks living outside going up dramatically.

Like I’ve told you before, Nick and I often see homeless folks sleeping in front of our apartment building.

In an hour, I’m headed to the official campaign launch event for Housing For All. This event is the culmination of months of work building grassroots community support. We hope to be introducing city legislation in late November 2017 as a first step to end the police sweeps of homeless encampments, but it won’t pass unless it’s brought forward by a mass of our neighbors, so that’s our job—to build the mass movement behind it.

As if to highlight the crisis, two days after the campaign kickoff (two from now), Seattle Police will sweep a large homeless encampment in the SoDo neighborhood. This is not new to us, as I’ve shown you in detail before on this website, the sweeps happen all the time and they are inhumane, to say the least.

Earlier this week I joined some fellow activists to visit our neighbors living in this encampment below an interstate on Spokane Street. I took the bus there and when I arrived I saw a very tidy community—tents elaborately set up and evenly spaced out between each other down a long stretch under the interstate. I’d say dozens of folks are living outside there. They have a very organized community structure that they themselves have created. Here are some photos I took:

20170907_19205520170907_19210220170907_19212220170907_192314The folks living here have determined that this is their best option and that’s because the City is not handling the crisis by building more deeply affordable housing. Afterall, 93% of people living outside in Seattle today say they’d go inside if there was housing available for them.

The few shelter options that exist are not feasible for so many folks because of things like the shelters not allowing partners, kids, pets, vehicles, or because of violence against LGBTQ folks, women and people of color, or because of people’s belongings being stolen there, or because the time limits on the shelter don’t work for folks, and the list of hurdles goes on and on and on.

When I arrived to the Spokane Street encampment earlier this week, it was about 6:00 p.m. and my fellow activists had set up a table adorned with a tablecloth. On it was a spread of all kinds of food to offer our neighbors living there. The idea was to eat together and have conversation about the upcoming police eviction of their community, this was to gauge what folks living there wanted us to do on Monday and Tuesday as police come and start the process of kicking them out.

There had been an event set up on Facebook to notify activists that we’d be meeting here, so a handful of folks showed up and we walked along the quarter-mile stretch of tent homes under the interstate, visiting with folks living there. Some folks were already packing up, preparing to leave, others had already left. But, many were preparing to stay until the police sweeps begin to see if there might be some way to remain in their homes.

There had also been notice from activists to the folks living here that we would be coming to visit them. Here’s what the posting looked like:

20170907_184328Most folks living under the bridge seemed happy to talk with us and share their thoughts. Some seemed surprised to find people sharing food with them or just being nice to them in general. One man talked to us about 30 minutes telling us how he felt stripped of his basic humanity when he went to a shelter before. He says shelters are not the answer to anything and that for him shelters only made his situation worse.

 

On the same day, a legal battle led by the local ACLU and homeless folks, was hitting the courts. Here’s what it looked like in our local paper The Stranger:

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I want to highlight part of what Heidi Groover reported in her Stranger piece. Here it is, a screen capture from my phone:

Screenshot_2017-09-07-22-24-14At our Housing For All campaign kickoff in a couple hours from now, folks will be passing out these flyers to ask people to join us in standing in solidarity with our neighbors as police come for them Monday and Tuesday:

Screen Shot 2017-09-09 at 11.54.19 AMScreen Shot 2017-09-09 at 11.54.04 AMThere was other major news in Seattle this week about Amazon announcing that it will create a second headquarters location equal in size to Seattle (50,000 employees). It will be in another city yet to be determined. Here’s what that looked like in The Seattle Times:

Screenshot_2017-09-07-22-33-38In major national news, there is a massive hurricane, Irma, which is the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. It will start to hit south Florida today in what forecasters are calling a “once-in-a-generation” storm. My best friend from college journalism school, Brian Entin, is a reporter for WSVN, a local TV station in Miami. His boyfriend, mother and dog have evacuated, but he’s staying in Miami to cover the destruction! Here’s a picture of him reporting from an electric power plant in Fort Lauderdale a couple days prior to the eye of the storm hitting:

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And here are other headlines in national news from The Washington Post:

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This Republican Administration Attacked Young U.S. Immigrants Today, Seattle Protested

It seems few days pass without terrible news from this Republican administration. Today was especially heartbreaking. Trump announced he was ending an Obama program that protected 800,000 undocumented immigrants, who came to the U.S. as children, from deportation.

