I am running late. But so is Uncle Joe. Uncle Joe metro number 8 will be giving me a ride out of the Lower Queen Anne into and through Vulcan’s South Lake Union village populated with Amazonian tech bro’s, googlites, Mircosoft importees, and the service class catering to their needs. Uncle Joe number 8 will continue through Paul Allen’s wet dream in to the post-hip Capital Hell formerly known as “the hill” or its state name Capitol Hill. The 8 will crest the hill and descend east down Madison into the valley. It will then travel along MLK thru the C.D. and into the southend all the way to Rainier Beach. I will get off on the I-90 cap and wait for my friend coming from the eastside. But first I gotta catch the Uncle Joe.
As I get to the stop I see an 8 pulling away a couple blocks down. Uncle Joe wasn’t late, the app on my phone was off. Sooo… Now I have some time to kill. I turn around and there is the uptown cafe. So I follow my roots and go in and order a cup of coffee. Me and the barista lacklusterly attempt a conversation. I left a 85% tip on a two dollar drink and went outside and pulled out a smoking blend of herbs the homie harvested from the woods, and put the smallest amount of green in, rolled it and lit up. I reach for my book and begin reading. Before I got two sentences in I was interrupted…
Kuwasi Balagoon had just stood and began his closing statements with:
“For the record, i’ll say right now, that this place is an armed camp. It has the trappings and props of a court. A state-issued clone in a black robe, an ambitious state-issued clone of the state table, a fenced off area, and a section for spectators with a smaller section for members of the press, who can listen to an opening statement and between them, not one mentions anything i said about America being an Imperialist empire that among other things holds New Afrikan people in subjection or that the U.S. government while hypocritically speaking of human rights in places like Poland never mentions the political prisoners it holds and calls grand jury resisters. The state-issued prosecutor objects, the state-issued court sustains and the media that pats itself on the back and hypocritically calls itself free, erase whatever notes they might have taken automatically and take their places beside the state-issued court and prosecutor.”
I really don’t like it when people interrupt my reading. And being in the uptown hood I expected a yuppie. I look up and see an elder black man with a duffle bag sitting down at the next seat over. I dog ear the book, close it and hold it up for him to read the cover.
He takes the book out of my hand and flips it open to the last page I was reading and begins reading aloud
“There’s no record of the B.L.A. leaving comrades in hostile areas on purpose. When comrades are wounded attempts are made to carry them. The state contends that Marilyn Buck was wounded and taken to Mt. Vernon with the unit in question.”
This elder looks me in the eye and starts rolling with laughter. He asks me where I am from and I tell him.
“You involved in the Black Lives Matter stuff?” he asks…
I shrug and nod in the same motion. He nods, looks me up and down and starts rolling with laughter again. He goes to hand me back the book. When I grab it from him he doesn’t let go. He looks me in the eye, still wearing an ear to ear grin and says, “Keep studying your history. Keep studying the warriors.”
“Fo sho” I reply and take the book.
Uncle Joe finally arrives.
“Young One! Remember, don’t forget the Maroons… and stay sharp…”
I turn, climb the steps onto the bus and flash the bus driver a two year old transfer and sit down. I look out the window and the elder waves goodbye with a fist over his heart and a nod. I salute him with the same gesture as the bus drives off.
As my ascent starts from lower Queen Anne through Capital Hell and into the “historic” Central District, Uncle Joe only has a few passengers. An older lady with two bags and a basket on wheels filled with more bags, a yuppie who has not removed his eyes from a screen he holds in his hands, and me.
The older lady with the bags and basket of bags is friendly with the bus driver up to Denny and Stewart, where she departs the bus. Before this stop, the bus has filled up with yuppies of all shades and colors and not a single one ever seemed to look away from their hand held screens.
At the Denny and Stewart stop the older bag lady was struggles to get out through the front while some youth slips in the back door. They would’ve gone unnoticed, if they weren’t so loud, instead their youthful energy penetrated the spell of the digital devices and forced the attention of the yuppies. Some yuppies responded with a quick glance, other yuppies reacted with looks of disgust and anger for breaking the spell. Some even seemed to harbor malicious intent behind the looks they gave. The youth didn’t even notice the shade being thrown at them, they were two wrapped up in the recent gossip just learned at the Orion Center.
As Uncle Joe begins the accent up Denny over the freeway, I couldn’t help but reflect on I-5 and the terraforming necessary for this interstate road of commerce. To build I-5 they blew out the side of at least 3 major hills. I realized at this point that so far Uncle Joe has only taken us over land that has been completely terraformed to fit the will of the metropolis and capital. Colonialism uses the tool of terraforming for the benefit of Empire and Capital. Metropoli around the world are plagued by this symptom of colonialism.
The distance I have just covered is called the denny regrade. It was an ambitious project that only the colonizer could think up. They used water to destory one of Seattle’s seven hills of rome. The land from the hill was carried by coveyor belts to the waterfront and used to fill the wster for docks, piers, and warehouses.
