After a year of protest, Seattle ready for next steps as Black Brilliance Research Project report sets path for new participatory budget effort

A scene from the third day of Seattle’s 2020 BLM protests

From the Black Brilliance Research Project report

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

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. Continue reading

A call for more Black teachers and counselors not cops as Black Lives Matter at School Week starts Black History Month in Seattle

Seattle’s Black History Month is beginning with a Black Lives Matter at School Week and a “week of action” calling for more Black educators and ethnic studies in the city’s classrooms.

In Seattle’s public schools, this is the fourth year officials have recognized the Black Lives Matter movement and made curriculum resources available to teachers to bring the discussion more fully into their classes — even as the pandemic has moved instruction online in 2021.

“The events of the past year have brought even more urgency and importance to this yearly week of action,” an announcement of the week focusing on social justice and education from Seattle Public Schools reads. “The killing of unarmed Black men and women, including LGBTQIA+ persons of color, by police has left young people and our communities searching for answers to incredibly complicated issues of race, justice, and fairness. Our public education system and educators play an important role in disrupting legacies of racism.”

Organizers of Black Lives Matter At School including Seattle educator and activist Jesse Hagopian, meanwhile, are calling on Seattle Schools and education officials across the country to commit to four goals: Continue reading

With boxes of local goods supporting Black-led organizing, Cooks for Black Lives Matter mixes food with social justice

(Image: Cooks for Black Lives Matter)

By Gabrielle Locke

A project is bringing together Seattle area chefs, bakers and farmers to produce monthly CSA-style boxes and raise funds for social justice and equity.

The Cooks for Black Lives Matter’s project has raised thousands for King County Equity Now and is ready to continue its growth in 2021, organizers say.

Jude Watson and Max Goldstein founded Cooks for BLM in May of 2020. They met each other while working on the Hill at Stateside and found themselves laid off just as Black Lives Matter demonstrations began to grow in May.

Watson grew up on Capitol Hill and, before working as a chef, they helped organize queer youth space. Watson is currently a deli lead at Salumi. Goldstein is patiently waiting to be rehired at Stateside, when they open back up.

“As a white person one of the ways that I can support organizations that are led by people of color is fundraising,” Watson said. While working together, Goldstein and Watson realized they had a common goal, to use food donation as a way to raise money for organization led by people of color. Continue reading

More violations — but no discipline, yet — over tear gas canisters and dispersal orders in latest findings in Seattle Police ‘Demonstration Complaints’

The department’s oversight officials have determined that Seattle Police officers violated policies in a handful of complaints over incidents during the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests including SPD actions on Capitol Hill.

The latest release of findings comes as the Office of Police Accountability continues to work its way through thousands of complaints lodged over police use of force and crowd control weapons including blast balls and tear gas during the summer protests. Continue reading

Washington Build Back Black Alliance forms to ‘speak with one voice’ in Olympia at Seattle City Hall

When Paula Sardinas moved to Washington, she noticed that despite lawmakers’ rhetoric, “Black Lives Matter” was not reflected in policy.

Sardinas, president of a government relations firm, said she’s been advocating for equity in Olympia, but has always come up against better-funded special interests, noting specific fights in the cannabis industry that activists have argued has kept out Black business owners. So she asked herself: “How can we create a concentric circle which centers around social and equitable racial justice in policy and bring all the members to the table?”

Sardinas and colleagues hope they have answered this question by forming the Washington Build Back Black Alliance this fall, which includes members from Tacoma to the Tri-Cities, to both develop policies and give feedback on existing legislation that could affect the wellbeing of Black people.

“Every piece of policy we draft we need to ask ourselves one simple question: Does this hurt or advance the cause of Black lives and if it does, how is it helping us to create generational wealth and equity,” Sardinas told CHS this week. “If a bill or piece of legislation doesn’t answer those two questions, then why are we hearing the bill?”

Some elements of the group’s 2021 agenda are already taking shape. Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled his equity plan for the state’s next budget including “$365M for equity-related decision packages and budget items.”

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Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County calls on Durkan to launch investigation of SPD’s Office of Police Accountability and decision to abandon East Precinct

Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County is calling on Mayor Jenny Durkan to launch an investigation of Seattle Police and its Office of Police Accountability after a judge’s ruling this week found the city in contempt for violating an order restraining the use of crowd-control weapons and tactics.