Trump announced he was killing DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) amid pleas across the country urging him not to do this because it would devastate the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and teenagers.

I felt waves of panic, anger, and sadness today. This morning I cried before I left our building on the way to start the day. As I walked out, our neighbor Don who’s always on the building’s front stoop was shaking his head in disbelief, “Did you see? He ended DACA!”

Here is what the headline looked liked in national news from D.C. This is from The Washington Post:

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This is what it looked like in the local news. This headline is from The Seattle Times:

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Immediately rallies and protests took to the streets across the country. In Seattle, hundreds of people (if not more than 1,000) came together with bold messages saying they will not leave. Young folks, our neighbors, who came to the U.S. as undocumented immigrants and who are now at risk of being deported shared their stories. They were joined by Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib and other immigration leaders from around the city.

I made the decision not to go to the rally at El Centro de la Raza on Beacon Hill. I’ve been struggling with how to become more focused, effective and not spread myself too thin. In this environment there is always a meeting, rally or activity to be at to fight this administration. I’ve been learning that I simply can’t be everywhere and also get work done. This morning, and during the rally, my work was communicating with folks about our burgeoning “Housing For All” homelessness campaign.

That being said I felt bad about not going to the rally, but that is something I need to work through. I told my friend Stephanie (who I always talk about) about my decision not to go. She said that was okay because she was going and she could send me texts and pictures of what unfolded. So, she did. Here are some of the pictures she sent:

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And, here were some of the texts she sent, quoting the speakers:

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Stephanie is such a rock for us and I appreciate her so much. One of the last times we were at their house in the past couple weeks, she had just been to her neighbor’s house where the community had organized coming together to celebrate diversity. This was in response to that neighbor finding the N-word scrawled across her driveway. Her neighbors reacted and came together to support her, even though some of the folks had only just met through this incident. Nick and I will be babysitting Stephanie’s twins again soon.

If Stephanie’s pictures from the rally above look hazy, that’s because we’re surrounded by massive wildfires and it’s put an orange, smokey filter on our lives. Here are pictures from the Columbia River Gorge in southern Washington and northern Oregon, just to the south of Seattle. These photos are from The Seattle Times today:

Screenshot_2017-09-05-11-08-26Screenshot_2017-09-05-11-08-17Screenshot_2017-09-05-11-08-37Screenshot_2017-09-05-11-08-02Screenshot_2017-09-05-11-07-48In other major natural disaster news, just as the U.S. is cleaning up from Hurricane Harvey’s historic destruction in Texas, another record-breaking Category 5 hurricane, Irma, is now heading directly toward Florida:

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We just finished Labor Day weekend. Nick and I were able to escape the city for just less than two days. We went to nearby Vashon Island and stayed in a 150 square foot tiny home out in the woods. Here are some pictures I took during our trip:

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Here are other headlines we’re seeing from The Washington Post:

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Worst Rain Event in U.S. History, a Scary Trump Pardon, and Another North Korean Missile

Nick and I are doing well. Nick is still working his ass off, six days a week. Since I’ve had more free time than him, I cooked this Sichuanese Chinese dinner this week:

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My days continue to be completely filled too with several things:

  • Having one-on-one meetings almost daily with Seattle parents and teachers to get them on board with our grassroots campaign to treat our homeless neighbors better. I’ve been finding these folks and connecting through friends who are parents who are willing to send out messages asking for a meeting. The meetings are going well and I’m encouraged! I’m having them in coffee shops, parks and in one case, even in someone’s home. I’ve been ready for parents to not necessarily be on our side because we’re talking with them about something that can be fairly controversial in Seattle–the police sweeps of the homeless encampments. But, so far, everyone has been receptive to our message of trying to mostly end the sweeps and create more deeply affordable housing and more diverse shelter options. In one noteworthy conversation with one elementary PTA president, we found out that he and his family had been homeless very recently. He will now be speaking at our campaign kick off event. 

