We’ve edited this interview for length and clarity. Read the entire conversation at theevergrey.com.
Aaron Dixon remembers when segregation was widespread in Seattle.
“It was really great in terms of the community that we had [with how] people looked out for each other,” he said. “But once you went outside of the community then you had to deal with the racism. [You] had to deal with finding jobs and having doors closed on you.”
As the Civil Rights Movement swelled, Aaron marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and participated in picket lines. But everything changed when Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
“When he was killed, a lot of young people decided it was time to to create a stronger movement, a movement that was based upon defending ourselves and protecting ourselves,” he said.
So late that April, Aaron and his brother, Elmer, helped found the Seattle branch of the Black Panther Party, a revolutionary group that fought for black Americans’ rights. Our city’s group was the first chapter to be formed outside of the party headquarters in Oakland, California. It led armed safety patrols in communities of color, fought police brutality, set up a free breakfast program for kids, and advocated for safe and affordable housing and culturally-competent education, among other things. It even established a community medical clinic that’s still around today.
The Seattle Black Panther Party eventually disbanded in 1978 when membership dwindled around the country as leadership changed.
What motivated you to start the Seattle Black Panther Party?
“We all saw the civil rights movement unfold before our eyes on television. … It was a period of revolution. You had all of these things that led up to creating this movement in America and we had that movement in Seattle. It permeated everything in our lives. And of course the culmination was the assassination of Martin Luther King.
When he was assassinated, I said that my picket line was going to be replaced by the gun.”
How have you seen Seattle change since then?
“Under segregation we had our community value system, oral tradition, our own culture. We felt very safe and empowered in our community — and we’ve lost all that.
You hear a lot of young people talking about ‘spaces.’ I’ve always wondered, what are they talking about? What I came to realize is that because they don’t have a community anymore, they don’t have places where they feel safe and where they can congregate.”
Many Seattleites believe our city still has work to do when it comes to addressing racism and racial equity. What gives you hope in the midst of social movements today?
“I think this is a new generation that’s coming. [In a school outside Burien], there was a white teacher who was teaching her middle school kids out of my book, My People Are Rising.
I came to visit the students and I’m thinking ‘How am I going to keep their attention for an hour?’ I didn’t change my speech for them and they listened so attentively. And when I finished, they just bum-rushed me! They came from the bleachers and ran toward me to take selfies and get my autograph.
That generation of young people gives me hope. They see what’s going on and, you know, I think Trump has a lot to do with that. They are not going to allow this crap to continue like it is. Like those Florida kids said, ‘We’re going to vote your ass’ — excuse my language — ‘out of office.'”
To read and share our entire interview with Aaron, head over to theevergrey.com. The 50th anniversary celebration of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party starts today with programming through Sunday, 4/28. Learn more here.
No shade. The less white and wealthy your neighborhood is, the less likely your streets are lined with something important: trees. A new report took a look at who does and doesn’t live around our city’s energizing green spaces, and the result isn’t surprising. But it is backing up an idea that Seattle City Councilmember Rob Johnson wants to try: charging developers who remove trees to pay into a fund to plant more of them. For neighborhoods like the International District — which has a quarter of the tree canopy of Broadview, Seattle’s lushest ‘hood — that could make a difference. (Investigate West)
Welcome home, Mr. Bezos. Make time for this one, folks: The Washingtonian got the blueprints to Jeff Bezos’ new $23 million mansion in Washington D.C. and, *clears throat*, they “reveal a party pad of epic proportions.” The 27,000-square-foot home will have 25 bathrooms, 11 bedrooms, and 191 doors when workers finish a big renovation and the richest man in the world is ready to move in — probably around December. Where else does Jeff own crash pads? Texas, California, New York, and right here, of course, in Medina, Washington. (The Washingtonian)
Everything’s pricey in Seattle. Except for the $7 breakfast burrito at Taco Street in Rainier Valley. And the $2.50 pizza slices at Hot Mama’s in Capitol Hill. And the $4.50 burger at Loretta’s Northwesterner in South Park. You get the picture. Here’s a roundup of easy-on-the-wallet eats for your morning, noon, and night. (Seattle Met)
We dream of subway. Seattle doesn’t already have a big, busy light rail system because the geology is tricky, voters rejected a couple ideas for it decades ago, and blah blah blah look at this map! It’s from the transit group Seattle Subway and it lays out what a comprehensive light rail system looks like in our dreams. It’s a little like torture to look at, but also a little like falling in love. (Seattlepi.com)
Uncomfortable questions. The Seattle Times is doing an amazing job clarifying a tricky, sensitive issue with its Project Homeless. One of the ways reporters there are helping us all understand what’s going on? Answering your questions. Even the uncomfortable ones, like how many people living outside have a history of drug abuse, and how many shelter beds sit empty in our city. Meanwhile, Times columnist Danny Westneat is comparing Seattle’s action on homelessness to other cities’ and pointing out something interesting: “Homelessness is a crisis up and down the West Coast. But it sure feels like there’s more political urgency, and experimentation, elsewhere.”
Go behind the scenes of Ballard’s working waterfront. Tour the Ship Canal by boat, race in a survival suit, build your own boat, and learn to weld. Learn More ».
Promote something you ♥ here.
💻👩 All week: Connect with inspiring mentors, peers, and resources at the weeklong Women in Tech Regatta (South Lake Union)
🍴 May 2: Crowdfound a brand new Seattle market run by low-income immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs at the MarketShare Campaign Launch Party (Pioneer Square) — 🆕
Want to partner on your event with us? Here’s how.
🍴 Dine out to fight disease and poverty (All over)
🎟 See “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in sign language (Capitol Hill)
🗣 Mark the 50th anniversary of Seattle’s Black Panther Party — through Saturday (Central District)
🍷 Wine down with some syrah (West Seattle)
👋 Meet fellow singles in a non-creepy setting (Fremont)
🎈 Connect to nature with your kiddo (Montlake)
🎶 Dance to the beat of the drums — through Sunday (Queen Anne)
🎨 Get tantalized at the Erotic Art Festival — through Sunday (Queen Anne)
🗣 Hear a sermon for shared civic purpose (Central District)
🎨 Gorge at the Pancake & Booze Art Show (Downtown)
🍴 Eat bacon and drink beer (SoDo)
🎈 Fill up at the Green Lake Food Walk (Green Lake)
🎨 Mark Independent Bookstore Day at your fave book shop (All over)
Going to one of these? Email us a pic or tag #theevergrey. See more upcoming events (and submit your own) on our events page.
And don’t forget to take us along on your summer-in-April adventures. Email your pics to [email protected] or tag #theevergrey on Instagram. We’ll see you tomorrow.
— The Evergrey