The Bus was stoked to be able to provide a small economic boost to five amazing young, local artists. Thank you to everyone who participated by sharing their art, promoting the contest, and voting on the submissions! Read on and get to know the artists behind two of our arts contest submissions and learn their stories.
Fifth House Media: Kamyar Mohsenin (he/him) Hanan Hassan (she/her) Toni Banx (she/her) Elevate music video
Performed by: Hanan Hassan (@onedesertflower), Toni Banx (@toni.banx); Written by: Hanan Hassan, Toni Banx; Filmed by: Kamyar Mohsenin (@kamyar.m); Produced by: Noah O’Connor (@noah_coinflip); Engineered by: Noah O’Connor, Arthur Anderson (@mead.st)
About the piece: “This song is written as a reminder to the listener of their agency in unfavorable social circumstances and their power to ‘elevate.'”
How COVID is impacting the artists: Hanan is a teaching artist who worked in community outreach, and that is totally eliminated, which is creating financial strain. She’s hopeful that she’ll get to return to that work. Toni lost her job completely, but she feels lucky that there are resources to help during COVID. Being a creative person, she’s taking it all positively and is grateful for the space to dive into her creativity. Kamyar’s workload has diminished– he went from teaching four in-person film-making classes to teaching two online classes and is definitely feeling the financial strain. He’s also working with Coyote Central, Lens Culture, and as a freelance video editor. He’s always excited about and working toward more projects with local, like-minded artists.
On adjusting and upliftment: Toni has more time to do what she loves to the fullest extent. “The way that I create has always been to give a voice to people that are underrepresented, especially black women. I feel like it’s important that we are heard and understood. Hip hop is a great medium for that.” In Toni’s words, the pandemic is highlighting where the screws are loose in our society.
Kamyar has been making more of the space that he lives in; re-sorting the feng shui of it since he’s in it all the time and needs to be inspired and productive in it and by it. He’s trying no to take for granted the fact that the pandemic has issued a reclaiming of time and is using it as an opportunity to better himself in the long run.
Hanan’s message hasn’t changed because her art is always about underrepresented communities who are repeatedly affected by the same detriments. A lot of the poetry, scripts, and music that she writes discuss upliftment and reality while being able to point out what’s wrong, why it’s wrong, and how we can fix it.
Art as Activism: Toni: “Hip hop is the voice of the people. It’s the voice of where I’m from.” Toni feels that the genre has been misconstrued. It highlights social injustices and inadequacies, and instead of crying about it, it offers solutions. “My number one thing that I always want to give people is ideas, suggestions, ways to move forward. That is what hip hop is created for.”
Hanan: “Art is a vehicle for activism. With everything that we do, it feels like there’s no option to be apolitical. Being an underrepresented person in a community, you have to speak up for yourself and choose the medium to do that.” Hanah also described art as a capsule for storytelling. “In order to be an activist, you have to know the history and the best way to impact people.”
Kamyar is a big advocate for environmental consciousness in his classrooms. He’s been trying to use his privilege to amplify the voices that need to be heard and matter. This video is a testament to that. He’s learning how to better assist others and expose communities in a way that’s honest and authentic.
All these artists are inspired by the richness of people’s lives and stories.
Most importantly, how to support them: “We can’t pay bills with comments and likes.” Cashapp: $fifthhouseband
These amazing artists told me right off the bat that “during the pandemic, it’s very important to help one another,” so they donated the $300 from the Bus to Baby Z (the adorable baby in the music video) and their mom.
Follow and purchase: @themelojuice (Hanan’s brain child/recipe supported by Kamyar and Toni)
“Tell Seattle to actually support their artists. Too many artists grow up here or come here but can’t make strides.” They really want to be able to stay here and see the city become a true hub for artists, instead of watching awesome artists flee to LA or New York. They know that people here have spending power and want entertainment and feel that we shouldn’t depend so heavily on the government to fund the arts. “If the artists who are working hard had opportunities to show their work, people would want to be patrons.” As a voice for all local creatives, they want to see more venues, gallery spaces, opportunities for exposure, and local (emphasis on that adjective!) artists being uplifted and showcased.
Stay tuned for more beautiful work by Fifth House!
About the piece: “The illustration is of signs in front of the Northwest Detention Center calling for the release of folks detained. I drew sunflowers behind the fence because to me, sunflowers represent hope and I like that they always find the sun, even in difficult conditions.”
How Erika has adjusted: Erika was heavily impacted because the coffee shop she worked at closed, so she hasn’t been able to work there in two months. She’s adapting by making masks, and she also joined a mutual aid group to help support her community by doing things like grocery shopping for those who can’t, which she highly recommends if you’re in a position to do so. She is also helping to put together a food justice online summer school with Community Alliance for Global Justice and works part-time for a youth fellowship. “I am a person who tends to make themselves busy, for better or for worse! But I am realizing that it is important to take time to rest and to grieve and not to put too much pressure on myself to be productive or continually working, so that is a practice that I am engaging in more.”