 

  • Going to meetings with Neighborhood Action Coalition and separate meetings with the entire coalition working on this homelessness campaign called Housing For All. Things are really starting to take shape with a platform and sign-on letter and a coalition formed of many organizations, including a more than a few homeless and formerly homeless folks.

 

  • Continuing to box at Arcaro Boxing Gym. In the past few days I got to spend the hour boxing with Nikkita Oliver who also boxes there.

 

  • Applying for jobs and going to interviews.

I look forward to updating you on the homelessness campaign soon. The campaign kickoff is Saturday, September 9, 2017 in downtown Seattle.

Outside Seattle though, there has been a lot of national attention on a major natural disaster that has destroyed Houston, Texas, the fourth largest city in the country. Here are some of the headlines from The Washington Post:

Screenshot_2017-08-27-17-05-56Screenshot_2017-08-28-07-51-56Screenshot_2017-08-29-17-24-21Screenshot_2017-08-30-08-40-41Screenshot_2017-08-28-22-16-00Screenshot_2017-08-28-07-51-52Screenshot_2017-08-30-08-38-49Screenshot_2017-08-30-08-38-38In the midst of one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit our country, Trump also did and Tweeted these things. The timing of doing this during the storm proves he does not give a shit about folks in Houston. And, the pardon of Arpaio is especially disturbing, as described below in headlines from The Washington Post and The New Yorker:

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During Hurricane Harvey, we also saw these news headlines:

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An Attempt to Be Distracted: I Saw a Solar Eclipse! I Saw Lady Gaga!

My mornings have been pretty busy as I not only continue my job search but help with the grassroots campaign to end Seattle’s homeless encampment sweeps, and get back to Arcaro Boxing gym.

Yesterday morning was especially eventful though. I stopped what I was doing to go to a small community garden and park about two blocks from our apartment. I arrived to an unusually busy weekday morning in that small public space. About a dozen people were staring at the sky, wearing strange-looking paper glasses.

It was the first time in 99 years that the moon eclipsed the sun! So, I sat down and watched the scene, although I didn’t look at the sun because I didn’t have those special glasses. I had been so in the zone with my own life that I had barely known that the eclipse was coming, despite it being all over the news. And, people were relieved to have something so natural, so beautiful bring humanity together for a moment.

Seattle saw about a 93% blackout of the sun, so we weren’t in the path of total darkness. The moon blocked the sun for just a couple minutes. It was strange as it felt like the sun was setting at 10:00 in the morning! Here’s a picture I took of my shadow in the park during the beginning of the solar eclipse:

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And, here’s what it looked like in the news:

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Recently we also went to Lady Gaga’s concert in Tacoma, Washington! Nick is obsessed with Lady Gaga, she’s been a big influence in his coming-of-age, he even has a tattoo of her name on his back. So, he bought us tickets and I was so excited to go with him because he was so excited. It was his fourth time to see her, my first. We went with some of our best friends Brett and Kaelen. Here are some pictures he snapped on his phone as we watched the spectacular pop-star performance:

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We’ve also improved our cooking at home lately. I made this Southeast Asian curry a couple nights ago. To our surprise, it was really good!

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In the Seattle mayor’s race we had this news update from The Stranger:

Screenshot_2017-08-15-20-09-02We also found out that our socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant will be helping form a new national political party. This headline is from Seattle Weekly:

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In national news, the onslaught of ugly, scary updates continues. In the aftermath of the white supremacist rallies in both Charlottesville, Virginia and Seattle last weekend, my mom texted me from Oklahoma because she was worried about more protests. She was worried because there was a lot of news about a huge white nationalist rally and counter protest in Boston where more than 40,000 counter protesters showed up. This is what my mom’s text said:

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There were not protests in Seattle this time. Here are other major headlines we’ve seen in The Washington Post and New York Times since I last updated you. There was a terrorist attack in a major tourist spot in Barcelona, Spain in which a car plowed over dozens of people:

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My Mom and Dad Visited Seattle, and a White Nationalist Rally Ignited Chaos Downtown

20170811_143247That’s me with my Mom and Dad, Sherri and Joe, on a Washington State Ferry with Downtown Seattle and the Puget Sound in the background three days ago. The day the photo was taken was hazy because of smoke from wildfires about 150 miles to our north in Canada.