Uncle Joe turns onto olive way and curves upward toward Broadway. We pass an almost entire block of empty store fronts. In the middle of this row of prime graffiti’ed retail fronts is Holy Smoke, a landmark headshop for locals. I’m pretty sure I brought my first swisher there when I was like 13 or something. Less then a block further along the olive curve we pass the iconic StarBucks.
This StarBucks location has been used by Kshama Sawant and the social demoncrats Socialist Alternative. It seems a rather bourgeoisie place for someone claiming “to be for the people” to host community meetings. The unofficial line from their camp for this is that it encourages barista organizing or promotes unionization within Star Bucks. In reality all we have seen from Kshama Sawant and her squad is gross attempts at co-optation, photo opps, support of uncle toms and the entrenched left.
We continue up the hill. At the stop before Broadway, the bus begins to empty out. On my left, to the north, there is a dry cleaners with a swap meet or yard sale in front of it. In the middle of the block on a wall at the entrance of an alley is a throw up. On the other side of the alley is the drugstore on the corner. This block is probably one of the longest stretches of land untouched by the hyper gentrification. On my right, to the south, is a big condo building. I forget what used to be there at this point. The gentrification has overwritten my memory. At the bottom of these condos is a hipster tavern called the Grotto and a sun tan palor. Then there is an alley that takes you to Dick’s Drive-In, where you would be surrounded by towers of condos. Past the alley along the bottom of another condo building is a tax spot and then a bank.
Uncle Joe pulls off, goes thru Broadway and passes Queen Sheba, the mystery soda machine infront of the locksmith on one side and the almost finished construction site for the new lightrail stop on the other side.
We continue our ascent by passing hundred year old houses sprinkled amongst newly constructed apodments, condos, and cookie cutter box town-homes. There are swaths of blocks that have been preserved but most of it has recently been destroyed and rebuilt. At the peak of our ascent we pass a Safeway and the Group Health Cooperative complex.
GHC is a strange thing. I grew up going there. My Aunt who raised me, had medical insurance thru the telecommunication industry. NorthwestBell, AT&T, USWest, Qwest. She worked most her life in the tower on Bell Plaza. GHC was designed and built to help heal the workers of the major industries local to the region. It is and always has been a coop organized capitalist enterprise. It also serves as model for future “coops” to play the capitalist game and win. Similar to Madison Market and PCC. It’s one of the oldest examples of the co-optation or failure of the coop model. At least that is what I think as Uncle Joe passes it by.
As we begin the slight decent, after cresting the hill, we pass thru a mostly residential area, along a corridor of apartments sprinkled with new construction. We soon come to Miller Community center and Meany Middle School. Meany Middle School historically was one of two middle schools that educated a mostly black population of the C.D. During the height of the gentrification of the C.D. Meany middle school was closed because of under-enrollment and supposed budget difficulties.
Before I can even begin to recollect the stories surrounding this school, and the alternative highschool that took it over temporarily, our Uncle Joe passes it by and stops on 23rd ave. At this stop the last of the screen zombies departs and the bus is almost exclusively non white.
We take an awkward left on to Madison and pass a gentrified restaurant in the store front that used to hold Philadelphia Fever (a philly spot). We get stuck behind a Microsoft shuttle. As we follow the shuttle down Madison into Madison valley I am again reminded of the nature of the metropolis. This major thoroughfare is the only Seattle street that runs uninterrupted from Lake Washington to Puget’s Sound. 26 years after the incorpration of the city, just prior to the goldrush, a cable car was built the length of Madison. After forty years the cable car was replaced with buses. I am reminded of the need of these throroughfares, for they function as the arteries of the metropolis.
Uncle Joe reaches the lowest point of Madison Street and stops at the light, waiting to turn right onto M.L.K. At this intersection of arteries rests the Baily Boushay House. I remember waiting at the bus stop directly outside this buidling as a kid and getting into great conversations with patients and workers from the BBH. Never do I remember seeing the Virginia Mason logo nor its name on the building. This also reminds me when the Group Health E.R. was replaced by an urgent care and all the E.R. patients had to go to Virginia Mason’s E.R. As we turn on to M.L.K way and head south I pull out my book and start reading.
“That New Afrikan people are subjected to living in reservations administered by an occupation force, calling itself police and being systematically beaten out of wages, liberties and our very lives is not news and that the media is just so many state-issued clones is not news either. Their job all along has been to present the state in a false light and instill fear in the population so that people will find fascism acceptable. And call it democracy. Under no stretch of the imagination, twist or turn summations or evaluations can a racist, imperialist country call itself a democracy, without its victims, its enemies calling it anything more than a hypocracy.”
We travel thru Madison Valley, home of what was once Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, a neighborhood originally settled by black folks. As we climb MLK Way out of the valley we pass union st. and the Grocery Outlet store and the two food trucks that sit in the parking lot. We continue down MLK till we get caught at the light on Cherry.
