An upwardly mobile population displaces the longtime residents of an urban neighborhood, members of a disenfranchised and marginalized community, due to gentrification and the greed of developers and property owners?
Because this is Seattle GAY Scene you might think I’m referring to the major changes to Seattle’s own homohood, Capitol Hill which has undergone significant redevelopment, growth and displacement of long time lower income LGBTQ residents of the area, but the EXACT same thing is happening in other neighborhoods in Seattle, especially in the neighborhood to our immediate south/southeast, the Central District, the home neighborhood for Seattle’s African-American community for over a hundred years.
At best, the queer community can claim Capitol Hill as its “home base” for about 45 years or so after displacing the middle class blue and pink collar workers and families who called the Hill home for at least the 75 years before our arrival, including Russian and Greek Orthodox communities whose remaining churches are proof of their residency.
A few weeks ago, Mayor Ed Murray and community leaders of Capitol Hill proudly unveiled a series of rainbow colored crosswalks at nearly a dozen intersections in our neighborhood. Occurring right before Seattle’s Pride festivities, the new crosswalks were a badge of honor and pride for most lgbtq peoples, as well as a terrific photo opportunity for tourists and politicians/community leaders wishing to get “brownie” points with the constituency. Others of course complained about the cost of the rainbow crosswalks or the “unfairness” of giving special attention to a minority group. Last week, the Mayor announced that Capitol Hill would get MORE of the rainbow cross walks to establish that this is indeed a neighborhood FOR the lgbtq community of Seattle.
Earlier THIS week, activists in Seattle’s Central District decided that the African-American community currently undergoing a similar diaspora from their native neighborhood also deserved similar attention and respect by painting the colors of the Pan African flag, (red, green and black) in crosswalks along Martin Luther King, Jr Way, one of the main thoroughfares for that neighborhood.
Many have applauded this guerrilla act of neighborhood unity as a statement against the gentrification that has also radically changed this community, while others have dismissed it. The City of Seattle meanwhile, has responded with a carefully worded statement:
“While we are supportive of community building activities, we must ensure that the city’s crosswalks remain recognizable and safe. We are reviewing what action should be taken.”
The city has been put into an awkward position. If they approve of the act, it could lead to copy catting. If they don’t approve, then they will be accused of ignoring the concerns of the Central District and Seattle’s African-American community. If the city does give the ok, funds will have to be found to correctly repaint the intersections which are not up to safety standards or highway codes as they were not painted with reflective paint.
We think the City of Seattle should embrace this defiant and bold act of “community building” and honor the people of the Central District. Funds should be raised/appropriated to properly repaint the crosswalks with the Pan African colors. The LGBTQ citizens of Capitol Hill and the city of Seattle should wholeheartedly support this project as a sign of solidarity as both marginalized communities deal with the difficult issue of displacement and gentrification.
If our Big Gay Mayor wants to be mayor of EVERY Seattle resident, it would behoove him and his administration to support it as well.
Tags: #CentralDistrictPride, #PanAfricanSeattlePride, capitol hill, Central District, Central District Crosswalks, gentrification, Guerrilla Street Protests, Pan African Crosswalks, Rainbow Crosswalks