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Black Brilliance Research Project, born from Seattle’s Black Lives Matter protests, moving on without King County Equity Now — UPDATE

One of the most concrete outcomes at Seattle City Hall of the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests is showing cracks and fissures. Monday afternoon, people working on the Black Brilliance Research Project said they have chosen to “part ways” with King County Equity Now, a coalition of Black-led organizations including the Central District’s Africatown that formed during the protests and rallies of 2020 and grew into a new nonprofit to end the year.

“We know that our liberation is intertwined, and we will continue to build alongside all people invested in Black liberation,” the announcement reads. “However, we do not have confidence in KCEN leadership’s current capacity and ability to bring this research project to the finish line in a way that meets the needs of our researchers and community and serves the best interests of the project’s vision and responsibility moving forward.”

Monday’s announcement is signed by Shaun Glaze and LéTania Severe, who have led Black Brilliance Research, and four other groups — Black Trans Prayer Book Researchers, Bridging Cultural Gaps Researchers, Sacred Community Connections Researchers, and The Silent Task Force Researchers — working on the project to document alternatives to policing and increased investment in social and community programs.

It comes as the city, King County Equity Now, and the research project have faced questions about the City Council’s legislative process to award the $3 million contract and a state audit exploring the transaction involving the city, King County Equity Now, and financial sponsor the Freedom Project.

The push for the project and the money to fund the research was part of the City Council’s 2020 budget rebalancing battle with Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office. That fight survived a Durkan veto with help from KCEN and Decriminalize Seattle’s pressure to maintain the community investment.

This fall, the Black Brilliance Research Project began to more fully spell out its goals and initiatives:

Broadly, the researchers are responsible for studying the “community safety” and “community health” priorities of specific demographic groups; the work plan names “Afro-Latinx people who use wheelchairs” or “second-generation Somali youth” as examples of possible focus areas. The work plan also outlines possible methods for answering research questions: for instance, to study the effectiveness of community response teams as an alternative to 911 responders, the work plan suggests that researchers could measure changes in 911 use after the establishment of a community response team.

Then, in October, King County Equity Now was formally incorporated as a state nonprofit with Isaac Joy of the Africatown Community Land Trust as its president.

Monday, the individuals working on the Black Brilliance Research Project said that King County Equity Now’s shift from an informal coalition to an incorporated nonprofit was at the root of the problems.

“When KCEN represented a collective of Black community organizations, having KCEN facilitate the research made sense,” the announcement reads. “However, once KCEN chose to incorporate, the community partnership dynamic changed, and this created obstacles and barriers to the research. At heart, this is what has led us away from having KCEN be charged with facilitating the research to the finish line.”

The Black Brilliance Research group said they were turning to the fiscal sponsor Freedom Project, a nonprofit providing programs and advocacy for the incarcerated at “major prisons throughout Washington State,” for “their capacity to steward this work to the finish line in a way that is considerate of all impacted and involved.”

“We are confident that finalizing this contract with Freedom Project at the helm is the best decision to allow us to honor the trust the public has placed in this collaborative community-led research process,” the announcement reads.

King County Equity Now, meanwhile, broadcasted an update on its progress Monday including “a Community Conversation to celebrate historic updates, share improvements & uplift Black community-centered accountability.”

The update did not directly address the Black Brilliance Research situation.

UPDATE 2/10/2021 9:00 AM: King County Equity Now sent the following statement in response to this CHS report:

KCEN was birthed from a strong, locally-rooted Black ecosystem. We have been in community together for years, some for generations. We are family, cousins, friends, church-goers, educators and siblings who’ve worked alongside each other towards Black liberation for decades.

With that, we are incredibly thankful for the swell of energy over this past year. We celebrate, acknowledge, thank and uplift the many hundreds of organizers, volunteers, advisors, researchers, supporters, and all else who helped lay the groundwork in the first phase of this work. As we move from a volunteer initiative to a formal non-profit, we’re taking time to slow-down and involve many more locally-rooted Black community members into the fold to ensure accountability, transparency and collective stewardship.

In that spirit, we welcome in a growing panel of Black community stewards – that is, of deeply-rooted Elders, community members and leaders that represent multiple sections, sectors and interests of local Black communities. Stewards will support looking at and reviewing research projects as they come in, the history of prior-funded projects and those currently being developed. This will expand Black community involvement from start-to-finish and, importantly, improve upon unrepresented areas in the first phase of research findings, including, e.g., Black elders, Black education, Black entrepreneurship and more.

It’s deeply important that in phase two, our Distinguished Elders and Black community members and leaders who’ve been left out thus far have the important opportunity to help guide this critical work moving forward.


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Zach
Zach
23 days ago

Ah yes, I’m so glad we rapidly gave these people $30 million of taxpayer dollars to distrubute. There won’t be any grift or corruption here, no sirry. All on the up and up!

James T.
James T.
23 days ago
Reply to  Zach

Let me tell you about white-led groups and how much money they take…

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
22 days ago
Reply to  James T.

Exactly!

Russ
Russ
22 days ago
Reply to  James T.

Please feel free to post the line items from the Seattle budget.

