SEATTLE (April, 23, 2017) – There have been many questions about the effectiveness and logistics of the Navigation Center and how it furthers the City’s long plan to address homelessness, specifically from community stakeholders in Little Saigon and the Chinatown International District (CID).
As a community of refugees and immigrants, this community has first-hand experience with poverty, displacement, and unsheltered living. Friends of Little Saigon, partners, and allies empathize with those in unstable housing and support sustainable and equitable efforts to address homelessness in our region. We have convened a Community Taskforce to advocate for the needs of the CID neighborhood and other communities of color facing displacement.
After the protest at City Hall on March 6 and a meeting with the Mayor and his top advisors on March 10, the Mayor has agreed to “pause” the Navigation Center operation until a detailed plan is vetted and approved by the community. The “pause” means that although construction to upgrade the center is going on, the service provider, DESC, will not occupy the building and start their programming until the plan is approved by the community.
The Taskforce’s main concerns are 1) the lack of authentic engagement with communities of color and 2) the negative safety, public health, economic, and cultural impacts on Little Saigon and CID communities. Specifically, the Taskforce is concerned with how the public safety, health, and sanitation issues impact the health and lifestyle of our residents, the operations of our business owners and service providers, and the experience of our visitors. Ultimately, this will negatively impact the economic and cultural vitality of the CID.
Goals of the Community Taskforce include:
- Offering space for concerned community members to bring questions and feedback;
- Serving as a community body to advocate for the concerns and needs of the community;
- Working on a plan to address community engagement, public safety, health, sanitation, economic and cultural impacts on the CID and other communities of color.
Although the Community Taskforce is proactively addressing the public safety, public health, economic, and cultural impacts and concerns, this effort does not suggest the community’s support for the operation of the Navigation Center in the CID neighborhood.
The Community Taskforce meets bi-weekly and will be seeking input on the community plan. To stay updated on this process and provide input, a meeting schedule and minutes are posted on the Friends of Little Saigon website under Navigation Center Community Taskforce, http://bit.ly/2on8Fgi.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Quynh Pham, Friends of Little Saigon Board Chair
SEATTLE (February 28, 2017) – When Mayor Murray announced the location for the new Navigation Center, a low-barrier homeless shelter – with few restrictions – that will serve up to 75 individuals at a time, he also revealed, once again, that he cares little for the well-being of the marginalized, poor, and powerless communities of Seattle.
The chosen site for the shelter, at 606 12th Ave South, is one block away from major minority-owned businesses and services like Hau Hau Market, Lam’s Seafood, Thanh Son Tofu, Leschi House, and Summit Sierra Public School. A two-block radius would encompass too many shops, restaurants, and offices to name here. Many of these businesses belong to the Little Saigon community whose members were the last to be informed.
The news was a surprise to everyone in Little Saigon and the Chinatown / International District. Not surprising was the Mayor’s decision-making process, which, as usual, disregarded any input from community members save for an informational meeting scheduled less than a week out, during working hours when many are busy, and after renovations were already underway.
Once again, this community has been put in a frustrating and impossible position between trying to advocate for inclusion, safety, and prosperity of refugees and immigrants while not wanting to oppose another marginalized community also fighting for recognition and support from the city.
We recognize the “state of emergency” that the Mayor declared in regards to homelessness. However, we are gravely concerned when this executive power is used to further marginalize and endanger refugees and immigrants by bypassing permitting, public process, and zoning requirements.
The Friends of Little Saigon, a community organization whose goal is “to preserve and enhance Little Saigon’s cultural, economic and historic vitality,” has worked alongside the City of Seattle over the past five years to address gentrification and displacement of refugee and immigrant communities in the neighborhood through several initiatives and projects, outlined in a letter to the City on Feb. 20, 2017.
However, after years of showing our willingness to participate and collaborate, this relationship with the City is being strained to its limits as our trust is repeatedly broken.
Communities like ours are already feeling the immense pressure and stress coming from the federal administration. A month ago, we happily cheered when Mayor Murray proudly proclaimed that Seattle would be a sanctuary city, saying that immigrants are “our friends, our neighbors, our families.”
It has been one week since we’ve voiced our concerns about feeling “neglected, ignored, and treated as second-class to every City sanctioned project and policy that reaches into the Little Saigon neighborhood” and we have still not received a response from any elected official, including the Mayor.
Well, Mr. Mayor, here is a community of immigrants and people of color who are eagerly looking forward to the day we are treated as a friend, a neighbor, and as family. How will you ensure safety and economic vitality of this neighborhood, while also securing the future of the many people who currently reside and make a living in Little Saigon?
