By Aaron Allen The Seattle Medium
On Mon., King County Equity Now (KCEN) held a conference on the State of Black Community in COVID and introduced a collective order to distribute local funding from the American Relief Plan Act (ARPA) equitably. Specifically, organizers are calling on King County and the City of Seattle to invest at least $300 million from the recently awarded ARPA funding directly into the local Black community.
“Current, white-centric, non-community-based services do not work for a predominantly Black service population,” says Emijah Smith, Chief of Staff for KCEN. “Look, the Black community in Seattle sits around 7% but represents roughly 30% of the unhoused population. The service industry monopoly has persisted for decades with little-to-no accountability to the communities it purports to serve.”
Members of KCEN believe that the services presently available to underserved communities are failing and it is only through an equitable and direct investment of federal dollars into these communities that the disparities that exist can be addressed and self-determined healing can be achieved.
“To provide meaningful relief, you cannot keep investing in failed services and service providers,” says Isaac Joy, President of King County Equity Now. “We are disproportionately affected and need self-determined solutions.”
“Black community-centered services are fundamentally different,” Joy continued. “It’s not just about providing affordable housing, shelter services, or a specific kind of service. It’s about us holistically coming around our community top to bottom, through education, social services, business development, job training, food programs, community ownership, and more. It’s about bringing folks into cultural spaces that already exist, where people can be healed and replanted in community. In order to do that, the Black community is in dire need of investment, especially after COVID.”
KCEN says that the Black community was in deep crisis prior to COVID, and that the pandemic has not only exposed the economic and social disparities that existed prior to COVID but it has compounded the existing harm.
“Black communities were wholesale excluded from federal COVID relief funding despite being over-indexed and investing in Black community-centric models and current programming is the most effective solution and will make the most impact,” stated KCEN in a press release.
Organizers say that days of exclusion, under-representation and disparate policies and investments are over, and that the Black community is demanding fairness in financial stability and is challenging the region to provide an environment conducive to economic growth and stability for Black owned businesses and financial opportunity for families.
“After hundreds of years of failed investment, we pose the question: will this region be a world class region or a one-class region,” says Wyking Garrett, CEO and President of Africatown Community Land Trust. “The conditions in the Black community have forced this historic, cross-sector call for direct investment.”
TraeAnna Holiday, Media Director King County Equity Now, highlights the correlation between exclusivity of Black businesses creating opportunity for others to step into that void and the need for investments to create Black opportunity.
“When I look at the history of so many ways the black communities has been divested and excluded from investments creating opportunities for others to come in and take over certain investment opportunities, we understand that historically there is a need that has been set up, a void that has been created,” says Holiday. “It is on us fill that void and to create the solution and we understood that from the gate.”