It was just three weeks ago, speaking with a burst of enthusiasm and joy, that such a revolutionary act, taking a police precinct for the benefit of the community, was deemed a monumental success. Reports of the police force’s return, to the east precinct headquartered in Capital Hill’s core, the weekend preceding Independence Day weekend, seems to be less of a threat and more of a reality. Carmen Best, both Chief of Police and a black woman, states in plain english that CHOP has seen its last days.
Between June 20th and June 29th, four separate shootings plagued the occupied protest, with two confirmed fatalities. All shootings taking place after midnight, with black teenagers, some as young as fourteen, the recipients of gun violence. As of this writing, none of the shooters have been apprehended. Shootings like this gave law enforcement, the mayor and her soldiers alike the ammunition needed to label the area dangerous. A disaster zone of violence and anarchy, a dark spot for both business owners and patrons alike.
Passing pike, a mural on 12th ave reminds of what this community has always been. Plum Bistro has a strong reputation of providing exquisite vegan meals , with an equally satisfying atmosphere. In the past, its been my favorite restaurant to impress someone special to me. However, I only learned this month that Plum Bistro is owned and operated by a black woman. Makini Howell, a black woman and lifelong vegan, beliebers what is good for the body is fantastic for our planet. Her plant-based meals, non soy and GMO, focus on organically grown seasoned fruits and vegetables from local farms. Since March’s stay-at-home order, her 12th ave restaurant exactly one block away from the east precinct, operates in a smaller store front. Plum chopped is open and provides delicious and nutritionist take home meals.
Veganism is a movement and lifestyle most closely associated with white people, and most certainly associated with non black people. White people I’ve meant to this day are still somewhat surprised that I’m vegeatarian, espicailly considering I moved here from Atlanta. I am honoured to be a customer of Plum, and enjoy the privilege to eat uncompromisingly valuable meals.
It doesn’t support the narrative of White/Middle America that something healthy and high quality, with an eye on sustainabilty for our planet, can’t possibly be a facet of black-ness. It doesn’t neatly fit the narrative people have formulated in their mind. The entertainment industry is a cleaner fit, as has been black america’s role for centuries.
The alleged leadership structure of Chop is very comparable. Any one with two feet to walk through it themselves, with two brain cells to rub together,could see CHOP is lead by 1 to 3 black women. These women were…are incredible individuals who live in the surrounding neighborhoods. These women our are nation’s daughters and mothers, none of which appear to be over the age of 35.
The violence, or rather the aforementioned incidents of attacks against the occupied protest, don’t indicate a lack of strong, disciplined leadership. Hearing the passion these women spoke of CHOP’s challenges, following a city council meeting with the mayor on the 22nd of June, left me with no questions of their intentions. The outpour of white financial aid, coupled with the redistribution of homeless campers from downtown Seattle,homeless campers from “the Jungle” underneath SoDo(south of downtown)district’s highways, as well as campers traveling from outside of Seattle, diluted the mission of blacks to find other black activists. Countless posters worked to remind visitors and campers alike that this wasn’t a music festival, or a party, but a revolutionary act.
Disagreements happening within CHOP, via abrasive posturing doesn’t seem to occur from any black voices or bodies either. Police are the only group not allowed in Chop, but the occupied protest was not positioned for success in dealing with multiple mentally unstable individuals. It would be unwise to say that there weren’t any black protestors with a complete bill of health, but there were black mental health professionals providing support and resources for their community, not to address all of those types of individuals whom call Seattle home. At no point was the black minority group of Seattle, the majority of CHOP.
Still, I find it extremely important to note the gross majority of individuals with social mental disorders camping in CHOP where white males. White males having difficulty dealing with other white males. Again, no one was denined entry, or resources to the area
If there was one place in Seattle, a substantially white city where the dominant minority’s ancestors & relatives reside in East Asia, not East Africa; despite the neighborhood’s efforts for Seattle’s Central district to be christened Africatown, where a black person could feel a sense of community. Where a black man or woman could feel inviting eyes from black brothers and sisters, and a warm embrace with or without physical touch. Where gentirification, a topic addressing blacks in a clear economic disadvantage for “valuable” housing, was only a talking point for those needing a collection bowl for their fluid, white guilt. I was, and still am proud of a region where black pride was more in vogue then whatever white america dictated should be popular. No, Chop was fought for, in a battle for racial equity & equality that began in this nation, at the Civil War’s conclusion.Despite chatter of the area being a warzone, the sight of a few protestors openly carrying firearms, the intention of the protest never changed. The demands were clearly defined and displayed.That initial feeling of hope hasn’t been wiped out. The festival goers have packed up and left, Cal anderson no longer has its dj to play the beat of “Chop-ella”.But a sense of belonging and community for black people can still be ChOP.
Whatever comes of the area now, Black Leaders have come together. The outpour of art and incredible connections made with non-black allies still continues to give me hope for true racial progress. The mayor has reported a 5 percent decrease to the Seattle Police Department’s budget. The most consistent criticism of a lack of a police department is a fear response. It hasn’t been fully accepted that a call to the police, whether in Seattle or Atlanta, whether a black person is the caller, or the party being called on, could very well be a death sentence. Words will not be enough for progress, but I am happy to hear them spoken more frequently from a collective of black voices.
Despite their attempts to block it, The Black Voices Collective will not be limited to three blocks.