At its core, the letter from the Seattle area chapter focuses on the OPA’s 2020 investigations and the lack of accountability in this summer’s decision to evacuate the East Precinct and the questions the episode raises about the chain of command and decision making inside SPD.

“There is a growing body of evidence to show SPD has failed to uphold its responsibilities, obey the law, and protect people over the past seven months,” BLMSKC said in its letter. “At worst, the evidence suggests SPD has, through its officers and in its capacity as an institution, consistently engaged in various unlawful practices. At best, the evidence suggests SPD has failed to uphold governing officer conduct policies.”

UPDATE: In a statement sent to CHS, the mayor’s office defended its police “accountability partners” but said Durkan will meet with the Black Lives Matter group.

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Is the Capitol Hill protest season over?

With reporting by Renee Raketty

The marches, rallies, and actions have once again shifted and there have been more nights than not lately with quiet streets around Capitol Hill’s walled-off East Precinct. Some might think Seattle protest season has ended just as the drizzle season has arrived.

“The protest community is feeling the strain of almost 180 days of continuous action. Increasing COVID numbers, a change in Seattle police tactics, factionalization, and the logical progression of a protest into political activity have reduced daily turnout,” David Obelcz, a frequent protest live streamer and publisher of Malcontentment.com said. “It is worth noting the 150-day march and the November 4 march had more than 1,000 people. Anyone who is pouring one out for Black Lives Matter in Seattle is doing so prematurely.”

But the night of the 150-day march did seem to mark a turning point. In the weeks since, demonstrations have been spread out across the city including the International District, Northgate, and West Seattle, plus a tangle with some Proud Boys in Mill Creek, along with a couple nights of protest activity starting as it has for months in Cal Anderson. But groups on the Hill have been smaller and reports of vandalism at the East Precinct and business property damage have quieted since October. Even the E Olive Way Starbucks has reopened though the neighborhood’s parking meters remain busted.

For larger rallies and marches, the changes seem to be a focus on a wider area of the city and a push toward quality over quantity. There are fewer events but a more robust deployment of resources including the safety of the “Car Brigade” and sometimes a split of marchers into two or more groups to stretch Seattle Police resources and limit law enforcement interference.

SPD also has new tactics and new equipment — though its deployment in the East Precinct has also become a relative rarity.

The causes of the Black Lives Matter groups and the anti-police “direct action” activists don’t cleave to a legislative schedule but another season has also passed. Continue reading

Council rejects ‘No New Cops’ bid in 2021 budget, adding to Seattle’s list of #defundSPD compromises

After months of protest and activism for Black Lives Matter causes and defunding the police, the political accomplishments for the movements in Seattle continue to be a work in progress.

Thursday, a bid to freeze any new hiring at the Seattle Police Department next year grown out of the activist-backed “Solidarity Budget” effort and championed by Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Tammy Morales failed as the council wrapped up a marathon two days of amendments to pound out the city’s final 2021 budget.

A final vote on the budget comes Monday when the hiring issue is unlikely to again hit the table.

The “No New Cops” proposal would have redirected $9 million in officer salaries to social and community service spending Inspired by the Solidarity Budget, a slate of spending proposals from a coalition of community and activist groups, only Morales and Sawant backed the proposed budget amendment Thursday as council president Lorena González and others argued that attrition fears pushed forward by Mayor Jenny Durkan and budget cuts to the department could hinder SPD’s public safety efforts. Continue reading

President-elect Biden making Friday night address — ‘Protect Every Person’ rally Saturday in Westlake

(Image: Biden for President)

After an excruciating Election Night and week of steadily growing vote counts for the Democratic challengers, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are planned to address the nation Friday night.

A scheduled hour for the “prime time” appearance has not been announced.

Vote totals Friday showed Biden and Harris winning Pennsylvania, putting the ticket over the 270 threshold required to claim Electoral College victory — though major media has been reluctant to declare winners in the race and in still un-called battlegrounds Georgia and Nevada given the blistering attacks leveled over early calls on Arizona.

The Trump administration campaign is also threatening legal actions and has hopes for recounts but most experts agree any reversal of the totals seen by Friday in the remaining states seemed highly unlikely.

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