Seattle City Council, Position 9
Black wealth remains near zero due to centuries of systemic anti-Black racism and is on a trajectory to only worsen. In Seattle, white wealth is nearly 20x more than Black wealth. What specific actions will you take to close the Black-white wealth gap?
How much of the Black-white wealth gap will you close while in office?
Who are you working with in the Black community to close it?
How will you support investing federal funding directly and specifically into the Black community in the next two years?
As a Black resident of the Rainier Beach neighborhood and executive director of a Black-led organization located in the Central District that serves predominantly Black, Native, and Pacific Islander youth disproportionately impacted by the school-to-prison-to-deportation pipeline and school exclusion, I know firsthand the impacts of systemic racism, anti-Blackness and resource deprivation inflicted upon Black communities.
As King County Equity Now is aware, I-200 is still a legal barrier to returning resources directly to Black communities from public agencies. Nevertheless, I believe pursuit of reparations is key to ending the racial wealth gap in King County. We can start by:
Distributing public resources to high-impact Black-led organizations who have demonstrated authentic and accountable relationships with Black community members to provide services, supports and cash assistance that meet needs that are unique to the Black community.
We know the Black community is disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration, the racial wealth gap, the opportunity gap, displacement and gentrification, systemic oppression, anti blackness, and systemic resource deprivation and as a result we can target resources directly towards key demographics, districts, or schools where we know specific inequities impact Black communities.
Cannabis equity represents a major opportunity to begin the work of reparations. I wrote KCEN’s cannabis equity demands during the summer of 2020 by building with experts like Joy Hollingsworth, Aaron Bossett, cannabis workers, and impacted Black community members. Alongside UFCW21, a union who has endorsed the Nikkita4Nine campaign, we intend to bring legislation to the City to pursue equity in cannabis and redistribution of resources to Black communities impacted by criminalization, weed and seed, and the war on drugs.
Participatory Budgeting (PB), while not without its challenges, presents an important opportunity. The Black Brilliance Research project brought forward the voices of many Black community members with intersectional identities who typically are not involved in City government to determine the priority investment areas for Participatory Budgeting. As long as I-200 remains a barrier to direct investments in Black community, efforts like PB, which allow us to target investments towards those priority areas as determined by Black community members, increase the likelihood that more resources will flow directly to Black peoples in Seattle/King County.
Additionally, I commit to advocating for and supporting efforts to overturn I-200 so that we can make direct and explicit investments in Black communities.
As a campaign, we are considering similar legislation to that which was passed in Evanston, Illinois. Evanston is the first U.S. city to pay reparations to Black residents. They have thus far returned
$400K to Black residents but intend to return $10 million in 10 years. Evanston City Council voted 8-1 to distribute $400k to eligible Black households. To be eligible, a household’s residents must have either lived in or been direct descendants of a Black person who lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 and suffered discrimination in housing because of city ordiancs, policies or practices. Eligible households receive $25,000 for home repairs and down payments on property. The program is funded through a 3% tax on the sale of recreational cannabis. The Nikkita4Nine campaign is exploring viable pathways for similar legislation to address the impacts of exclusionary zoning, red lining, the war on drugs, and weed and seed in Seattle.
It is suspected that there will be one more federal package that is targeted specifically for infrastructure. It is expected to pass but the timing is still to be decided. If elected, I will take office in January of 2022. Using the above strategies, given the previously described barriers of I-200, will be key for ensuring that we can get as many resources as possible to the most impacted communities which obviously includes the Black community. In regards to infrastructure, lots of commitments have been made to predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods. We must prioritize infrastructure in communities impacted by high rates of displacement first, Black communities, working class communities, and other communities impacted by the racial wealth gap, a lack of access to affordable housing, and who are cost burdened with rent and transit costs.
While in office I will build with those Black-led organizations that are intersectional and demonstrate a real commitment to ensuring City resources actually reach the most marginalized, disenfranchised, and impacted Black residents.
I think it is important to acknowledge that Black community is not monolithic. We are a diverse community--gender, sexuality, religion, language, class, (dis)ability, history, lived experience, and political views. This means the City should prioritize re-distributing a large amount of resources amongst a diversity of Black-led organizations who have demonstrated authentic connectedness with Black peoples, an understanding of and commitment to intersectionality, and who are able to redistribute resources to impacted intersectional Black communities without unnecessary gatekeeping or problematic resource hoarding.
