Reimagine Seattle: Jamaar Smiley

The challenges of the past year 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. With the Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project, we invited community members to reflect on their current experiences in Seattle, how they have been impacted by the events of 2020, and their hopes for the future of our city.

Re-Imagine Seattle

by Jamaar Smiley

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Inside the retro ice cream shop integrating its way into the gentrified ground zero of Seattle’s South End.
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Up and down the street. Where side looks from neighboring elders are replaced with sirens and sidearms.
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In the shops that stand on their last leg. While corporate wolves circle dying businesses, waiting to pounce on the carcass of fresh commercial real estate.
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In the heart of the city. Where protests go unheard and suits and ties seemed unnerved. To believe personal gain comes before a person’s humanity is nothing short of absurd.

A hopeless, inactive, oblivious city plays the role of Seattle.
A city known for expanding opportunities in cutting edge technology, healthcare, retail and education.
A city that embraces all walks of life and remains a steadfast leader with an innovative economy.
The place that champions progressive ideas seems to be nothing more than a shell of high minimum wage, empty buildings and false hope.

Until the year 2020.
Where the entire world seemed to be on pause…

A disruption in the social hamster wheel brought life into the city.
People began to become aware of how their own action or lack of action, supports the ideals of inequality.
More and more, people have awakened to the farce of the standard 9-5 job world. Where time is traded for, not freedom but, complacency.
And with the world on a calendar length pause, we are now faced with an option. Through all the awakenings happening and false realities being exposed we will soon have to decide. To either continue to play the game of life as we have or change the way we play all together.

I believe the beauty of 2020 is that now, more than ever, the idea, the need for change rests inside not only the people of this city but all people across the nation. Bringing us closer to the understanding of what it means for us to Be the Change.

This city has reached a unique sort of limbo.
Where hopes and dreams dance, hand in hand, with possibility and reality.
The actions we take now will forever be stapled as a new appendix to the chapter of Seattle called “Change”.
However, the path we take as a city acts a double edge sword.
One side being the progression of freedom and equality, the other, a continued capitalistic charge forward into the cyber realm, worshipping tech giants that crush the existence of your neighbors.
Your friends.
Your favorite Mom and Pop shops, to usher in corporate accessibility.
But as it stands, each and every one of us in the city is bestowed with an unbelievable power of change, regardless of the Great Conjunction.
And so long as I call the 206 my home, I will use this gift to create a better Seattle.
A Blacker Seattle.
A Bolder Seattle.
A Free Seattle.

Free of passive aggression and filled with active comradery. Where warm welcomes and cold IPAs melt the social distance frozen solid by the Seattle “Freeze”.

Free of those who value profits over people. Where buying local is more than a hipster trend. Where Farmer’s Markets are no longer a middle-class luxury as community gardens are found up and down the neighborhoods in the Town.
Where short Seattle summers create bonds that last a lifetime as neighbors become more than the people next door.

A city truly invested in the people.
A place where Black people, not Black and Brown and Indigenous, or People of Color, just Black People, have a place that is safe for them. Where our culture can reside.
Free from the constant barrage of gentrification and police brutality.
For the Culture of a people is a part of their Soul.
And when men, women, and children are murdered for being themselves and the people remaining are displaced from the space that holds memory within blood and bone, the Soul is left to wander.
And the people live in a constant state of unrest.
So, it’s no wonder why Black people still feel their lives truly don’t matter.

To Imagine a city that functions and prospers for the people, by the people.
Whose social innovations focus on strengthening communities to build a more productive Seattle.
This city will serve as a beacon of the future.
Guiding cities and states across the nation to a more resilient, understanding progressive time in the world.
To imagine that place, that city, the city Seattle could be,
would no longer be a dream.
It is now a sign, that if enough of us can walk together down the same path, then in this city, our future, will be a reality.
But how we go about that wonderful, painful, fearful, luxurious, universal process of change, is up to us.
…. Play.


Jamaar Smiley
Jamaar Smiley is a spoken word artist, performance poet, and author of “The Epilogue,” a book that chronicles the growth of Black and underprivileged men in America. After leaving a career in non-profit education, he began creating motivational and educational content to promote consciousness, community, and liberation for all people. “Through Creativity and Direction, I want to motivate people to become independent thinkers inspired to achieve their own individual happiness.”

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.