Art as Activism 

Art as Activism 

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! 

 

bloobberry.bigcartel.com

Erika Mazza-Smith (she/her) Instagram: @bloobberry
bloobberry.bigcartel.com 

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

Summer Fellowship is #HellaDigital

Summer Fellowship is #HellaDigital

Dear Bus Family and Friends,

As COVID -19 continues to reveal the deep inequities in our democracy, the Bus is doubling down on our efforts to shape Washington’s future. For this reason, the Bus Summer Fellowship is going digital! This year we will focus on transforming digital action into political action. 

Fellows will experience the same hands on democracy, community building, and social justice learning as always. Organizing our peers now means organizing rad online events, base building through social media, and throwing the most fun “couch parties” that have ever happened. Climate justice and housing affordability impact young people now more than ever, and Fellows will lead the charge on organizing their peers to uplift these core issues. We’re excited to transform digital organizing and bring it to the forefront of the Bus’ work with the help of a skilled class of Fellows, social justice experts, and our partner organizations.

Meeting young people where they are has taken on a whole new meaning in the time of social distancing. We can’t wait for you all to meet the Fellowship Class of 2020 as they take over the internet and advance progressive reform across Washington State. 

Best,

Mo Pannier, Leadership Development Coordinator

Leila Reynolds, Field Organizer

PS: Check out this video of our dear VoteBot going RemoteBot — enjoy!

Get Out That Vote!

Get Out That Vote!

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.

Guest Post: 6 Things I Learned from Running a Fake Mayoral Campaign

Guest Post: 6 Things I Learned from Running a Fake Mayoral Campaign

This week’s special edition of Thirsty Thursday is brought to you by former Bus staffer, Candidate Survivor 2017 panelist, and current CID Public Safety Coordinator Sonny Nguyen. #knowledgeresponsibly

Everybody in this city is running for mayor. Back in May, after Mayor Murray withdrew his campaign for reelection, mayoral candidacies became more ubiquitous than fidget spinners. Seriously, from Larry “Oh Boy!” Oberto to the guy who Nazi salutes the city councilmembers, we have enough mayoral candidates in this city to fill a usually nearly-empty First Hill Streetcar.

Now, I am nothing if not a trendspotter. After much consideration, I decided I couldn’t be the only person in Seattle without a campaign launch party. Imagine the embarrassment! So, as anyone would do, I jokingly announced a write-in campaign to run for mayor.

Photo Credit: The Evergreen State College

At least, it started out as a joke. And then things got weird. Since then, it’s become a weird performance art piece about the state of municipal elections because I went to Evergreen and that’s just what happens for us. (I think my entire college was just an elaborate performance art piece about academia or something..)

Anyway, throughout the last two months of fake-campaigning for real-life mayor, here are the things I’ve learned about running for office.

1. Running for office is super expensive.

It can costs upwards of half a million dollars to win a mayoral race in Seattle. For those of us in student loan debt, that number looks like this: $500,000. Where does that money go? Campaign staff and consultants, mailers, facilities rentals for events, all kinds of stuff. In fact, filing to run for mayor can cost about $2,000 alone. Unfortunately, I did not have $500k waiting to be spent (see above re: student loan debt) but neither do most people running for office. That’s why we have programs like the democracy vouchers for use in municipal (i.e. city) races, to close the gap between people who have or can raise that kind of money and people who don’t have as much easy access to that kind of money.

Photo Credit: Fuse WA

(My only disappointment with the program is that Democracy Vouchers don’t come in lower denominations, making us mostly unable to make it rain stacks on candidates.)

Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I have years of practice living on a shoestring budget. I printed my hundreds of campaign stickers on Avery nametags that I got from Prime Now with a coupon code and gift card. I got over 100 bottles of beer donated to me for my campaign launch party. I borrowed a button maker to make campaign buttons. I printed my yard signs on the biggest sheets of paper my office’s printer could handle, and gluesticked them on to cut up boxes that once held ice cream sandwiches. All in all, I spent about $80 on my campaign materials, that’s a total saving so far of $794,657 compared to Ed Murray’s 2013 campaign.

 

2. I am excellent at campaigning.

I worked with the Washington Bus for about 10 years, so I knew my way around a campaign. I’ve spent many summers surrounded by stressed out candidates and campaign managers, and I’ve gotta say this was much easier than I thought. Maybe it’s because I’m not trying to win, but most of campaigning was just hanging out at events and being charming. Aside from filling out surveys and raising money, it’s pretty much just flirting with an entire city and I am an excellent flirt.

Photo Credit: CityArts

< But probably not as good a flirt as City Council Position 8 candidate, Dr. Hisam Goueli. Woof.

A lot of campaigning is learning how to make any conversation about you and what you can do. As someone who grew up in a household with seven other kids, this comes naturally. When you’re competing for attention with that many other people, you either learn to be proud of your own accomplishments or seek out new ways to gain external validation. And I ran a fake campaign for mayor, so you can guess which path I chose.

But this isn’t a blog post about my childhood development. This is a blog about Hisam Goueli’s delts. Or something.

 

3. Campaign events don’t need to be stuffy and boring.

Not every campaign event needs to be a no-host cocktail hour where strangers have to make small talk or a listening session in a rented conference room. And not every candidate forum needs to be the same questions with the same audience.

