Racist graffiti in a stairwell at Capitol Hill’s Seattle Central College condemned by the school president in a letter to the campus community is being investigated as a hate crime, a Seattle Police spokesperson tells CHS.
The letter from Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange references black marker graffiti showing “several bodies hanging from ropes” found in March in the school’s stairway B of the Broadway Edison building. Lange said an ominous message accompanied the drawings — “Damn your strange fruit.”
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“I am a witness to Jim Crow South and to James Crow Pacific Northwest racism,” Lange writes. “I can sincerely say to you that these images are not part of a distant memory. They are the monstrous signs of racism and hate demarcating vulnerable spaces for Black people.”
The Billie Holiday-popularized song Strange Fruit was written as a poem in protest of racism and lynchings.
In her letter, Lange says that police investigated the graffiti but were not investigating the act as a hate crime. Spokesperson Sgt. Sean Whitcomb tells CHS that SPD Chief Carmen Best confirms that the case is now being investigated under hate crime statutes.
According to the SPD report, the incident discovered March 21st wasn’t reported to police until April 4th.
Lange says Seattle Central is also reviewing security procedures and “improving the use of security cameras to prevent future vandalism,” and will try to remove graffiti “as quickly as possible.”
A Seattle Central spokesperson tells CHS the school has no further updates on the situation at this time.
The full letter from Lange is below.