“We have to rise up. We have to resist. But we also have to build.”
April 2, 2017
“Our Seattle is your city, Aho!” Rachel Heaton proclaimed, after presenting Nikkita Oliver with a bundle of medicine to help her on her journey. Oliver joined the race for mayor of an embattled city after several years of attempts by the grassroots to hold the current mayor, Ed Murray, accountable to the will of the people. The efforts advanced by the people where Oliver emerged as one of many leaders, resulted in a series of compromises, administrative solutions, that allowed for the continuation of plans for the construction of an expansion to Seattle’s Youth Jail but with a hard fought for investment by the city of $500,000 towards alternatives to youth incarceration. The youth jail is located not too far away from Washington Hall, where Oliver chose to host the official launch of her campaign for mayor to a crowd that was at capacity and reflected the diversity of Seattle.
It takes an army to advance a campaign for an election. Oliver has drawn talent, mostly women of color, from within the grassroots movement leadership. The result is a completely women of color led campaign for the election of Nikkita Oliver for the mayor of Seattle in 2017. This is historically unprecedented, much less that the leadership is almost completely grassroots leadership. To win this election, Oliver and her grassroots team will need to fundraise at least half a million dollars and advance an aggressive on the ground, door to door campaign that seeks to register voters, increase civic engagement and utilize their strengths in the arts and culture to advance a political campaign. It is very likely that Oliver will win if the opposition does not engage in corruption and voter fraud.
To this end, the launch party included many of the young people that Oliver had mentored over the years who as new voters joyfully endorsed her candidacy. A series of spoken word poetry, hip hop, dance, and even a classical performance by these young artists took place before Oliver even took the stage at the historic Washington Hall.
Leija Farr, Seattle’s poet laureate after presenting a series of moving poems honoring black women emphasized in the work of undoing systemic racism ahead, “Especially if we want to see Nikkita in office, we have to respect black women.” Farr was referring to the way that society devalues black women’s lives in particular, her poems emphasized love for black women, comparing black women to the earth, asking all of us to stand up for them.
Throughout Nikkita Oliver’s campaign speech, where she outlined The People’s Party’s platform she added a personal touch to the goals and strategies outlined. For example, I have never heard of any candidate ever tell her audience publicly, as Oliver proceeded to do after speaking about accountability, “I ask you to hold me accountable and if you have to, call me out,” she said, “because that’s the right thing to do.”
Oliver’s campaign has already drawn the criticism of the grassroots along the lines of the tired debate of “reform or revolution.” In writing this article and publishing it on Karani, I am endorsing Nikkita Oliver’s political campaign as neither reform nor revolution. As the title above indicates, Oliver’s campaign leans hardest towards the imagination of restorative justice. This is clear in the People’s Party platform that she’s been essential towards creating.
I offer the evidence, that it was quite clear, that even though Kshama Sawant was the only other politician there, one that advanced her own agenda (and another candidate) through the performance rather than legitimately endorsing Nikkita Oliver, has nothing of the substance that Oliver and her team brought to the people.
Karani medios will continue to cover this historical campaign, with the hope that it is the people’s campaign and that it does build an alternative. We hope that as the People’s Party juggles the agendas of the large non-profits and unions, and the career politicians that are the intellectual authors of our community’s oppression, that the People’s Party remains true to the historic moment of making another world possible. One that is women of color led. One that leads us closer to the world we want to see.