Were you at Candidate Survivor? If you were, I don’t need to explain this to you. If you weren’t, well, #vapeflute explains it all.

4. There’s no excuse for ugly campaign aesthetics.

Can we talk about this? Can we talk about how boring campaign materials look? My graphic design experience peaked at high school Yearbook Editor, and yet I must say I’ve got some of the best campaign materials of any candidate – real or otherwise. I made them on Canva! The free version!

(This post not sponsored by Canva. But it can be. Hit me up, Canva marketing team.)

 

 5. Seattle wants young progressive candidates.

You would think that with 21 people making it to the ballot, we would have enough variety in candidates to call ourselves covered for the mayor’s race. It turns out people were actually super stoked to hear my (fake) announcement. Before finding out it was fake, people were offering to host fundraisers and events for me, connect me to possible endorsements, and even pay my filing fee!

And only partly because I’m incredibly charming. It was mostly because Seattle needs more young progressive candidates. Yes, we have a few already in this race and in others this year. Still, I learned you can never have too many passionate young people with a vision for the city’s future.

All across the state this year, we’ve seen amazing young candidates running for office. From Seattle School Boards to Federal Way City Council and beyond, we’re running tough races to make a difference (and almost all of them real!). It counters the mythos that millennials are dispassionate selfish jerks who only care about MTV skinny jeans and killing the diamond industry by saying “Look. We’re here and we love our local communities and we have these great ideas about how to make it better. Also we apparently don’t by napkins and I guess that’s a problem.

A packed Neumos full of mostly Millenials, ready to meet their candidates instead of playing golf.

6. You should run for office.

I mean, why not? We’ve created this idea that a candidate has to know everything about everything, but candidates are real humans who are constantly learning about the issues and building teams of experts around them. You know how to do that. You know how to make friends, be charming, and speak from the heart.

There are people and organizations out there that will donate to your campaign. There are people and organizations out there that want to hear your ideas for improving your community. You can ask your county elections office what seats will be opening up next year and start planning now, or reach out to organizations like unions, churches, or Amplify for resources. Amplify, as stated on their website, “recruits, trains, elects, and supports progressive champions for state and local office in the Northwest, prioritizing people of color, women, young people, and LGBTQ candidates.”

Sure, I didn’t actually run for office this time around. The most important thing I learned, however, is that the idea of my candidacy isn’t absurd enough to be an obvious joke. It’s a plausibility, a possibility, and with each passing day, a growing likelihood. I know now more than ever that you don’t run for office because you think you’re the best person for the job. You run for office because you know that the communities you’re a part of and that you have connections with, they deserve a voice. You run because there are issues that need to be talked about and nobody else will start those conversations. You run because if you don’t, who’s like you that will?

So do it. Run a mayoral campaign on $80 or raise $800,000. Run for school board. Run for Insurance Commissioner (10 years in politics, still barely understand what the job does). Your community is waiting for you.

As more and more amazing young people run for office, I become more and more sure that together, #WeCanNguyen.

Candidate Survivor Recap!

Candidate Survivor Recap!

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.

Check out the buzz from the event on The Stranger, Seattle Times, Seattle PI, and Seattle Met!

This blog post was written by Bus Duke Engage interns, Debra and Anqi.

Why Seattle Needs an Income Tax

Why Seattle Needs an Income Tax

Thirsty Thursday blog post in the house! #knowledgeresponsibly

Next Monday, July 10th, the City Council will vote on an ordinance considering a city-wide income tax on our wealthiest residents. Now, I hear you, you don’t want more taxes! You have the highest rents in the world, the most regressive tax system in America, not to mention that you have to sell a limb to pay for each year of college. This tax, however, will start addressing some of these issues.

By taxing the highest earners in the city – those who earn more than $250,000 a year – the city will be able to generate more than $125 million in revenue. This tax will reverse the regressive path that our state have taken. We will take the burden off of low-income folks and start paying for our services more fairly. As we determine how the tax revenue will be used, it is our job to make it go towards issues that young people care about: debt-free community college, rent control, homelessness etc. We at the Washington Bus have been working tirelessly to make sure that happens, lobbying city council members, testifying at committee meetings, and informing y’all about the income tax that could actively combat these problems!

Young people in Seattle are struggling economically, and it is unfair to exacerbate the situation by forcing students to choose between attaining their education and staying afloat financially.

Those who prioritize their education are shackled with years of interest payments and are paying off these loans for decades. Even with successful and stable careers, these loans continue to drain funds from individuals. This prevents them from devoting portions of their income to savings, retirement plans, homes, and their families. Not to mention being strapped for cash means no opportunities for fun, and everyone deserves the chance to kick back and have a fun night in the city.

Isabelle & Sophia in front of City Hall after meeting with Councilmember Herbold about the income tax.

As two young adults growing up in Seattle, we have recently made trips to city hall where we were significantly outnumbered by people triple our age. This blatant disparity emphasizes how desperately we need young people to turn out for votes, meetings and town halls. Show your support on Monday at 2 p.m. and come to city hall and show support for the council vote on the ordinance! Your engagement and passion will change this city for decades to come and we would love to witness your power.

This blog post was written by Isabelle Yuan and Avidan Baral, the Bus’s 2 Summer Interns!