I am working with and/or deeply connected to:
Organizations - The Black Trans Task Force, Community Passageways, Choose 180, the Black Brilliance Research Project, the African American Health Board, the Black Action Coalition, Black Education Now, Seattle Equity Educators, Labor for Black Lives, Africatown Community Land Trust, the George Jackson Freedom Coalition, the Blaq Elephant Party, Kids are Kids, Rainier Beach Action Coalition, Solidarity Budget, the Youth Consortium, Washington Ethnic Studies Now, Black Power Unlimited/Hidmo Cipher Cafe
Black Peoples Leading On Issues Impacting Black Community - Ayan Musse, KL Shannon, the Queen Mother Dr. Mimms, Katrina Johnson, Coach Dom Davis, Sean Goode, Sade Smith, Ahkia Rayne, Shaun Glaze, LeTania Severe, Jaelynn Scott, Ebo Barton, Davida Ingram, Jerrell Davis, Jesse Hagopian, Zion Thomas, Heidi Jackson, Bana Abera
Black Electeds - King County Council Member Girmay Zahilay, State Rep. Jesse Johnson, State Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley
Current Major Efforts - The Youth Achievement Center, Restorative Community Pathways, Safety Teams in Rainier Beach, Defend the Defund, Solidarity Budget
This is not an exhaustive list.
There is a crisis in Black health in this region. In King County: Black babies are more 2x more likely to die before their first birthday than white babies; Black birthing people die 3x more than white birthing people; Black residents die of diabetes at 3x the rate of white residents; Nearly half of all Black adults in King County are food insecure; Black adults are 3x more likely to be living in poverty; Black adults are evicted at 6x the rate of white adults; Black people in King County contracted COVID-19 at 3x the rates of whites; and yet Black community received less than 2% of federal relief funding.
This region boasts some of the most sophisticated, renowned hospitals and medical facilities in the world. The disparities in medical treatment received by Black communities are appalling, with COVID-19 serving as just the most recent flashlight into this dark and disturbing reality. What are your specific plans to invest in Black community health?
In the entire Pacific Northwest (OR, WA, ID, MT, WY) there are zero Black community-owned, federally qualified health clinics. What are your specific plans to support base-building Black community-owned clinics? Specifically, the Tubman Center for Health and Freedom (TCHF), Somali Health Board (SHB), Surge Reproductive Justice (SRJ), African American Health Board and more?
Over the last few months I have been working with Black-led vaccination clinics, partnering specifically with the African American Health Board and African American Reach and Teach Health, to ensure that Black community members have access to supportive, culturally rooted, and welcoming spaces to access the COVID-19 vaccine. This has expanded our community base to provide culturally rooted healing and health support for Black community members throughout the City, especially those most marginalized by the anti-black medical industrial complex. We have funded this work by pulling together our own resources. In the future, through the Human Services Department, I think it is important that we earmark resources specifically for communities to provide culturally rooted heal and health supports to our communities.
Through the Department of Education and Early Learning we should provide funding to establish community schools models in those parts of the City where we know there is the greatest need and where Black children are most disproportionately impacted by the housing affordability crisis, lack of access to healthy foods, and the school-to-prison-to-deportation pipeline. Community schools incorporate healing and healthcare into their model by ensuring that schools have a full-time health provider, family support worker, restorative justice coordinator, and other relevant services on-site that meet the unique needs of the community in the building. Our children spend 7+ hours a day at school. Children and families should be able to access the supports and services needed for thriving in one place. This is not something the City of Seattle can do on our own. While we can provide funding to undergird the effort, Seattle Public Schools will have to want to partner to make community schools a reality.
For over a year I have also been working with medical and administrative staff at Harborview and Community Passageways to address medical racism in the treatment of Black youth who are the victims of gun violence. Namely, when a youth who has been shot is brought into the hospital they are often first exposed to police and questioning, rather than their family, community support workers (like Community Passageways Deep Dive Team), quality comforting medical care, or an attorney to advise them of their rights. We have been supporting the hospital in re-working their policies to allow families and Community Passageways teams to be with youth every step of the way and to prevent immediate questioning from police which may both further traumatize them and violate their Constitutional Rights.
Part of improving health outcomes for Black communities in our region is also finally responding to the climate catastrophe. Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by urban heat and environmental pollution in Seattle--Beacon Hill, Rainier Beach, and South Park. According to a Seattle Times article by Naomi Ishisaka, “Local research… [shows] the city of Seattle and King County found that the differences between the hottest and coolest parts of comparable Seattle areas measured at the same time can differ by up to a shocking 23 degrees, due to disparities such as tree canopy and location of industrial areas.” Heat islands, like the Rainier Beach neighborhood, are often where there are the highest health disparities in communities of color. Much of these inequities and disparities are rooted in the legacy of housing segregation, redlining, exclusionary zoning, and environmental racism. This is why a Green New Deal, affordable housing, and equitable transportation are racial justice issues that deeply impact the health and thriving of Black communities.
I propose the City of Seattle convene a compensated local team of Black health practitioners and healers to develop a city-wide plan focused on Black health outcomes and improvements. Partnering with community clinics and organizations like the Tubman Center for Health & Freedom, the African American Health Board, African American Reach & Teach Health, The Well, Gathering Roots Retreat & Wellness Center, Niles Edge, and SURJ we can assess the City budget, determine priority areas of investment, and establish a plan for improving health outcomes for Black residents as led and determined by the Black communities.
Furthermore, we know that our Black trans residents experience gross marginalization, disenfranchisement, and discrimination in healthcare, housing, and employment. Employment is often a determinant of a person's ability to obtain and sustain stable housing and housing is a major and primary determinant of health. For this reason we have partnered with the Black Trans Task Force to develop a platform for Black Trans Thriving in the City of Seattle. We firmly believe that when we uplift our most marginalized Black residents, all Black residents will have better access to healthcare, housing, and employment. Below is our platform for Black Trans Thriving. (The model used to develop this platform could be expanded to build out a full platform for improving Black health outcomes and growing our base of Black-led clinics and healers in the City of Seattle.) We want to build a city where Black Trans Women & Black Trans Femmes thrive. Given the specific vulnerabilities of Black trans people - to lack of health care and housing, to being out of home as youth, and to being criminalized - we propose the following five point platform for creating the necessary conditions for Black Trans liberation. These five points reflect places where City Council could initiate immediate and impactful changes to guarantee Black trans thriving. For those solutions that require a new funding source, money diverted from the bloated, racist, ineffective, and frequently transphobic criminal legal system (including Seattle Police Department, Municipal Court, Criminal Division of the City Attorney’s Office budget) should serve as a primary source.
DECRIMINALIZE, DECRIMINALIZE, DECRIMINALIZE
The City of Seattle should fully decriminalize sex work, as well as crimes of poverty and drug crimes. Thirty eight percent of Black trans people have been harassed by police and 15% have been assaulted by police. Forty seven percent of Black trans people have been incarcerated.
City Council has the ability to transform what Seattle’s Municipal Court does - and to ensure that the misdemeanor punishment power of that court and SPD’s arresting power don’t render Black trans people even more unsafe and vulnerable. Trans people have disproportionate contact with police, jails, and courts because they are more likely to be on the street due to homelessness and/or being unwelcome at home, because their circumstances often force them to work in the underground economy, and because many face harassment and arrest simply because they are out in public while being transgender. Council’s 2020 repeal of drug traffic loitering and prostitution loitering laws was a step in the right direction, given the way these laws give cover to racist, anti-trans policing practices, but full decriminalization of sex work would contribute to ending the harassment and violence against Black trans sex workers by police. Aside from putting the lives of trans sex workers at risk, these laws and practices put many trans women who are participating in routine, legal activities at risk for arrest and incraceration. But decriminalizing sex work is not enough. Black Trans people - along with all our marginalized neighbors currently cycled through the municipal court - will be better off when our City fully decriminalizes crimes of poverty and drug crimes.
SUPPORT TRANS YOUTH
The City of Seattle should fund supportive, independent-living style housing for trans youth. Young people should have separate apartments and autonomy, but be provided consent-based (not mandatory) services and support (for example, cooking support, help with benefits applications and scholarship applications, etc.). The City should also ensure that all existing youth services provided by the City or funded by the city are trans-welcoming (including Seattle community centers, shelters and libraries); this can be actualized by contracting a trans-led group to evaluate current youth services and develop a plan for creating welcoming and responsive services. Forty-one percent of trans people have attempted suicide (compared to 1.6% of the general population), and estimates show that up to 40% of homeless youth are transgender or otherwise LGBTQ-identified. Supporting Black trans youth across all city services, and guaranteeing them trans-welcoming housing options will ensure that our trans youth survive to become our future trans elders.
HOUSING GUARANTEE FOR TRANS PEOPLE
The City of Seattle should guarantee no-barrier, non-congregate shelter by the end of 2022 and guaranteed no-barrier permanent housing by the end of 2027 for un-housed and/or housing insecure, low-income trans people in Seattle, with priority going to people with disabilities, BIPOC, and trans people who have been previously incarcerated. Thirty-seven percent of Black trans people have been evicted at some point in their lives because of their gender, and 38% have been denied a home or apartment. The same number have had to have sex with someone to have a place to stay or pay rent. Forty percent of Black trans people who have attempted to access a homeless shelter have been denied because of being trans, and the majority of those who have tried to access shelter have been harassed by shelter staff or residents, up to and including being sexually assaulted. It is obvious, but it bears repeating - having a safe place to live makes Black trans thriving possible. Without a trans housing guarantee - for safe dignified shelter and no-barrier permanent housing - Seattle cannot claim to care about Black trans lives.
BUILDING TRANS HEALTHCARE
The City of Seattle should create a fund for covering healthcare needs for trans people that are not met by Medicaid or private insurance. The City should also fund the development of a health clinic that serves trans and non-binary people, and prioritizes the needs of Black trans people. Thirty-one percent (31%) of Black trans people have no health insurance, and 19% of trans people have been refused medical care due to being transgender or gender-expansive, with even higher numbers among people of color. The discrimination, disrespect, harassment, and outright denial of service contributes to many Black trans people postponing or foregoing seeking health care, and provider ignorance about the health needs of trans people further contributes to catastrophic health outcomes for Black trans people. Black trans thriving requires real access to healthcare, and an investment in trans-specific care should be a public-health priority for the City of Seattle.
COMPREHENSIVE TRAINING FOR CITY AGENCIES AND EMPLOYEES
City Council should fund the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to create a program that ensures comprehensive training and evaluation of all city agencies regarding access to services for trans Seattleites. OCR should create a training core of trans people trained to work from a shared curriculum, to both train city employees and work with agencies to evaluate obstacles to trans access and solutions to resolve them. Black trans people, trans people with disabilities, and formerly incarcerated trans people should be prioritized in the creation of this trainers group. Trans people are nearly four times more likely to have a household income of less than $10,000/year compared to the general population, and 47% percent of trans people have experienced an adverse job outcome, such as being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion because of being transgender or gender expansive. Over one-quarter have lost a job due to being transgender or gender non-conforming and 50% have been harassed. By funding the OCR project of training trainers from the trans community, Seattle will guarantee a “by us for us” approach that builds trans access to jobs. This will prevent the oft-seen dynamic of people from outside a community getting all paid opportunities that come from that community’s work to resist conditions of marginalization and oppression.
Equity means ownership. Thriving Black communities require control and agency over land. We prioritize Black land acquisition as a foundational pillar to our work. As demand for land grows at an unprecedented pace, the rapid gentrification, active divestment from, and exclusion of Blacks from Seattle and King County is important not merely due to the dismantling of historical Black cultural and societal spaces, but also the socio-economic, health, wealth, and education fallout resulting from Blacks being pushed out of the State’s largest economic and cultural engine. What is your specific short and long-term plan to rectify this region’s abysmal Black land ownership rates?
What is your plan to rapidly advance Black home ownership rates?
What is your plan to rapidly advance Black community land acquisition and restore historically Black cultural and societal spaces?
How much will you invest in the: (A) Keiro project - the first entirely Black community led and centered homelessness consortium with wraparound direct services; (B) Red (Black and Green) Barn Ranch - Black liberated farming and youth healing center; (C) Youth Achievement Center - a holistic co-housing complex that is designed to support homeless students, historically underserved students, system-involved youth?
What mechanisms will you put in place to halt gentrification across the state, specifically to stop corporate and private developers from buying up once affordable property and pricing out Black communities and families?
What specific policies will you pass to not only halt gentrification but re-invigorate the Central District as the hub of Black land ownership in Seattle?
Seattle’s history of residential segregation, and restrictive deeds, housing covenants and redlining are some of the most critical and insidious drivers of racialized wealth inequality in Seattle. These racist and anti-black barriers have prevented Black communities from building, growing and transferring wealth. This has led to huge disparities in homeownership where 50% of white residents are homeowners but a little over 25% of Black residents own homes. Seattle is the third most gentrifying city in the country.
Keiro Project - I will provide public support for transferring Keiro building into community care. Similar to how the Youth Achievement Center is a consortium of organizations who have a shared interest in establishing sustainable spaces for Black youth to thrive, Keiro should also be transferred to a consortium of Black-led organizations to provide culturally-rooted services and supports for those Black communities most impacted by homelessness and housing instability in our region. According to the “United Way of King County Understanding Racial Inequities Report '' from 2015, “People of color collectively comprise approximately 27% of the general population in King County, yet, they represent 57% of people who are homeless. Black/African Americans are over five times and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native are about four times as represented among people experiencing homelessness as they are in the general population.” We know that COVID-19 has exacerbated the racial wealth gap, the housing affordability crisis, and homelessness state of emergency and it is an inevitability that Black people were disproportionately impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. It makes sense to provide this resource to address the disproportionate impact of these intersecting crises on Black community members.
Red (Black, and Green) Barn Ranch - The Ranch is owned by Seattle Parks and is severely underutilized. I support transferring the land to a consortium of Black farmers such as Nurturing Roots, Black Star Farmers, and farmers from the Rainier Beach Food Innovation District led by the Rainier Beach Action Coalition. As stated earlier, I am cognizant that Black community is not a monolith. There are a number Black-led farm communities in the Seattle/King County area. Through the collaboration of these Black-led farm communities many more Black peoples can connect with the earth, learn to grow our own food, and have access to healthy, local, sustainable food sources.
