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Reimagine Seattle: Sean Goode

The challenges of the past two years 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. Through the Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project we invite community members to reflect on their current experiences in Seattle, how they have been impacted by recent events, and their hopes for the future of our city.

I Know What You Did Last Summer

by Sean Goode

It was June 2020 and 8,000 people gathered, shouted, mourned, and marched together through South Seattle. The sky was clear, yet a cacophony of “Black Lives Matter” chants rained down on the very same streets where Black bodies have historically been profiled, policed, pushed aside, neglected, forgotten, and ignored. There was a palatable feeling that this day of protest, like the many that proceeded it after the murder of George Floyd, was a preamble to a new narrative authored by Black people in the city of Seattle.

Simultaneously several miles away, elected officials convened a meeting to coordinate a community-led effort to diffuse the conflict at what was then known as CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest). A request was made for Black leaders to deescalate tensions that were continuing to rise on the front line where community members stood in protest to the militarized presence of police. The hope was that those of us trained to mediate between young people who suffer from the disease of violence festering in the same under-resourced and overly policed neighborhood that thousands of people marched in at that very moment, would take money to leverage our skill set to bring an end to the peaceful protest calling for the centering of Black lives.  

Many of us declined, walked away dismayed, holding the unfortunate truth that it was preferable to ask Black folks to advocate for an end to the protest than to meet the demands of the protest and make significant changes to benefit Black lives. This meeting, and the many subsequent gatherings, would paint a picture of performative politics, with brushes dipped in multi-year, billion-dollar commitments and promises of a better tomorrow without significant investments today.

Some people were satiated by the million-dollar morsels, but by the time the protests ended there were more starved for change than ever before. We thought this change may come, in some part, from the city council’s commitments to divest from antiquated practices of public safety by 50 percent and invest equally in community-based alternatives. Predictably, their bold proclamation to defund, birthed out of many laborious hours of community mobilization and exhaustive research, never had the chance to see the light of day.

Despite this, there was hope, that the tens of thousands of you that marched for Black lives would center Black lives in this year’s election. There was hope that your ballot would elevate candidates who embody the communities most marginalized in our city, not only by race but also by lived experience. There was hope that the same energy that brought many of you to South Seattle would bring you to campaign for candidates in your neighborhoods where historical racism and gentrification have caused harm to Black people. There was hope.

This hope led to a slate of candidates both in the city of Seattle and throughout King County that either embodied the lived experience of those of us on the margins or were courageous enough to advance our demands from their platforms. These candidates, if elected, would not only better position our region to become the bastion of progressive values that it espouses itself to be but also finally take significant steps to combat the public health issue of racism. As the ballots rolled in on the evening of November 2 it became clear that this hope was misplaced, and as a collective we decided to step back into the familiarity of the status quo instead of pressing forward toward the possibilities imagined in our protest.

These results were not a surprise but a reminder that in a city where almost 70 percent of our residents identify as white, charting a new path toward collective liberation would require the unthinkable for many. It would require a surrendering of privilege that most are either unaware they carry or are unwilling to release for the greater good, a good that would benefit all of us. The same good that you marched for on that summer day in June 2020.

Seattle, we will not be defined by our words or our wokeness. We will not be defined by our passion for protest or our liberal ideals. We will not be defined by our political platitudes or our profession of progressiveness. We will not be measured by the syntax of our sentences but by the aptitude of our actions.

Despite our differences and disappointments, we must continue to journey toward justice together. We may be uncertain of the path to take toward this destination, but we can share a conviction of what it looks like when we are going the right way. If the following actions serve as an indicator that instructs us as we go, I am confident we will have our true north:

When our neighbor is hungry, let us feed them. When our neighbor is thirsty, let us give them something to drink. When our neighbor is unhoused, let us commit to finding them shelter. When our neighbor has no clothes, let us be certain to find them something to wear. When our neighbor is incarcerated, let us visit them and recognize the unjust conditions that they are surviving in.

It is in our service to those that are unable to serve themselves that we find ourselves closest to the call of justice from within. The call that beckons us to see our shared humanity. The call that, when answered, will allow us to be the city that all our neighbors need us to be.

close-up of man's face. he has buzzed hair and a goatee. he is wearing a white hoodie.
Sean Goode is a speaker, facilitator, writer, podcast host, executive coach, and nonprofit leader who is driven by his mantra, “possibilities over problems,” which was born out of his lived experience growing up in what was overwhelmingly challenging circumstances. Through his stewardship of the now nationally recognized nonprofit, CHOOSE 180, he has worked to decriminalize youthful behavior and transform the very systems that have historically caused harmed to marginalized communities. Prior to leading this 2021 City of Seattle Human Rights award-winning organization he served as a chaplain in juvenile detention, championed gang and group intervention efforts, and worked to provide education and employment opportunities for youth in at-risk communities.

This piece was commissioned by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. The opinions expressed and information contained herein do not necessarily reflect the policies, plans, beliefs, conclusions, or ideas of the City of Seattle.