Erika on art as activism: “I think the intersection of art and activism is super important! It’s super freeing to create art (even if you don’t consider yourself an artist) and I think creating activist art together is a great way to build community and camaraderie in movements. Art also helps spark an emotional connection to an issue in a way that data and facts cannot.”
What inspires Erika: “My biggest art inspiration right now is the cartoonist Lynda Barry. She is an incredible writer, artist and educator. She has written a couple books on creativity, personal narrative and building a consistent art practice. It has been incredibly helpful to me. Inspiration only lasts so long though, I have found that finding time to sit down to draw, to let my brain wander and not pass judgements on my ideas is super important. I also often find inspiration to create a larger work from what I doodle or from something small I observe/hear/think in my daily life.”
How to support: Erika says the best way to support artists right now is by buying their art! If you can’t afford art right now, even commenting on or sharing artists’ work online is so helpful and much appreciated.
By Libby Watson, College & Community Engagement Coordinator
Thirsty Thursday blog post reminding you to VOTE! #knowledgeresponsibly
The deadline to vote for the primary election is August 1st. Don’t forget to mail your ballot or drop it in a nearby dropbox!
Your vote really matters – in state and local elections just a few hundred votes can make the difference. If you live in Seattle, you’ll be helping to narrow down a crowded mayoral primary from 21 candidates down to 2! Plus, voting to determine whether we should create and fund a cultural access program expanding students and underserved populations’ access to arts, science, and heritage programming in King County, as well as voting on a county Executive and city councilmembers.
The Bus was out this weekend doing our part to make sure young people are turning out for elections large and small.
In order to make politics fun and accessible, we meet young folks where they are – and sometimes that means music festivals! This past weekend the Bus brought out Fellows, interns, and a ton of volunteers to canvass at Capitol Hill Block Party, making sure young folks at the festival were registered to vote and reminding them to turn in their ballots.
In the booth we had a station to make your own buttons, candy, and make-your-own-meme cutouts. While people learned about the Bus and had some fun with us, we made sure their voter registration was up to date, reminded them to turn their ballots in, and engaged them around voting access issues with a survey gauging public support for several strategies that can make voting easier, such as pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds, automatic voter registration, pre-paid postage, same-day voter registration and language accessibility. By gathering information on the survey, we hope that we can impact the voting systems and make it more accessible. *And it turns out emojis are a very effective tool of measurement everyone can relate to.
Many people consider politics to be something serious and unapproachable, and we want to break down barriers that prevent people from fully participating in our democracy. We can express our values, achieve our goals, and make our communities better through voting. While we tackle serious issues, we still want to make sure people associate politics with something fun, something they want to be a part of.
Here I ask again, please get out to vote! Voting matters to you. Voting matters to the community. Voting matters to the entire city and state. Let’s make our voices heard!
This blog post was written by the Bus’s Duke Engage interns, Debra and Anqi.
Over 400 audience members watched enraptured as the top seven mayoral candidates answered questions ranging from their policy positions to their smoking habits. It was a night that left people both informed, entertained, and probably a little stunned.
Photo credit: Darrion Sjoquist
Here are some highlights from the night:
Round 1: Lightning Round, Yes/No
The Executive Director of the Washington Bus, Emilio Garza, fired off question after question in a sixty second lightning round as each candidate tried to quickly come up with answers to questions such as, “Would you rather vape with Abraham Lincoln or farm peanuts with Jimmy Carter?”
In the final moments of the Yes/No and spectrum round in which candidates moved from one side of the stage to the other depending on their policy stance, Mike McGinn, the reigning Candidate Survivor champion, won cheers from the crowd when he gave his “explain” card to Nikkita Oliver to expand on her stance on one of the questions. Still, McGinn as well as Jason Roberts were eliminated in the first round.
Round 2: Talent Show
I guarantee nobody who came to Candidate Survivor thought they would see a candidate over sixty years old vape through a flute while two people in masks danced and his campaign manager rapped a revised Seattle-focused version of “Mask Off” by Future. But that’s what Bob Hasegawa did, all while wearing a fedora and sunglasses. #VapeFlute
Photo credit: Anthony Morrow
Jessyn Farrell played saxophone to Careless Whisper by George Michael, and replaced the original lyrics with her own lyrics asking the Stranger to endorse her as well as throwing jabs at the Seattle Times. Jenny Durkan impersonated Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of Sean Spicer and mocked each candidate left on stage. Cary Moon made a PowerPoint as her self-proclaimed only talent and gave a “BED” Talk on how to run a mayoral campaign ending with a heartwarming message to just “Be Yourself.” Nikkita Oliver assured us through rap that “justice is just us being just.” At the end of the round, Durkan and Hasegawa were both eliminated.