Youth Achievement Center - I have been working on the Youth Achievement Center since its inception. I was in the room when the youth said they wanted to build “housing co-located with services in the souf end specifically for Black youth.” From there I supported the planning and implementation of a candidate forum where youth could get commitments from candidates in the 2019 elections to commit to assisting in identifying surplus land and supporting the Youth Consortium in acquiring that land. Community Passageways and Creative Justice (the organization I lead) came together to steer this project along with King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay’s office. We wanted to partner with a Black developer and so we asked Africatown Community Land Trust to join the team. We have thus been able to get a commitment from Sound Transit that they will make a land transfer of two (2) plots of land near the Columbia City Light Rail Station to the County and then to ACLT for development. We have hosted multiple design ciphers with youth which have rendered beautiful designs for a building reflective of the depth and diversity of Black Seattle and the needs and desires as determined by Black youth. This week, July 12th, we are launching the capital campaign and having a block party near the site on July 18th. I commit fighting for dollars during the budget process through departments such as the Human Service Department, the new Community Safety and Communications Center, the Department of Education and Early Learning, the Office of Civil Rights, or etc. I will be supportive of requests for dollars through the Equitable Development Initiative and the Office of Housing. I will also be supportive when advocating at the State and Federal level for dollars.
Each of the above projects will require dollars for services. I commit to making budget proposals during the City budget process to allocate dollars towards food sustainability and culturally rooted Black farming, culturally rooted services and cash assistance programs for those experiencing homelessness or housing instability, culturally rooted services for youth, and technical assistance. Grants, managing dollars, and reporting are not intuitive. I have had to learn these processes on my own over the years of working in the nonprofit industrial complex. Ensuring organizations have access to technical support, programs and equipment needed to build their own best practices is going to be important for sustainability.
For each of these projects, I will be supportive of requests for dollars through the Equitable Development Initiative and the Office of Housing (where appropriate). I will also be supportive when advocating at the State and Federal level for additional dollars.
I commit to continue to pursue divestment from overtly anti-black and oppressive structures like the criminal punishment system (police, Seattle Municipal Courts, jails) and to push for direct investments in the above described projects, services, and programs.
End Exclusionary Zoning (short term):
We need to address the nearly 100 years of exclusionary zoning that was put in place in 1923; the upcoming 2024 comprehensive plan is a great place for us to chart this course towards repair and reparations through housing justice.
Our current zoning pattern has created a bifurcated city. ⅔ of residential land is not accessible to all but those with the highest incomes. We need a mix of housing and residential patterns that create more opportunity for urban villages, social affordable housing, coops, community land trust, and housing for workers and the missing middle.
Key priorities for the 2024 comprehensive plan include zoning, housing affordability, climate change, liveability, equity/ending economic apartheid, and transportation (long-term solutions):
Seattle’s land use regime has led to displacement and inequity. The City’s development has also followed historical redlining and perpetuated racist zoning policies and restricted the growth of affordable housing supply. We must end single family zoning as we know it, and allow our zoning code to foster a diversity of housing options including “infill strategies” for the “missing middle” and multifamily buildings.
We must expand urban villages and share growth with areas that historically have not absorbed growth. Seattle has built density in those neighborhoods with the highest concentration of poverty and where residents are most likely to be displaced. This is unjust and perpetuates anti-black housing policies. All of Seattle must be willing to take on density if we are to solve the housing affordability crisis and stop/prevent displacement and gentrification. Constructing high-density social, green, deeply affordable housing throughout the city must be paired with high-quality transportation, walkability, and more multimodal transit options.
Support land acquisition into cooperatives, community land trusts, and consortiums will help families build equity through homeownership. Homeownership is presently not a possibility for all but those with the highest income (income inequity which is also highly racialized). In our region, Black, Native, and Latinx families have the least opportunity for home ownership and have the least access to high-earning jobs. As a result, Seattle is perpetuating racialized economic apartheid. The 2024 Comprehensive Plan presents an opportunity to address some of these inequities.
Support the Dismantling of I-200 (mid-term/long-term):
We need to overturn I-200 so that we can make direct investments into Black communities.
Land reparations legislation (short term/mid-term/long-term):
I have previously described commitments to land reparations in other portions of this questionnaire.
Stop gentrification and displacement in the CD:
Stopping gentrification and displacement means keeping people in their homes. Rainier Beach Action Coalition and Puget Sound Sage wrote an important report on Disaster Gentrification that everyone should read. To tackle this crisis the following recommendations were made:
Reduce evictions and foreclosures by forgiving rent debt, extending the eviction and foreclosure moratoria, and making rent relief contingent on increased tenant protections;
Create opportunity for BIPOC communities to secure land and buildings to preserve affordability by robustly funding acquisition and preservation funds;
Increase BIPOC power in planning and development by establishing local planning and accountability through equitable development zones;
Preserve affordability and create a path for tenant ownership by passing a Tenant/Community Opportunity to Purchase Act;
Stop harassment of vulnerable homeowners by creating non-Solicitation/cease and desist zones;
Discourage property flipping for profit through a tax on certain real estate transactions.
Seattle City Council, due partly to the work of Councilmember Sawant, already started growing the suite of tenants protections at the municipal level including ending school year evictions, preventing folks from being evicted due to unpaid rent during COVID-19, and right of first refusal.
Additionally, we will need to:
The gentrification conversation has to be framed around the underlying issues of power and race that created inequitable development here and make gentrification possible.
Protect our long-time residents who wish to remain in place. One way to do this is by ensuring that all homeowners, especially Black seniors, know about HB1410; which prevents foreclosure of homes due to unpaid property taxes. This new state legislation is key for keeping our seniors in their homes.
Prohibit large-scale luxury development in neighborhoods with a high-risk of displacement. We must ensure that development is actually to the benefit of the current community so that we can remain and age in place.
Preserve our existing affordable rental units and ensure they are quality, healthy, and habitable.
Utilize City-owned land and surplus land for partnerships with community to build deeply affordable housing.
Expand our current commercial rent control legislation to ensure that small businesses do not lose their storefronts.
Fight for residential rent control alongside a myriad of cash assistance programs, investments, and tenants rights laws.
First Time Home Buyer Programs:
We need to increase and improve access to first-time home buyer programs for the most economically and systematically marginalized Black residents. While we have a number of first-time homebuyer programs and a down payment assistance program, the most marginalized Black residents still do not qualify. We need to assess the effectiveness of our current model and determine if it reaches the communities most in need of support buying a home. Those communities most in need of buying homes in our region are those who have been systematically excluded from the home buying market, like Black communities in our region.
Reinvigorate the CD:
Support “The William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation & Enterprise,” Black Dot, and other spaces for small businesses incubation. Partner this with our development plans to create opportunities for expansion to store fronts as Black-owned small businesses become financially viable and sustainable.
Utilize City-owned public spaces for small business incubation hubs and shared commercial kitchens.
Continue to support the growth and development of Africatown.
We need community benefits agreements with new developments to ensure the Black communities of the Central District benefit from new development rather than being pushed out or displaced.
Improving high capacity, rapid, efficient, and affordable public transit and multi-modal transportation options
Our regressive tax system places the burden of solving the housing affordability crisis, equitable transportation, and ending the racial wealth gap on those communities, especially Black communities, already most cost burdened with rent and transportation. Many of our Black elders, who bought homes in previous decades, are losing their homes because they are on fixed incomes and our continued extreme reliance on property taxes and levies economically displaces them from their homes. This serves to further erode Black home ownership in the region.
Progressive Funding Options:
The funding from Jumpstart Seattle is one place to start. We are currently generating only half of the revenue that we could from the big business tax (a bit over $200 million per a year).
We must bring our housing supply to scale to actually meet the crisis facing our City. We need approximately $400 million per year (1 billion per year in King County) of affordable housing to meet the need. The City can no longer wait on the private market to address a crisis from which they benefit (and therefore have no economic incentive to help end). As a result, Seattle needs to get deeper into social affordable housing.
Other funding options I support using are capital gains taxes, a Seattle local estate tax, raise the REET, speculative real estate tax, vacant and unoccupied properties tax, second homes tax, and taxes on exceptionally high compensation. These funding possibilities were identified by the Seattle City Council in its 2018 “Taskforce on Progressive Revenue for Housing and Homelessness,” but are as yet unimplemented.
The public education system is anti-Black. It uses harsh discipline policies that push Black students out of schools at disproportionate rates; denies Black students the right to learn about their culture and whitewashes the curriculum to exclude Black peoples' history, contributions, and accomplishments. It pushes Black teachers out of schools in Seattle-King County, and across the country, and spends entirely more money on imprisoning Black youth than on educating and healing them. How will you support pro-Black education?
How will you create and maintain Black community schools?
How will you establish and maintain restorative justice practices in schools to end the school-to-prison pipeline?
What will you do to ensure Black teachers are hired, that current educators receive anti-racist professional development, that schools implement Black studies curricula?
What will you do to ensure the Black community has control of schools that serve Black kids as well as education resources and levy funds that are meant for but rarely make it to Black youth?
I want to begin by affirming the statement that KCEN made: “our school system has been built on anti-Blackness.” To fix this, we need Black students, families, and educators to be empowered to make the necessary changes to uproot institutional racism. That is why I helped organize and participated in the “Black Education Now!” rally that was co-sponsored by KCEN during the summer of 2020. And that is why I supported all ten demands of Black Education Now: 1) Community Schools, 2) Restorative Justice, 3) Black Studies and Ethnic Studies, 4) Hire Black teachers, 5) Anti-Racists Professional Development, 6) Accountability, 7) Student Representation, Youth Achievement Center, 9) Community Control of Schools, and 10) Community Control of Education Resources and Levy Funds.
As a Black Educator mysef, I know first-hand the inequities and structural racism built into the school system. In this era of mass incarceration, there is a school-to-prison-pipeline system that is more invested in locking up Black youth than creating space for them to unlock their minds. This system was able to find hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new youth jail, but not address the social and emotional well-being of our Black youth. This system uses harsh discipline policies that push Black students out of classrooms and schools at disproportionate rates. When the Department of Education studied suspension rates in the Seattle Public Schools, they found that the school system suspended Black youth at 4 times the rate of white youth for the same infractions. And you only have to look at the enraging and heartbreaking example of what happened last school year to Jalil, a Black second-grade student at View Ridge Elementary School, to know that our school system needs a dramatic transformation. The school principal repeatedly locked Jalil in an enclosure, known as “the cage”—and was initially not even reprimanded by school officials.
But it isn’t just Black bodies that are under attack, it’s also Black minds. For too long, Black students’ histories have been erased or reduced to the period of enslavement in corporate textbooks and curriculum. Black students deserve to know that truth about the thriving African civilizations before Europeans perpetrated colonialism and genocide. They deserve to know about the long Black Freedom Struggle. And they deserve to know about the many contributions and innovations provided to this country and the world by Black people. That is why the Nikkita for Nine campaign celebrates the victories of the Black Education Now! mobilization which helped to win the new Black Studies department in Seattle Public Schools. We also know that this department will need robust financial support, and will need to be directed and supported by Black families, if it is going to truly be effective.
There are many ways that the City of Seattle and the Seattle Public Schools are separate entities— but we also know there are more opportunities for collaboration than are currently being utilized and we also know that there are key areas of overlap where policy must change.
One of the main ways the City of Seattle is officially connected to the Seattle Public Schools is through the Education Levy funds. The Nikkita for Nine campaign agrees with the statement put out by Black Education Now! that reads, “Too often data about the state of emergency for the Black community is used to receive financial resources, yet the Black community is denied the funding to address the issues within the community. Too often, the resources are given to white-led organizations to lead the work with no improvements for decades. The Black community has the expertise, know-how, and the plan to serve its education and community needs.” We want to explore mechanisms for a participatory budgeting process with the education levy funds that put Black-led organizations at the table for directing levy dollars. We also want to decouple levy funding from any high-stakes standardized testing requirements as we know that standardized testing was a product of the white supremacist eugenics movement and still works to maintain racial inequities today.
In addition, the Nikkita for Nine campaign supports the call for more community control of education including the demand of the Africatown Center for Education and Innovation to be gifted the current property they are on and/or returned to the Horace Mann building as they were promised by a past SPS superintendent. Another important step towards empowering Black students in Seattle would be to re-open and restore the African American Academy.
**I was a part of the community-led actions at Horace Mann building. It was while I was in law school. I supported with on-site programming, legal support, and legal observering when Seattle Public Schools proceeded to use Seattle Police Department and courts to try to push us out.**
Finally, to uproot institutional racism in the education system we will need to hire many more Black educators. Too many Black educators are getting pushed out of Seattle because of the housing affordability crisis. The Nikkita for Nine campaign would like to work towards reallocating funds from the legal punishment system and put them towards providing affordable housing for Black educators and staff.
We believe that by disinvesting from punishment systems, such as the Seattle Police Department and Seattle Municipal Court, the City of Seattle could provide robust financial support to Black youth and families in holistic ways. By partnering with Black-led community organizations we can achieve the schools Black children deserve.
Already experiencing COVID-19’s economic fallout, conditions for Seattle’s Black community have worsened. Against that backdrop, KCEN and many others in the Black community mobilized to divest from policing and demanded correlating investment in pro-Black public safety solutions that work for us, for the first time in Seattle's history. This movement was driven by Black community and specifically called and continues to call for a reckoning with anti-Black racism (i.e., not a general “racial” reckoning, or a “BIPOC” movement).
Emboldened by the overwhelming support of thousands and thousands of community members, the Seattle City Council briefly upheld their pledge to divest from a percentage of the Seattle Police Department (SPD)'s bloated annual budget and invest modestly in Black communities. It should not have taken such prolonged, sustained community efforts for this change but we acknowledge the small percentage of divestment as a break from decades of votes to expand violent, anti-Black policing.
The work of reshaping this region into one that values all Black lives—and moves away from funding racist policing and towards resourcing true public safety—is overdue and not for non-Black folks, unaccountable gatekeepers or non-rooted folks to dictate. We advocated strongly for monies from the police budget to be invested directly into the Black community and are unmoved on that stance.
What percent of SPD’s budget will you divest from and invest specifically in Black community-led and -centered organizations? What date will you close the Youth Jail in the first year of your term?
Will you join the veto-proof majority of the city council who pledged to defund SPD by half and what will you do to accelerate that commitment becoming a reality?
What specific steps will you take to shift investments from the criminal punishment system towards human services that are controlled, led and center Black community?
