Months of Black Lives Matter rallies, marches, protests, and the occupied takeover of the blocks around Cal Anderson and Capitol Hill’s East Precinct have pushed Seattle to shift 20% of its police budget into a $30 million participatory budgeting process hoped to spur new spending on social programs, community health, and economic investment.
Friday, a team of more than 100 researchers, community organizers, and activists will deliver their findings to the Seattle City Council that will underpin the effort. The Black Brilliance Research Project’s 1,045-page report is only the start of what officials hope will be a new way of making decisions for the city’s communities.
“One of the things that I know from working in health and human services and and the needs of our community over these past 20 some odd years is that folks will come into our community they will have focus groups,” Latanya Horace of the Silent Task Force that contributed to the report said in a preview of the group’s findings earlier this week. “They will ask us what we — what they want to know about our communities. And they’ll take that information, go back and package it up and come out with a plan that does not include black folks doing the work for their own community.”
Tammy Morales, chair of the Community Economic Development Committee receiving the report, and the council’s representative for South Seattle, says the hope is for the city to scale up its early steps in participatory budgeting used on decisions around streets and parks and find a way to apply a similar approach to the bigger challenges — and opportunities — of social justice.
“This is a shift away from the city driving so much of this and letting the community do that,” Morales said. “These are communities that are typically left out. People who are disproportionately impacted should have a say. This is about shifting access to power and resources. The community is saying, ‘Let us decide the strategies.'”
For the researchers who worked on the massive, painstaking report and overcame a mid-stream reorganization of how the project was managed, Friday’s presentation is, alone, worthy of celebration given the months behind them and the challenges ahead.
“That research project ended up becoming the world’s largest black and brown community-led research in the world in the world,” Shaun Glaze said during the preview presentation this week. “That happened during a pandemic,” Glaze said with amazement. “Here. In Seattle.”
The report submitted Friday will set the framework for how the shift to helping communities “decide the strategies” happens in Seattle. Based on hundreds of hours of research and community surveys, the report provides outlines for the types of issues Seattle’s communities want to have more control over — and how that control needs to be shaped to make sure it works and fully includes Black, Indigenous and People of Color participants. Continue reading