Essays — January 21, 2016 11:30 — 1 Comment

One Super Important Question for Six

Hello! This is simple: I wanted to ask some people who do great work in the city what they thought was the most important issue facing Seattle in 2016.

Here are their answers:

Matt “Spek” Watson (writer, musician): I think there’s a very strong current of new capital and resources running through the city right now, and the challenge is not only going to be how we avoid being swept away by that current, but how we use it to power new programs and policies that strengthen existing communities. I think we need to think creatively and act quickly to encourage community-owned, and more specifically, POC-owned land so that as development and gentrification inevitably spreads, existing communities will be in a better position to benefit and thrive.

Beth Fleenor (writer, musician): Connection. Geographic, emotional, developmental, sociopolitical and socioeconomic connection. And you know what I always say, an emphasis on creativity in a culture gives rise to creative solutions to social problems.

Sarah Galvin (writer): The housing crisis! I recently learned that in Pioneer Square in the 70s (it may have been city-wide, but I only know for sure about Pioneer Square) every BUILDING had to rent for a range of prices. So, there were low- and high-income people all mixed in with each other. I think this is a fantastic idea. We need either that or rent control – the way the housing market currently functions is driving up the rate of homelessness and destroying the arts community.

Adrian Ryan (writer): What Seattle needs most of all is committed, political engagement across the board – from the development plague that’s eating the city to rush-hour traffic, large portions of these problems are politically created and can be politically addressed. The City Council, the School Board, the boring old Port of Seattle, Metro: Seattleites need to understand that these affect our lives on a daily basis (please see Bertha, the Shell oil rig, the light rail) and to educate and involve themselves to make sure all elected officials work towards goals that reflect our values and singular culture, and that we demand transparency, accountability, and honesty.

Piper Danies (WASH founder): Many will remember that on August 8th of 2015, a speech in downtown Seattle featuring presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was disrupted by a group from the Seattle Chapter of Black Lives Matter. I, like many people who possess white privilege, considered this action to be “misplaced” and “inappropriate” at the time. I would like to apologize now for my ignorance. When facing such issues as mass incarceration, police brutality, and the ever-changing face of a deepening white supremacy, there’s no greater time to say fuck you to the polite, opportune moment. Of course, institutional racism and the Black Lives Matter movement is the single most important issue facing our country today, particularly in incidents of police brutality, which have been executed so similarly, shamelessly, and so often, they amount to nothing less than genocide. But why is the #BlackLivesMatter movement so important for Seattle in particular?

The country looks to Seattle as a kind of test case for how liberal policies and attitudes unfold. Black Lives Matter advocate Marissa Johnson describes Seattle as “our nation’s Mecca of white hypocrisy,” a liberal bastion that disguises its racism, xenophobia, and poor police track record with declarations of acceptance, enlightenment, and love. Johnson is spot-on when she says that Seattleites love black people “like misogynists love women.” If, in reading Johnson’s statements, you find yourself getting angry or squirming a little in your seat, chances are, you’re a sizeable slice of the problem. As we move into the coming year, shivering with the strangeness of this upcoming election and its myriad unknowns, Seattleites must do everything we can, personally and politically, to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement and similar organizations.

White people: we can begin by shutting up and listening. By letting black leaders, activists, and citizens speak. By reading poets like Claudia Rankine and Shane McCrae, BECAUSE it will leave us aching and stunned. By admitting to the racism we’ve inherited and harbored, and allow the shame of that to be our call to action. We can begin to make the distinction writer Marlon James makes between being passively non-racist and actively anti-racist. We can join Campaign Zero to end police violence ( We can donate our money to movements and campaigns, attend protests, sign petitions, fill out surveys (like the 2016 RSJI Community Survey: We can donate to book drives like #1000BlackGirlBooks, disseminate information through social media, become brave enough to confront ignorance in our workplaces as well as at our dinner tables. There are so many ways to respectfully, effectively, participate. The first step is to do as activist DeRay Mckesson says and extend your white privilege in order to dismantle it. Whatever you choose to do in 2016, do something.

Jamil Suleman (community organizer): The overall complexity of the housing situation is huge. Between gentrification, homelessness, and a growing corporate tech class, the economic inequality only further exasperates the racial tension in the city. For immigrants and people of color, this is not new. Police brutality, gender inequality, and recognition of the Duwamish land are always paramount, but 2016 is going to focus on housing in a lot of ways. I feel encouraged that the community is organizing, with pop up events, arts and media, youth programs and gardening. I hope this will provide a buffer as we seek to include everyone in a city that is changing dramatically fast.


Jake Uitti is a founding editor of The Monarch Review.

One Comment

  1. Rob Thompson says:

    Love the passion, Piper Danies!

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney