It seemed fitting on this day to pair Erin and Cathy’s posts. As always, I appreciate Erin’s forthrightness and unique style. And, also as always, beneath her light tone is a caring heart that is willing to take responsibility and speak some less than comfortable truths. I’ve been wishing I could visit the CHAZ (or CHOP) so I totally get Cathy’s taking some time on a brief trip to Seattle to go down there and appreciate her take on the feeling of being there. Now I want to go even more.
by Erin McGaughan, Seattle, Washington
I was maybe 28 or 30 years old before I’d heard anything about Juneteenth. And I might have thought it was a locally made up BBQ-party thing for a while. All I knew was it was Black people having lots of food, looked like fun, but I wasn’t invited. I knew that. By how it was for Black people, so… clearly… I wasn’t invited.
I had a few Black acquaintances at that point, but none close enough that I learned about it. For me to have known more about Juneteenth, I’d have had to either:
1) Be one of those annoying ass white people who walks up to everything saying “What’s this? Invite me in! I’m nosey, tell me things, hop when I say hop, attend to me!”
2) The power systems of the general educational and media culture would have had to include references to Juneteenth, at least on the same level as it mentioned, say, Cinco de Mayo, which I knew existed due to marketing from Mexican restaurants.
3) Have Black friends close enough to talk about that stuff, and patient enough to deal with my princess-levels of dumb.
I can point a finger at 45 and say, “You idiot,” but in this instance, I’m just a slightly luckier idiot. And I only learned about it because of the gentrification I was doing by moving into the Central District… cuz it was where we could afford to live.. because of red lining… which I didn’t know about til then… and which I continue to benefit from… shit.
A visit to CHAZ
by Cathy Merchant, Vancouver, B.C.
You know I couldn’t go to Seattle without checking out CHAZ (i.e. Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone), even just for 45 minutes (because that’s all the time I had today, sadly).
It was super cool, y’all! Tons of street art, people giving out free food, lots of music and political speeches, and folks building a kind of tent village with community gardens and stuff. (I was especially into that. I would be up for living in a camping/gardening commune. That’s already two of my favorite things!)
I only got to chat with a few people, but they were helpful and friendly. The whole vibe there was really chill. And I loved seeing the Decolonization Conversation Cafe! What a great idea, especially for this current place and situation. We could use a lot more of those, to be honest.
I know I was only there for a short time, but overall it seemed like a very positive way for people to channel their anger and grief at the police and at our innumerable systems of oppression. God knows we have tons of work to do – in ourselves and our institutions – in order to dismantle white supremacy and ensure safety for all. But this really seems like a hopeful start.