Round 3: Serious Political Questions
In the final round, only three candidates, Nikkita, Jessyn, and Cary, had survived. The three panelists asked them serious political questions respectively tailored to each candidate.
Considering the dilemma people in Little Saigon face, Jessyn believed that more grassroots organizations should engage in community affairs. She also expressed her determination to represent marginalized groups regardless of white privilege, and use her background and experience to serve the city.
Cary, the urban planner and activist who is the largest donor of her own campaign, claimed that her wealth could save her time collecting donations and allow her to instead concentrate more on contributing to the city. Her proposal to collect real estate tax from non-residents and build four times more affordable housing won prolonged applause.
Nikkita was asked who would she nominate as the head of Seattle department of transportation if she was elected. She planned to work with her competitors and do a national search for suitable candidates. She also wanted to prioritize more urgent tasks and allocate the city budget wisely in order to pay for more homeless shelters.
In the final audience vote, Nikkita won Candidate Survivor.
Photo credit: Anthony Morrow
Candidate Survivor is a fantastic event which helps voters get to know their mayoral hopefuls in a fun and authentic way. It’s a great opportunity for people unfamiliar with local politics to get a rough picture of each candidate’s proposals and personalities… and maybe see a politician vape out of a musical instrument.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past decade, it’s how to throw a rockin’ party. We couldn’t celebrate our 10th year with any old regular event.. that’s why this year’s Bus Bash is a concert! Featuring performances by Sisters, Beverly Crusher, and Nolan Garrett.
All tickets come with dinner and drinks provided. VIP and Co-Host tickets include exclusive event perks and automatic entry into our drawing!
Welcome to the first installation of the Hella Bus Blog’s Thirsty Thursday blog post! #knowledgeresponsibly
Memorial day weekend the Bus was out in force at the one, the only, SASQUATCH! In addition to watching some incredible music and getting gnarly tank top tans, we talked to thousands of young people about the importance of civic engagement and registered voters in the sun! Check out some highlights below.
Bus squad rolled deep with 5 staff members, 3 interns, and 8 rockstar volunteers (shoutout to former Bus staffer Sonny and the Service Board folks who combined forces with us for the ultimate #SQUADGOALS)! We registered 85 voters and collected 301 Pledge to Vote cards in just 3 short (jk, like the longest) days, and had great conversations with young people from around the state. Meeting young people where they are works – we got 154 new volunteer sign-ups from people who are stoked to take their civic engagement to the next level and hop on the Bus with us!!
Not to mention Vote Bot was on AT LEAST 50 people’s snapchat stories…
Stories from the ‘Squatch…
“I was registering someone to vote and later found out that she went to Evergreen College. We chatted a bit about a situation happening on campus where students of color are experiencing racism and we talked about the importance of campus organizing which was awesome. I tried to connect her with a former fellow on campus so hopefully they link up!” – Alisha, Fellowship Coordinator
“Chance the Rapper has literally changed my life. I am completely obsessed with his wholesome, woke, whimsical style and I am a better person now that I listen to him. I wrangled everyone in our group to run down to the mosh pit after the Shins’ set and wait for Chance to come on for almost 2 hours. And it was worth it. I smiled, I danced, I sang along, I screamed, I ugly cried (multiple times) and I am so happy that I got the opportunity to see Chance live!!!” – Sophia, Field Coordinator
All the good feelings.
“Sasquatch was such a great opportunity for staff, interns, and volunteers to connect with young people from around Washington State. We are activating young people and creating opportunities for conversations around issues that impact young people!” – Lily, Field & Outreach Coordinator
Expanding our reach.
“It was incredible that the Bus had the opportunity to register individuals from across the state and not just the Seattle area. Because of our location, it can be incredibly hard to find voters outside of western Washington, and so Sasquatch was a great way for us to build a statewide presence and not just a regional one.” – Sean, Field Organizer
Changing the narrative.
“I tried to register a guy to vote and when I asked if he wanted to register he said he “didn’t want to be a part of the establishment.” We had a super real conversation about the fact that people in power don’t want young people to vote and that by saying he doesn’t want to register because he doesn’t want to be a part of the establishment had the opposite effect of what he intended. By not registering, he was doing what “the establishment” wanted which is a lack of involvement to protect the status quo. I talked with him about the Bus’ work and why we think it’s important for young people to vote to take back our democracy. He didn’t register with me that day, but he promised he would consider it and we fist bumped and went about our day. I really appreciated how real he was with me and how he took the time to hear what I had to say and I could tell by talking to him I had opened his mind a bit more than it was before.” – Alisha, Fellowship Coordinator
Every year at Sasquatch is fulfilling, exhausting, and a total blast. We so appreciate being able to be involved in the music and arts community to make sure young people know about the Bus!