Open Letter from the #HumansOfBelltown

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

***EDITORS NOTE: This open letter was sent to @RiseUpBelltown unprompted by one the #HumansOfBelltown, and later edited and revised collaboratively by several said humans, before being sent to us for publishing. We publish it here humbly, inspired by our working community speaking their truth out in public.

Monday July 23rd, 2018

To the Mayor and Seattle City Council,

You might be wondering what the @RiseUpBelltown movement is all about.

Why are they making noise?

Why are they sending us these photos and interviews?

Who are they?

It is time for you to meet some of your constituents: the #HumansOfBelltown.

You want a thriving economy? And to have any tourism in Seattle?

You need us.

We are the workers at Pike Place market that sell produce and knickknacks to tourists and locals alike.

We are the workers that fill the aisles with things for you to buy, and bag your groceries on your way out.

We are the cooks and wait staff that prepare and serve your meals at the restaurants you enjoy.

We are the workers that groom your dogs.

We are the baristas that make your coffee.

We are the bartenders that serve you drinks.

We are the security team that makes sure you can attend that show without worry, and eat and drink in peace.

We are the artists that paint the murals you admire for free, and bring art and beauty to the city.

We are the admins, assistants, and paper pushers at local companies.

We are the staff at Seattle Center, selling tickets to the Space Needle, and offering food and service.

We are the teachers of your children, and social workers serving those in need.

We are musicians that bring entertainment to your life.

We are the tattoo artists to whom people entrust their bodies.

We are sanitation workers that keep our streets clean.

We are the hair stylists and barbers that make us all look good.

We are nurses, EMTs, firefighters.

We are small business owners struggling to survive.

And we mostly earn less money than you do.

We are OFTEN the people that are TAKEN FOR GRANTED.

Tourists don't come to Seattle for your fancy new buildings. They come for Pike Place Market and for the arts. They come for the music and the waterfront. They come to our thriving urban hearts to explore the bars and the restaurants; to experience the grit and culture the music that make Seattle worth knowing, in the world. And we believe they come because they’re drawn to our creative communities, like moths are drawn to a flame.

Neighborhoods like BELLTOWN keep that FLAME burning.

We ARE a living, breathing, arts community…

…and you need your working class for this to exist.

Perhaps you haven’t noticed. But you must believe it’s true.

Affordable is Art. They just go two and two.

Yet it appears you are trying to replace us... to replace us with buildings. And in those new buildings in Belltown, we’ve met a transient workforce; a workforce that is not always here because of (or for) Seattle. Though we welcome all comers, and make many new friends, it’s often a workforce that is here because of a job offer, and that we watch leave at the sight of the next job offer. Yet all the while we, your OTHER workforce, can barely dream of affording to live in one of those fancy new buildings in the sky.

It is time you get to know us.

We ask you to hear the #humansofbelltown AND understand that without communities, and people like ours, your future vision for a healthy Seattle cannot exist. The economy needs PEOPLE that provide the basic needs of ours or any community: things like food, and drink; like maintenance, and all your entertainment. That is us.

You need your WORKING CLASS to survive.

When it appears easier for a company like Amazon to put up a building merely for plants and relaxation, than it is for the City to put up a building its constituents can afford to live in, then clearly there is a problem with the system.

The city is transforming into an environment we can NO LONGER AFFORD and sustain…

…and MANY OF US are forced to live like college students.

Two to three of us as roommates, in a single studio apartment…

…or sometimes if we’re lucky then in a 1-bedroom apartment.

Because it's all we can afford.

Artists forced to live in their art studios,

because they cannot afford rent.

even when working additional jobs.

Musicians displaced.

Losing their practice space.

Because yet another building is being sold or torn down.

People in our community losing their jobs.

Because yet another business closes down…

...or happens to be in a building slated to be demolished.

For many of us the future…

…whether it is personal or professional, is daunting and uncertain.

This is why WE’RE HERE, and why we’re MAKING NOISE.

And we will not go away - we will not stop. We will grow, and recruit working communities to our cause. We will recruit more businesses and recruit the unions, and we will keep the fight going until you listen. Until you know our faces and our names. Until you understand that we are not without ideas.

We ask you. We implore you: to please come visit us. Please come talk with us. Get to know us, and get to know our neighborhood. We are willing to show you the harsh reality that we are daily forced to live in, but we want the opportunity to grow with the city, to have a place in it, and to not be outgrown or displaced by it.