What does it mean to be Black and low-income in this city?
That question is often the lived experience of so many folks in the 98118 zip code. Especially here in Rainier Beach.
In late January of 2021, after weeks and months of brainstorming and review, I launched a curriculum entitled ‘Race & Class in Seattle.’ It is designed to help young folks and peers understand how the structures of racism & classism of Seattle materialize in various ways within everyday life here in the Southend. Whether it be through displacement and gentrification, redlining and place defining the quality of life you have, wealth disparities among different races in this city, etc. Rainier Beach young folks often have lived experience with race and class issues but may not always have the language to fully articulate them to the extent that’s needed. This class is their weaponry to arm them with the knowledge that could help recognize the issues around them in greater detail.
To help paint a picture of the knowledge they learn from my class, I’ll lay out the flow of the course:
‘Wealth Gaps in Seatown through a High School POV’ This class was meant to help my YATTAs understand money disparities, but from a perspective, they can understand. Together, we analyzed PTSA data and earnings from north, central, south, and west Seattle public high schools, after asking the question ‘Are all Seattle high schools treated equally?’ and found that Rainier Beach HS and schools with more Black and Latino youth often had less money and resources available.
The second class focused on gentrification and how many Black-owned businesses, homes and cultural spaces have been gentrified, using a before-and-after slideshow. We held space to remember the place that meant a lot to us. At the end of class, we wrote love letters to our favorite underrepresented place in the city.
Class three was about discovering historical Blackness in Seattle. This class was great because the students had never heard of ANY black history in Seattle, so we all had an assignment together to find a couple of Black Seattleites to honor, as well as understanding the histories of Seattle’s past with racism, and the overcoming of many issues and obstacles.
The fourth class was focused on understanding displacement and its connection to gentrification, as well as space for the class to share — in a healing circle — their own experiences with displacement, or who they’ve seen be taken away from them.
Lastly, class five was a space for us to brainstorm solutions from the issues we learned about. It’s so important to empower the youth and their minds because they have the smarts and capabilities to draw up brilliant answers. From land ownership, pushing out white gentrifiers, creating laws to protect and preserve Black and Latino neighborhoods, creating our own stores and shops to build community wealth within our own pockets…to build the future we’d like to see!