Nathan
Nathan
23 days ago

Does the $3 million the City gave KCEN for the BBRP stay with KCEN? Or does it move with BBRP? Does BBRP moving to another organization to finish their research have anything to do with the State Auditor examining the $3 million given to KCEN for this research?

CHqueer
CHqueer
22 days ago
Reply to  Nathan

There has to be a better way to support a more equitable Seattle and police reform. How does this study cost $3 million? Where is the scope of work and cost sheet? Why is it being run out of the legislative branch? Why wasn’t it a competitive bid process? Is it ethical to have council members funnel money directly to their activist base without checks and balances in an election year? KCEN is strongly associated with certain activist positions and a potential candidate. What if they run for council or mayor? How will the money be tracked to ensure it isn’t used for campaign purposes?

Nathan
Nathan
22 days ago
Reply to  CHqueer

All great questions! Today’s Seattle Times article on this subject answered my questions and a few of yours.

N. Ron Hubbard
N. Ron Hubbard
23 days ago

Why does the left always cannibalize itself? We see this time and time again, and it doesn’t happen to the right nearly as often.

Marco
Marco
23 days ago
Reply to  N. Ron Hubbard

They’re so afraid people will find out they’re racist is the problem, so they over compensate and do things that help no one.

Russ
Russ
22 days ago
Reply to  Marco

My take, which is based on nothing other than my own observation, the far right is all about power but the far left is not. The far left is on a quest for being the most righteous, ruinously so because it stomps on policies that could make progress in search of the perfect solution. The quest for this righteousness creates this motivation to be the most righteous and woke person in the conversation and creates deeper conflict than the quest for power because it requires making the person with the less “righteous” views feel like they are a bad person. I’m not talking about left v right – I’m talking about left v progressive v liberal v democrat v moderate v centrist. The farther left in the food chain you are the more you’re putting down would be supporters of progress.

Marco
Marco
22 days ago
Reply to  Russ

This is why it’s all the opposite of virtue. Does it make sense that the more virtuous something is the more negative it becomes? Of course not.

Suki
Suki
23 days ago

> These priorities include reducing the size of the Seattle Police Department, more investment in community-based alternatives to policing, and less spending on “government responses to harm,” such as social workers employed by the City.

Less spending on “social workers”, really?

epwarp
epwarp
23 days ago

Little of this money will materialize into library books or an improved crosswalk in a disadvantaged area. Most of the money will be a absorbed in the expanding org-chart.

James T.
James T.
23 days ago
Reply to  epwarp

You like to make things up, don’t you?

Russ
Russ
22 days ago
Reply to  James T.

Here’s something not made up – Denver invested 3 million into a social worker/EMT pairing in order to reduce the number of mental health situations that had interactions with police – it’s been pretty successful. Seattle invested 3 million into a 1000 page power point presentation with buzz words. Which do you think was a better use of the money?

epwarp
epwarp
22 days ago
Reply to  James T.

True, just a hypothesis at this point, but I see all this money evaporating.

Alex Swanson
Alex Swanson
23 days ago

Nonprofits are the new hustle. Just ask Megan and Harry. 5% is how much non profits are required to donate

Randii
Randii
22 days ago
Reply to  Alex Swanson

They really aren’t a new hustle. With social media it’s easier to become aware of it. And it used to be only people on the right who complained so they would be dismissed as right wing racists. Now that we see a momentum of people on the left willing to have a backbone and call it out it’s becoming more socially acceptable on the left to really examine the exploitation that’s going on.

CHqueer
CHqueer
22 days ago
Reply to  Alex Swanson

It is not that new. The Homeless Industrial Complex has been consuming billions of Seattle taxpayer dollars with no accountability and no results for years.

James T.
James T.
22 days ago
Reply to  CHqueer

Yeah let’s not blame Amazon or Vulcan driving up prices and leading to the homeless epidemic. Let’s blame low-paid government workers for not solving all the problems of capitalism. (eye roll)

Russ
Russ
22 days ago
Reply to  James T.

The drive up in prices also resulted in record tax revenue for the city. Property tax alone is 25% of the Seattle budget, when values goes up the city’s budget goes up. Where’s your blame for how the city spent that tax windfall? The government completely failed to leverage the growth and with the demonization of business in the city it’s likely not going to boom like that again.

HTS3
HTS3
22 days ago
Reply to  James T.

So let me get this right, it’s Amazon’s and Vulcan’s fault that real estate prices are so high because they pay employees high salaries? It’s clearly their fault. If they chose to not have their businesses here, or pay their people less, we wouldn’t be facing this housing crisis. Interesting. So rather than solving the problem through equitable taxation and then putting resources toward programs that are tracked and accountable, we should just ask all businesses to leave. Problem solved. Cool.

JCW
JCW
22 days ago
Reply to  James T.

Next time you’re in the neighborhood, swing on by the Broadway/Pike QFC. If you think our homeless population is the fault of Amazon and Vulcan driving up prices I have a bridge to sell you.

Gin
Gin
22 days ago

Yep, A majority city council of female POC are just as good as a bunch of white guys at cutting corners and rewarding your campaign base.

Wes
Wes
22 days ago

Wyking and Africatown shady as hell. KCEN was doomed.