Reimagine Seattle: Evelyn Chow

The challenges of the past two years have changed the way we live, the way we work, and the way we show up for each other. They have also given us a rare chance to collectively reimagine our future. Through the Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project we invite community members to reflect on their current experiences in Seattle, how they have been impacted by recent events, and their hopes for the future of our city.

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

 

Arundhati Roy

 

“Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?… Just so’s you’re sure, sweetheart, and ready to be healed, cause wholeness is no trifling matter. A lot of weight when you’re well.”

 

Toni Cade Bambara , The Salt Eaters

 

Have you heard of the 25/75 rule? It was used as one of the building tenets of the Black Panther Party; I was introduced to this rule by a mentor when I first entered abolitionist organizing spaces in Seattle in 2016. The rule goes: 25 percent of our work is meant to be focused on dismantling the current oppressive systems in place, while 75 percent of our energy should actually be focused on building up the systems that we want to see in the world.

Why this division? Because it’s easy to get caught up in the dismantling; when we first learn about all the shitty things in this world and how they’re (more often than not) connected, it’s easy to get caught up in the intricacies of it all. This can be especially true for those of us who have had the privilege of learning the historical and sociological analysis of systemic and interpersonal violence through an academic institution (either to replace or supplement lived experiences). In fact, this was something I went through myself as a baby organizer in Seattle. I got very good at describing and pointing out all the sinister characteristics of imperialism, capitalism, the military and prison industrial complexes, and all the -isms. However, it led to a bit of tunnel vision.

Have you ever found yourself doing this? It’s okay if you have, haven’t, or still do, the point is that your energy is precious. Our energy is powerful. The Black Panthers and countless other organizing collectives across history acknowledge this too. Where we focus our energy matters. This is why “building” demands the majority of our energy. Because when we finally bring down these systems, we want to already have something better in its place and we want the skills to communicate and collaborate with each other to continue to build up what we want to see.

If the number of submissions on DON’s blog is any indicator, to “reimagine Seattle” is a prompt that I and many others have thought and collaborated on deeply well before COVID. In many ways, it is the prompt that guides my time in this life, because to reimagine this city would be to reimagine what is possible in the building of a city. Not simply the alteration of a physical infrastructure (though that is important too) but also the work of shifting and creating a culture in which our communities are liberated.

I want my communities in Seattle to know that I am ready for this shift, and I want us all to be ready for this shift. Even if all the work we do in this lifetime is never seen by my eyes or experienced in my bones, I am ready for us to win. If these past two years have shown me anything, it is the ability of our communities to come together and be innovative. To still find ways to experience joy even when there is grief (and there is a lot of grief to be processed). I’ve seen our communities build out whole mutual aid networks with little to no net worth. I’ve seen us center healing justice as praxis. And in this increasingly lonely time, I’ve watched us learn to show up for each other by showing up for ourselves first.

When I endeavor on this work, I envision a Seattle where we can be our deepest and most authentic selves with one another. One in which we relinquish ego and individualism in the name of collective care. Where we do not have to worry about the state or a corporation or a nonprofit co-opting our communities’ joy and brilliance for profit. One where we can simply be– laughing in a backyard, around a bonfire, at the lake, over a feast– in community with each other with no hesitations or fear.

Until then, we will keep organizing, keep building, and keep healing.

In community with love,

Evelyn


Evelyn is an abolitionist, community organizer, transformative justice advocate, and sociologist based on Coast Salish lands / Seattle. Evelyn was born and raised in Hawai’i and moved to Seattle in 2015 where they received their degree in Sociology from Seattle University, and has since worked in several nonprofit policy/advocacy roles as well as political communications and outreach positions. They live by the mantra “hope is a discipline” (citation: Mariame Kaba) and do their best every day to make the world a better place for the next generations.

Submissions for the Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project were commissioned by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. The opinions expressed and information contained in each submission do not necessarily reflect the policies, plans, beliefs, conclusions, or ideas, of the City of Seattle.

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