We ventured up to the city today to get a sense of what all the fuss was about. CHAZ, as it’s called, is several blocks on Capitol Hill near Cal Anderson Park. The acronym stands for Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. (To me it doesn’t sound particularly menacing and so I was prepared to be IN it, rather than just looking (and judging) from outside. )
The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, referred to simply as the Zone and formerly known as Free Capitol Hill, is a self-declared autonomous zone in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington.
We know that outlets like Fox News have been portraying this area as dangerous and to be feared. I don’t watch that particular kind of TV but I’ve heard that they had to use images from other cities in order to maximize the fear. They have tried to portray it as rioters and looters, rage and chaos. Sigh. When did the truth become so questionable, or worse, negotiable ?
Tents are set up at Cal Anderson Park with everything from food and clothes, to toiletries and medical services. There are people in masks and opportunities to donate. Tents line the perimeter of the area. It might make you wonder if CHAZ has done more for the area homeless in several days than the City of Seattle has done in several years. Essential service and supplies and a place to lay their head. Is it really so complicated ?
As much as I want to support the city’s lesbian mayor, I struggle. I want to believe she is trying to understand the complexity of these problems with compassion. That she has stopped trying to “manage” things and has begun to listen. This has been an extraordinary push toward justice. If it fails, it will be a failure of imagination. It will be a failure of compassion. A failure of simple, human decency. These are the things CHAZ brings to the table. It’s up to the city to meet them where they are. It’s time.
The problems of racial inequality, homelessness and a growing class divide are not going away. This march toward a more equal society with a new chorus of voices will not fade. Momentemum now, favors the determined. It favors creative solutions. It favors love over fear. And that’s exactly what it looks like in CHAZ.
I entered CHAZ as a witness. A messenger. I offer images that tell a story that you don’t need me to tell. In fact, it’s never been my story to tell at all. Here’s my job: If I see injustice, I say something. If I hear hate speech, I do something. If I witness the portrayal of a person or place as untrue, I stand up and make it right.
This is my standing up. I’m sharing the images that tell the story. If it makes you uncomfortable, if you feel fearful, if you feel violated or insulted, maybe that’s exactly the point. Maybe once you identify what it is that makes you feel so uncomfortable about the peaceful take-over of space, maybe that’s where the conversation begins. Maybe that cracks open the door of understanding.
Thank you for bearing witness to the truth. Thank you for your courage to seek the truth, to step forward even when the path has been littered with fear. Thank you for your willing heart and courageous spirit.
Thank you for saying those kind words. I’ve heard others describe the atmosphere as being like Bumbershoot, a summer music festival. That’s a good way to put it. If I had children I would take them. It isn’t dangerous, it’s a teachable moment in history. Thanks for reading and writing, Jennie. I always love to hear from you 💞
Thank you so much for sharing! I had no idea what CHAZ was and your pictures and words describe it, to me, as being beautiful.
I’m glad I could share it in a way that seems more authentic than how it’s being portrayed in the news. If this is how the revolution begins, it’s going to be colorful and hopeful. It’s a very pivotal time but I think change is on the horizon. Thanks for writing !
My son has gone up to CHAZ a couple times, once with his 10 year old daughter. I sensed he had a similar experience to what you have written. I enjoy your writing so much. Thanks
Thanks Don. I’m really glad you’re joining me here. CHAZ is stirring up a lot of feelings. Everything from how we’ve failed to a vision of what it might take to bring necessary change. It’s almost always uncomfortable but sometimes those growing pains look much different up close.