The newly formed Peoples Party of Seattle is putting all-in-one educator, attorney, spoken-word poet, and activist Nikkita Oliver forward as its candidate to take on Mayor Ed Murray for this year’s election.
Oliver’s decision to run and help launch the “community-centered grassroots political party” came after the election of President Donald Trump.
“I didn’t want to stand in a place of powerlessness,” Oliver said.
After the election, she started meeting people for coffee, talking about values and concerns. Oliver talked with the “aunties and elders” in her community about how people running on the same platforms yield the same results and maybe it’s time to try something different.
Over time, those conversations lead to the collective decision that “we need to transform our local government.”
The party formed and encouraged Oliver to run against Murray.
“I take what my community says to me to heart,” Oliver told CHS. “… I’m not going to act like I entered into this with ease. I take it very seriously.”
Oliver said she and the Peoples Party want Seattle to be a city of equity and while Murray is good at using progressive language, he’s not great at taking progressive action. She points to his Our Best program that aims to improve the life outcomes for young black men as one example where Murray’s message rings hollow.
Oliver, who works in Seattle’s schools, said many organizations who work with black youth didn’t hear about the program until Murray’s State of the City address. The program looks a lot like Barack Obama’s initiative My Brother’s Keeper. Instead of focusing on just young black men, Oliver said all black children — boys, girls, transgender, and gender nonconforming — need to be included. The program doesn’t have to be the same for all of them, but it needs to serve all of them.
“Those of us with privilege don’t get to go into communities and fix them,” Oliver said. “We get to listen to them and help communities heal themselves.”
Ending the “school-to-prison pipeline” and improving education in Seattle are two focuses for Oliver’s campaign and they tie closely together. Oliver said the city and schools need to have a better relationship for the city’s children. Oliver has also been involved with the No New Youth Jail movement.
Another top priority is housing. Oliver has issues with the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. The main problem being that it’s not realistically affordable, she told CHS.
“I see more inaccessible buildings going up every day. Why isn’t affordable housing being put up at the same speed?” she said.
While the organization Africatown is part of “inclusive development” at the Liberty Bank Building and could be involved in more as a part of its proposal with Forterra to buy the Midtown Center.
Oliver said “inclusive development” isn’t enough and often translates to a small space and a mural. It needs to be “participatory,” which she said will make developers uncomfortable but, “the Central District has become too much of a museum.”
Transportation, access to health care, and re-entry programs also areas Oliver plans to focus on.
After watching what happened to the Democrats on a national level, Oliver is concerned about the possibility of damaging Murray’s campaign to the extent that a more pro-business candidate could take the seat instead. But Oliver believes in progressive Seattle and that those concerned about the root causes of issues will show up.
“I think it’s time we step away from the status quo,” Oliver said. “… And that might mean doing something different and Seattle always seems to be down to do something different.”
Oliver has spoken to Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant about running for office and plans to continue to have conversations with her.
“There’s a lot to be learned from council members who have run their own campaigns,” she said.
While some might not like way Sawant engages on issues, Oliver said the District 3 rep regularly takes the righteous side and engages with the public and civic movements.
“She’s always there, she engages, and she votes the way we ask her to,” Oliver said.
If elected, Oliver would be the first black woman to serve as Seattle’s mayor. The Peoples Party is presenting an opportunity to change what it means to have a government formed by the people.
“All people should be able to imagine themselves serving our communities in this way, but that’s not the case right now,” Oliver said.
More information about the Peoples Party of Seattle can be found at seattlepeoplesparty.com. Oliver told CHS a more detailed party platform will be released on April 2.
Oliver said the party is engaging with people before releasing more of their platform because they want to take suggestions and comments into account.
“I go all the time and make comment at (city) meetings and never see comments reflected in laws and policies,” Oliver said.