Tet, Vietnamese Lunar New Year, is the biggest holiday for the Vietnamese community and falls on January 28th this year. As always, the week before Tet is a whirlwind of activities as families host year-end celebrations, clean and reorganize their homes, and shop for traditional Tet foods and gifts. Businesses in Little Saigon have always anticipated – many of them depend on – this uptick in shopping like others might on Black Friday to bring in an extra shot of revenue.
But this Saturday, January 21st, these businesses are in for a surprise as they’ll see major streets around their storefronts frozen shut for hours by tens of thousands of people predicted to attend the Womxn’s March on Seattle, which will make its way through Little Saigon. Sadly, the vast majority of marchers will not be making their way into the local restaurants, groceries, and stores. While the march is estimated to last just 2-3 hours, the residual impact of traffic congestion, trash cleanup, and general disturbance will effectively prevent normal business operations for much of the day.
Beyond the financial impact, the greater damage done here is that no one bothered to consider or even inform the community members of Little Saigon, a community that, despite the diminutive name, has made significant contributions to the cultural and economic richness of the region for decades. Like their incoming shoppers this Saturday, most Little Saigon business owners are still in the dark with all preparations done and no backup plans.
Let us be clear, this year’s march is particularly important in light of the misogynistic and bigoted rhetoric arising from the election. The people and leaders of Seattle have been working hard to address the prejudices, discriminations and *isms in our community through local initiatives like the City of Seattle Racial and Social Justice Initiative, the annual robust programming of Martin Luther King Jr. Day workshops and rallies, and the upcoming Seattle Womxn’s March. All of these efforts toward a more inclusive community with equal rights and equitable opportunities are needed more than ever.
At the same time, the lack of coordination with the Vietnamese community and last minute notification of the street closures in Little Saigon beg the question of whether we are really walking the talk of wanting to create a more inclusive community with everyone having a place at the table or is the table already full with those who have always been there and, once again, already marginalized, ethnic communities have to wait their turn?
So as we boldly march to combat racial, gender, religious, sexual discrimination and inequality, let us not forget to invite those we are working for to be part of the process. Here are a few suggestions on how can we better practice inclusivity in 2017:
- Make sure to have a diverse representation of the community at the table. There is no shortcut. This needs to be the first step and is the only way to ensure that agendas, policies, and activities are inclusive and reflect the needs of the whole community. Often, activities are planned according one particular worldview and reality and then others are “invited” to join only as an afterthought or when it’s pointed out.
- Be proactive in making structural and systemic changes. Don’t wait for complaints or tragedy to happen before policies are changed and needed resources are provided. Be proactive in critically reviewing current policies, practices, and system structures to see if they are relevant and supportive of all those in the community.
- Hold yourself and your community leaders accountable. A Racial and Social Justice Toolkit is an impressive start but useless if people don’t use it. A more inclusive community will require more time, input, and guts to reassess and reprioritize limited resources. Accountability measures need to be in place to ensure that people do the hard work of following important initiatives like the Racial and Social Justice Toolkit.
As we march into the year of the Fire Rooster, a year known for its integrity, fiery passion, and hard work, let’s do so with a commitment to walking the talk, to be inclusive in our steps so that we can all walk together toward a greater society.
Calling all volunteers! Friends of Little Saigon is looking for people to help with our 6th annual Celebrate Little Saigon event – Café Sữa Đá edition! Join our team by registering online at Survey Monkey – CelebrateLittleSaigon2016 !
Join us for our 6th Annual Celebrate Little Saigon – Café Sữa Đá Edition!
We’ve also joined together with talented Vietnamese American performing artists to bring you traditional and modern Vietnamese pop music!
Even more to come are activities for the very young of age and the young at heart:
– Family Pavilion with inflatable activties and games
– Pho and Dessert Eating Contests
– 21+ Outdoor Beer Garden
We are re-releasing a request for qualifications for community crosswalk designs in the Little Saigon neighborhood. These crosswalks aim to increase the safety, visibility, and neighborhood identity of Little Saigon and surrounding areas. Submissions are due by 5:00 PM on August 24, 2016. Please direct your questions to An Huynh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The top 3 designers will receive a $300 stipend and the winner will receive $3,000 for their work.
Click on the image below for a larger version. Or see here: LS Crosswalks RFQ.
Funded by the Neighborhood Matching Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town program, FLS is excited to announce an opportunity to develop decorative crosswalks for Little Saigon. We’re looking for graphic designers who have a passion and aesthetic that promotes Vietnamese American culture. The top three designs will be provided a stipend of $300 and the selected designer will receive a $3,000 award, as well as an opportunity to work with FLS to install their crosswalk design in Little Saigon. To apply, please review the following RFP. Application deadline is before 5:00 pm on Thursday, May 12, 2016.