Her first post was of Inay’s Asian Pacific Cuisine on the last day of its existence.
A server who led a drag show at the Beacon Hill restaurant was belting a rendition of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” Cynthia Brothers uploaded a video of the performance to Instagram along with hashtags #vanishingseattle, #renthike and #gentrification.
“I’ve just been feeling continually frustrated,” Cynthia says. “I’ve been taking the changes personally. It’s my hometown and I’m seeing people get pushed out, and places I love going under.”
Cynthia started the popular Vanishing Seattle Instagram account in January when she realized that the extreme inequity and gentrification she’d just seen in New York’s Chinatown — where she’d lived for five years — had begun to surface in her hometown.
And so she started posting photos that highlighted the changes she saw happening in Seattle, like this #throwbackthursday post of the Buckaroo Tavern in Fremont, which closed in 2010:
#TBT: The infamous #Buckaroo Tavern! One of #Seattle 's oldest #wateringholes, opened in 1938, and for 72 years poured taps split into "cheap beer" vs "good beer" & drinks stiff enuf to singe your nose hairs off. #10ThingsIHateAboutYou was filmed here – but that's probably the least cool thing about The Buckaroo. Closed in 2010 after they lost their lease. #Fremont #RIP #buckarootavern #TheBuckaroo #TheBuck #tavern #wildwest #classicbars #bikerbars #divebars #cashonly #iconic #landmark #gentrification #displacement #neonsigns #oldsigns #vanishingseattle #throwbackthursday
She also posts about small local businesses she thinks others should support and help preserve, like the Stone House Cafe in South Seattle:
#seattlesmallbiz you should support: The Stone House Cafe! This unique, iconic building was originally the Collier Service Station & garage, a staple of the #RainierBeach area in the 1920's-60s. The structure was reopened in 2015 as a family-run restaurant, and includes a bakery, garden, local art & live music on certain nites. Go check em out. #stonehousecafe #stonehouse #smallbusinesssaturday #supportlocal #shopsmall #preservedontdemolish #seattle #vanishingseattle #vivaseattle
Who did this?? Seriously I want to know so I can donate money for more stickers, stencils & spray paint – DM me! 😉 Now THAT's a public comment! Repost & thx to @mashleypotatoes – spotted at 7-11 at 5th & Valley in Lower #QueenAnne #711 #developers #development #GTFO #gentrification #seattle ・・・ #noticeofproposedlanduseaction @vanishingseattle
Cynthia wants Vanishing Seattle to be provocative and to strike a nerve with people who will look at the posts and say “hell yeah” or “this is unfair.” At the same time, she’s heard from some people who are newer to Seattle who have said, “I’m mad that you’re mad about this. Just get over it.”
Cynthia doesn’t want Vanishing Seattle to feel like a personal attack against a single person, she says. But she does think it would benefit newcomers with the “get over it” attitude to listen and be empathetic to the concerns of Seattleites who are feeling hurt by these changes.
“Hopefully people can find some common ground and think about some creative ways to come together,” she says. “The us versus them mentality is going to get more exacerbated if people don’t feel like they can start having more input and say into the process.”
To Seattle newcomers, Cynthia gives this advice: “Be the fertilizer, not the weeds.” By that she means, be mindful, curious and respectful in appreciating and helping maintain what people love about Seattle. “Even if — and especially if — it doesn’t directly interest or cater to you.”
Most importantly, she adds: “The account is not just about nostalgia, it’s about equity. I believe we have the power to make change if we share our stories, get connected and get engaged — and my hope is that Vanishing Seattle can be a part of encouraging and amplifying that.”
This story originally appeared in the Oct. 12, 2016 edition of The Evergrey newsletter.