Earlier this month, I walked into All Pilgrims Church on Capitol Hill in Seattle not sure what to expect. As I made my way into the room that Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant was holding her community forum in, I could hear people laughing and talking before I could see them.
The sight was a welcome one—over 300 people were packed into the room, so many in fact that I had to navigate my way to stand along the back wall because there weren’t enough seats. The topic of the forum was ending hate crimes in the LGBTQ community and it was clear that the hundreds of people in attendance were ready to have a discussion and focus on solutions to the problem.
I saw many familiar faces—advocates, community members, organizational leaders, and many of Pride Foundation’s grantees and supporters.
The goal of the event was to come together as a community to listen to people’s stories and experiences, share potential solutions, and identify ways we can work together to reduce violence in the future. Mayor Murray was in attendance and gave an impassioned speech about the hope he has for our community and the way we’ve come together in the past to create positive change.
Danni Askini, the Executive Director of Gender Justice League, opened the forum by framing why we were there and explaining our current reality: hate crimes in Seattle are a startling and troubling problem for our community and acts of violence tend to rise in the summer months. Noting that violence is often under-reported due to a mistrust of police and that transgender women of color often face the highest rates of violence; the introduction was a somber reminder of the work that lies ahead.
The event was quick moving and thoughtful, touching on multiple issues and the intersecting ways that violence, harassment, and discrimination impact LGBTQ people. An incredible line-up of community organizations, including many Pride Foundation grantees, spoke about potential solutions. A few of the highlights included:
- Shannon Perez-Darby of Northwest Network spoke about their LGBTQ Hate Violence Info Gathering Line to keep community records of hate and violence. The goal is to be the holders of our community’s experiences and use the information to create a stronger prevention and response plan for Seattle. Call today if you have an incident to report at: 206-214-9834.
- Lils Fujikawa of API Chaya elevated the need to center our work around those most marginalized and to put resources into organizations run by and for transgender women of color.
- Jackie Sandberg from Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets shared their experiences and noted that “street culture is not kind to queer people.” Jackie pointed to the importance of creating an LGBTQ youth homeless shelter and the need for culturally competent service providers.
- Christie Santos-Livengood of UW School of Public Health urged organizations to come out of their silos to find new ways to collaborate and support our community.
- Courtney Sheehan of #CapHillPSA Project pointed to the empowering role that art can play in transforming our lives and the need to create community spaces that encourage art as a form of healing.
The above is just a small sampling of the thoughtful solutions proposed and the engaging dialogue that occurred during the community forum. At the end of the speaker line-up, community members were given the space to share their stories and public comments. I left the event feeling a sense of hope from the positive energy and momentum that surrounded the proposed work.
This event was the beginning of a dialogue—Pride Foundation looks forward to staying involved in the great organizing work that is happening locally. We look forward to working with partners to create and implement solutions that elevate the needs and experiences of those in our community that are most impacted by violence.
Zachary Pullin is the Communications Manager at Pride Foundation. Email Zachary.