This was my parents’ first visit to the Pacific Northwest. It was incredible having them here and getting to just sit and eat good food, drink good drinks and catch up. I hadn’t seen them in my home since 2008 when they came to visit me when I was a reporter in Lexington, Kentucky.

During their two and a half days here, we went by Pike Place Market (becuase you have to!), we drank beers in cans as we sat on the deck of the Bainbridge Island Ferry cruising across the Sound so they could see a perfect view of the city, and we sat for hours on a deck eating delicious sea food and drinking beer on Alki Beach in West Seattle. We also visited with Mark, Sandy and their kids at a great bar called Chuck’s Hop Shop on Capitol Hill, we also went to their house.

Nick got to eat most meals with us, but he also had to work and got sick one of the days with a 24-hour stomach bug. So, he’s not in the pictures I took. We were both sad that he had to sit one day out, but he got to spend almost all the meal times with us.

Here are some of the photos from the trip that I took on my phone:

20170812_12482920170812_17470720170811_15465420170812_18225320170811_12163620170811_12111220170811_13301920170811_13302420170811_11590620170811_121321My parents flew back to Oklahoma yesterday morning and I was so sad to see them go. Nick and I drove them to the airport. I cried in the afternoon after they were gone. They felt as far away as they ever have after spending so much time in our home, then having to leave.

As they were flying out of Seattle-Tacoma International airport on a non-stop Alaska Airlines flight back to Oklahoma City, protesters, white nationalists and police were clashing in downtown Seattle, at an intersection my parents and I had been at only two days prior.

Nick and I did not go to the protest as we were driving back from the airport and we were completely exhausted from two days of being very busy. But, while we were back at home, just a mile from where the protests were, my friend Stephanie texted me that she, her husband and their twin boys had fled the protest because they’d heard a loud bang and had seen a flash. Here was her text:

Screenshot_2017-08-13-16-09-33The white nationalists were holding a planned hate-filled rally in downtown Seattle. Counter-protesters, anti-fascists (our friends among them) showed up to denounce the hate. The counter protesters outnumbered the white nationalists. At some point things got tense and police started spraying tear gas directly in the faces of protesters. These are pictures from the scene from friends who shared online and The Seattle Times:Screenshot_2017-08-13-16-21-13Screenshot_2017-08-13-16-21-28Screenshot_2017-08-13-15-49-56Screenshot_2017-08-13-15-50-09Screenshot_2017-08-13-15-49-04Screenshot_2017-08-13-15-48-53Screenshot_2017-08-13-16-21-55There was an air of heightened alert because all of this was unfolding just 24-hours after a similar rally in Charlottesville, Virginia where a car rammed into counter-protesters, killing some and injuring many more. Here were some of the gruesome headlines from that horrific scene. These are from The Seattle Times and The Washington Post respectively.Screenshot_2017-08-13-11-23-23Screenshot_2017-08-13-11-23-55I’ve once again deactivated my Facebook profile and it’s been down for nine days. The chatter over everything that is happening is rightfully at fever pitch. And, I want to share my anger and outrage too, but I also want to keep focused on the projects I’m working on so that I can maintain my energy to join the fight we are up against. I was starting to feel weaker by being on social media too much. I will rejoin, but I’m not sure when.

In the meantime, we’ve also learned that Cary Moon has nearly solidified her second place spot in the Seattle Mayoral race. This is just heart-breaking for those of us who have worked on Nikkita Oliver’s campaign. She is in third place only by about 0.7%. She needs to be part of the race because she has mobilized thousands more folks than any other candidate to join a movement. She’s raised money from the grassroots without taking any money from corporations. Volunteers are still trying to do what they can to make sure all ballots were counted. Part of the reason I’m spending time off social media is because I’m trying to come to terms with this news. Here was one headline from The Stranger:

Screenshot_2017-08-09-22-35-13I also found heart in seeing this graffitti on the bathroom wall at Chuck’s Hop Shop on Union Street on Capitol Hill. It frames the way so many of us feel about Jenny Durkan, the centrist/corporate candidate who took first place and who we very much want to keep from becoming the next mayor:20170812_194935The news has been filled with a lot of other fear-inducing stories. Here are some more of the national headlines from The Washington Post:

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