Right now, we’re in a situation where policing and criminalization drain resources and put Black lives at risk. Seattle severely under-funds human needs like housing, childcare, food programs and other essential services. Meanwhile, spending on our anti-Black, bloated policing and criminalization systems is off the charts. While residents face housing costs that have skyrocketed in recent years and mounting unemployment, last year the City spent over $400 million on policing. The City’s past budgets have not represented a commitment to public safety and well-being, they have represented a commitment to racist policing.
The problem isn’t just policing. Seattle spends enormously on our municipal court, a place primarily dedicated to processing homeless people into jail. King County recently spent over $230 million on a new youth jail where kids are traumatized, separated from families and schools, and subject to abuse, with Black children disproportionately bearing the brunt. All across the system, from who gets arrested, to who experiences pretrial detention, to what sentences are determined by courts, to who gets deported, the system is targeted at Black people, people of color, indigenous people, women, people with disabilities, and queer and trans people.
If more cops, jails and prisons don’t keep us safe, what does? Common sense tells us people are safer when they have housing and income, when they have reliable childcare, and when they can access health care including mental health support and drug treatment that is culturally competent. None of these things are guaranteed in our region right now–in fact people are facing less and less access to these necessities as housing costs have soared and unemployment has increased. If we really care about well-being, and about defending Black lives, we would start by fully funding human needs, and use every penny divested from the criminal punishment system towards these goals.
Additionally, we can work on building strategies for responding to emergencies that actually work. When people are having mental health crises, mental health workers, not armed police, are what they need. When people are facing domestic violence, they need support to plan for safety including housing and transportation resources, not a policing and court system that often criminalizes the person being abused, and does nothing to address the root causes of endemic gender violence. There are tons of amazing resources about how we can actually respond to violence in ways that stop it and prevent it, which policing and criminalization fail at. And there are tons of ideas for how to reinvest in real safety and well-being.
Given all of this, in coming budget cycles, SPD’s budget must continue to shrink. We must never return to the era of Council unquestioningly voting to give SPD and police pension a full quarter of the general fund. I fully support the pledge to defund SPD by half. I was part of the coalition that crafted the demand during the summer 2020 uprising, and I helped plan and lead the march on City Hall on June 3 of 2020 to present the demand to our current Mayor. I will keep working to shrink SPD by 50% - and beyond. Accelerating that reality means not only pushing for each year’s SPD budget to be smaller than the previous year’s, but also maintaining vigilance throughout the rest of the year - making sure that overtime is kept in check on its way to being eliminated, and making sure that any cost savings from police attrition are immediately captured and redistributed away from SPD. This also includes doing everything possible to stop funding new cadet classes, so the police force continues to shrink in size and budget.
As part of the team that crafted the original demand to defund SPD by 50%, I was already supportive of reinvesting these funds into Black-community led solutions. While in office I will build with those Black-led organizations that are intersectional and demonstrate a real commitment to ensuring City resources actually reach the most marginalized, disenfranchised, and impacted Black residents. I will strive to ensure that money divested from the criminal punishment system reaches Black communities through a variety of mechanisms - participatory budgeting, RFP processes designed to benefit Black communities, and funding city services designed to offer Black residents true public safety for the first time. Some of these divested dollars should go towards supporting programs that address harm without requiring police presence. While 2020’s uprising secured some initial funds in this direction, we need more (and more permanent) funding, particularly into culturally responsive, community-led care solutions. Some of these dollars should go towards meeting basic needs, because we know that meeting people’s basic needs renders policing obsolete. Divesting from policing also means divesting from the punishment practices that disproportionately impact Black communities. This means, for example, ending the practice of collecting city revenue through fines and civil asset forfeiture. This also means ending the City’s contract with the King County Jail.
Unlike my opponents in this race, I have dedicated many years of my life to working in collaboration with many people and organizations, including Black organizers and Black-led organizations, to dismantle the systems of racist policing and the criminal punishment system. I am an abolitionist and organizer who gives a portion of my time dismantling racist, classist, sexist systems and a portion of my time building the systems of care, support and accountability that we need. Since 2015 I have helped build Creative Justice into a Black-led, arts-based, healing engaged and liberatory space for youth.
These are not just words I write in a questionnaire, this is work that I have done. I have unflinchingly protested and marched in the streets, supported young people in liberating themselves from racist systems like the juvenile detention center and the school-to-prison-to-deportation pipeline, called for the closure of the youth jail, organized with No New Youth Jail, Block the Bunker and in defense of Black lives, advocated for the Zero Youth Detention Resolution at the City Council and the resulting investments, advocated for numerous budgetary investments for many Black-led organizations to build key infrastructure for community-based and community-led supports and infrastructure for health and public safety, supported the development of Restorative Community Pathways, and advocated for the end of the Snohomish County Jail contract. These are not commitments I make because I am running for office. These are things I have fought for already and will continue to fight for once in office.