“Taking up a couple of other rows in the court are the pistol-packing armor plated plain clothes cops paid to keep an eye on things. On the roofs and in the surrounding areas there’s more and a herd of hastily deputized armed clones in gas station attendant uniforms, as well as German shepherds and of course the usual guards. There’s a lot of iron in here, state-issued iron. And in the hallway leading to this theatre there’s more state-issued clones with state-issued iron and metal detectors to make sure that all the iron that enters these state domains, this imperialist theatre, is state-issued. They wish to have us believe or act as if we believe that war is peace – as the press apparently believes that ignorance is strength.”
I look up from my book, and stare at this new Chicken and Waffle spot opened by the same hipster who owns burger joints in Seattle’s hippest neighborhoods and owns a “urban cultural” clothing store. I cant help but think of Nate’s chicken and waffle spot tucked away off of 12th near S.U. on the western edge of the C.D. Nate is a local black athletic hero of my generation. He owns one other chicken and waffle spot in Rainer Beach the neighborhood he’s from. The hip/alternative media ignore Nate’s in favor of a white owner who shares the hip cultural affinity with the same white owned hip/alternative media. I turn back to my book and the bus passes through the light.
“Other than that are the people who braved searches, having their pictures taken and filed away by the fascist to come here to actually be as they are designated supporters and spectators. And one group of people that stinks of the trappings of this court is designated a jury, among them wear sunglasses while in our midst – another has children who has Black friends whose homes they visit, but who never visits them at home and who has Black friends himself who never drop by. Another who thinks we are so ugly she turns and looks at the wall while we ride by in police cars. None of these people are racist or have any prejudice, and we know this because the court asked them, and they said they didn’t, all of them. None of the potential jurors were racist or infected by racial prejudice, and showed this to the satisfaction of a racist court.”
We pass Powell Barnett Park, one of the many parks named after black men in the C.D. I can’t help but to pass the big rock of a monument that tells us StarBucks built this park. But in realities the descendents of Powell Barnett are the ones who organized and rebuilt the park by hustling StarBucks and other local corporations for the funds. But you wouldn’t know this from any of the philanthropic propaganda put out by the city and the corporations.
As I look back at the passing park I noticed the faded residue on the crosswalk being painted in RBG colors. I turn back to the book.
“Had i not taken the position that no court in the imperialist U.S. empire had the right to try me as a criminal, i would have demanded that this case be tried in Rockland County. One cannot hold both positions. However, i believe that the people of Rockland County and elsewhere deserve an explanation of the event, the expropriation and related actions that took place on October 20, 1981. …An explanation….by someone who might have given them directions on the subway in New York City, or sweated through a basketball game with them or shared a dance floor should make things clear factually as well as let people in Rockland… and everyday people throughout the confines of the U.S. know for sure that it is not the people but the United States Government and its oppressive apparatus that we are at war against. The media said that on two separate occasions, members of the Black Liberation Army jumped out of vehicles shooting randomly in incidents where one guard and two policemen were killed. On the face of it, it doesn’t appear random at all according to that line… It’s clear the guerrillas intended to shoot police and that’s who they shot. They shot the enemy.
“Expropriation raids are a method used in every revolution by those who have got to get resources from the haves to carry on armed struggle. When George Washington and company crossed the Delaware it was to raid the British, to take money, supplies and arms, even though he was financed by the French and owned slaves. Joseph Stalin robbed banks when he was fifteen to support revolutionary struggle. The Sabate Brothers in Spain were obliged to empty the tills of banks to resist Franco during the Spanish Civil War. When Carlos Marighella in Brazil or the Tupamaros in Uruguay expropriated from banks to finance their struggles, it was clear to the press that they were revolutionaries; this government sent counterinsurgency specialists to help the juntas and dictators they resisted and expropriated from, just as they’ve done in regards to Argentina. But here in the U.S., the government doesn’t acknowledge the collection of revolutionary compulsory tax as the work of revolutionaries, just as the British do not acknowledge the I.R.A., just as Israel doesn’t acknowledge the P.L.O. and just as the Southern Africans do not acknowledge the A.N.C. It’s too close. The British called Washington a criminal and issued a reward for him dead or alive just as the Americans put a price on the head of Twyman Myers. The state must deny revolution and call revolutionary acts and revolutionaries something else, anything else — bandits, terrorists. The state must suppress revolution and say they are doing something else. Rather than argue that there’s no need for revolution and be confronted with Harlem, the South Bronx, Bedford Stuyvesant, Newark’s Central Ward, North Philadelphia etc. They say there is simply not a revolution, as if there is no reason for sweeping the oppressors from power. Revolution is always illegal and revolutionaries are always slandered”
We cross Jackson and then we cross Dearborn and I feel some kinda way…I find a good place to stop and put away the book. Pull the string. I get off at Judkins…