by Connor Rauch
On Friday evening, over 200 people gathered in Jimi Hendrix park for a “Poets in the Park” event organized by Black Collective Voice (BCV) and Pay the Fee Tiny Library. Participants listened to beautiful and thought provoking spoken word poetry from artists of color and engaged in conversation with Omari Tahir-Garret and other veterans of the eight year-long Colman school occupation, the longest sustained single act of civil disobedience in United States history, which resulted in the conversion of the abandoned elementary school into the Northwest African American Museum. It is important to note that Tahir-Garret and other veterans of the struggle have re-occupied the space outside the entrance of the museum to shed light on the many unfulfilled demands of the original multi-year sit-in. Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) Afro-Socialists and Socialists of Color Caucus members, Kelli and Wes, then facilitated a teach-in and discussion session centered around the inextricable links between racial oppression and capitalist exploitation of the working-class and, consequently, the need for socialism to achieve Black, brown, indigenous, and working-class liberation.
“Poets in the Park” was the third in a series of weekly “Page Engage” events hosted by BCV, a mostly Black femme led activist group that emerged out of the Capitol Hill Organized/Occupied Protest (CHOP) and has positioned itself as an influential force in the 2020 Seattle Black Lives Matter movement and fight to defund the Seattle Police Department. The organization aims to center Black and Indigenous voices in educational and activist programs and bring “the best elements of CHOP” back onto the streets and into every part of the city. The first two conferences featured readings and discussions of selections from Ibrahim X. Kendi’s, How to be Anti-Racist, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. Wes and Kelli’s workshop built upon these earlier conversations, which focused on locating racism in systems and not individuals and the limits of electoral politics, to situate racial oppression as not just an endemic feature of capitalism, but a foundation. They highlighted how slavery and other forms of primitive accumulation of capital built the modern global economic system and prompted attendees to grapple with how direct democratic control of workplaces and society would allow the multi-racial working-class to achieve its full liberated potential. Other topics brought up through discussion included the ways in which racial animosity is used to divide the working-class in order to concentrate power in the hands of the capitalist class and the role that socialism played in the Civil Rights Movement, Black Panther Party, and anti-colonial struggles in Africa.
The family-friendly event was the best attended BCV organized gathering to date. It featured nearly a dozen stands from a variety of organizations and mutual aid groups, most of whom were active in CHOP, including, but not limited to, Pay the Fee Tiny Library, Decolonization Conversation Café, COVID-19 Mutual Aid Seattle–Books, a children’s art and play section, and the Seattle chapter of DSA. Free food, personal protective equipment, art, puppies, and literature abounded. “Poets in the Park” was capped by the presentation of an inspiring dance, choreographed and performed by a rising 4th-grader, expressing the resilience of young Black femmes in an oppressive society and optimism for a more just world. On the heels of seven out of nine Seattle City Council members verbally committing to defund the Seattle Police Department by 50%, there is much to be hopeful about and a tremendous amount that still needs to be done. Seattle DSA aims to continue to build a strong partnership with BCV in our collective fight for racial equity and for Black liberation.
You can find out more about Black Collective Voice at https://blackcollectivevoice.org/. BCV “Page Engage” events happen every Friday evening at Jimi Hendrix park in the Central District. Seattle DSA is there every week, we can’t wait to see you there too!