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There was a lot on the water this weekend: The fast boats on Lake Washington, a beached whale at Fauntleroy, and especially the annual Hiroshima remembrance on Green Lake. Additional topics today include the Dead Baby bike spectacle; determining whether anyone’s to blame for the Oso landslide; dying trees statewide; anti-police window stickers; and the Mariners winning big on Griffey tribute weekend.
This did not have to happen.
In a more epathetic world it would not happen.
In a world that was less overrun by sociopaths and their media/political enablers, it would not happen.
The setting: KeyArena, 2:20 on a Wednesday afternoon. The place is filled with 15,000 middle- and high-school students and their adult chaperones. I’m in a staff lounge, preparing to start working on the tear-down crew at the end of this event, watching the on-stage action from a video feed.
From the elaborate stage, event hosts Craig and Marc Kielburger tease an already hyped-up crowd with the promise of a final surprise guest. Then they introduce said guest.
This is followed by the screechingly loudest human noise imaginable, as the young crowd screams in unison.
It is only due to the miracle of modern amplification that local hereos Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (with their full live band) can be heard.
Thus ended the first non-sporting event I’d been to in KeyArena since presidential candidate Barack Obama’s visit in the spring of 2008. That event, like this, was a rousing call to action.
But the Obama rally was a mere toe-tapper compared to the rafters-shaking experience that was We Day, a five-hour celebration of kids getting involved in their communities and in the larger world.
We Day has been staged in cities across Canada for the past six years. This was the first one held south of the border.
Its parent organization, Free the Children, was started by the Kielburger brothers when Craig Kielburger was age 12. Their original intent was to crusade against forced child labor in Pakistan.
Since then, the organization has grown and evolved. It supports activities in 45 countries from Ecuador to India. These include schools, clean-water projects, and cottage industries making craft products. These projects’ overall goal is to “adopt” whole villages, helping create a sustainable infrastructure of education, health, and livelihood.
On the home front, Free the Children works to get kids involved in social change. It encourages kids to raise money and volunteer their time for overseas projects. And it empowers kids to work in their own communities against hunger, abuse, bullying, and dropping out of school.
Every part of Free the Children’s outreach to North American students is about positive empowerment. Burnout, or “compassion fatigue,” has no place in this outfit’s mindset. Everything’s about getting up, getting involved, doing things, speaking out (or, in the case of its forthcoming Day of Silence project, deliberately NOT speaking).
We Day is both a call to action and a celebration for those who’ve already been active. Kids got to go to it by having volunteered for both local and global causes.
In return, they got to spend a day out from school among kids bused in from all over the state. They got gift bags containing motion-powered light up plastic wristbands (donated by Microsoft, one of the event’s local sponsors). They got to partake of an extravaganza of entertainment and exhortation, of high-energy rally speeches alternating with live music and video segments of kids making a difference.
I worked on a part of the setup and teardown crew, and found a highly efficient organization behind it. Perhaps no recent event at the Key had needed so much stuff placed in so many places throughout the building. Besides the huge main stage (with two video walls) on the arena’s south end, a secondary stage with a video floor was set up on the north end. A gift bag was placed on every seat in the auditorium. Booths selling T-shirts and giving away promotional flyers were set up along all the concourses. Some lounges and luxury suites were reconfigured to welcome event staff, volunteers, adult supporters, and sponsors. Ground-floor dressing rooms had to be spiffed up at least a little for all the celebrity guests.
Those guests included Sonics legend Gary Payton, Mia Farrow (Payton Place meets Peyton Place!), Martin Sheen (delivering a rousing secular sermon about making a difference), MC Hammer, Martin Luther King III, Nelly Furtado, and local breakdance stars the Massive Monkees.
The most enthusiastically-received of the announced guests, “Dreamgirls” star Jennifer Hudson, performed two high-energy song and dance numbers.
But even Hudson couldn’t raise louder screams than Macklemore, wearing a replica Sonics jersey embossed with the slogan BRING ‘EM BACK. (A men’s pro basketball team bearing that name may indeed show up in KeyArena later this year.)
But this day was not about sports fandom, despite the presence of Payton, Magic Johnson, and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and several of his star players including Russell Wilson.
What We Day was all about was getting involved in things bigger than sports, things bigger than yourself.
And having a raucously good time while doing so.
(Cross-posted with City Living.)
Learn how we and our immediate forebearers ate!
I’m participating in a History Cafe session about old Seattle restaurant menus. It’s 7 p.m. Thursday at Roy Street Coffee (the off-brand Starbucks) at Broadway and E. Roy on curvaceous Capitol Hill. It’s sponsored by KCTS, HistoryLink.org, MOHAI, and the Seattle Public Library.
Be there or be yesterday’s “fresh sheet.”
A self-described “white gay male” guest writer at a feminist site re-introduces the allegation, made previously by others, that Dan Savage is an implicit racist, and that Savage cares more about homophobia than about racism or any other form of injustice.
The writer, Kirk Grisham, points out that Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign gives several examples of horribly bullied white gay kids, but hasn’t said much about bullied black or brown or working-class gay kids.
(The campaign also neglects kids who are bullied for any reason other than being gay, but that’s not part of Grisham’s argument.)
Grisham goes on to cite two things Savage has written, but which he’s since rescinded.
One was a rant against African Americans in California who voted for the first time in 2008 to support Obama. Savage originally, partly blamed these voters for the success of the anti-gay-marriage initiative that was also on that state’s 2008 ballot.
The other was Savage’s endorsing Christopher Hitchens’ Iraq War defense, along the line that U.S.-forced regime change would propel social progress and freedom in the Middle East.
He’s since gone on the record contradicting both previous opinions.
I’m not in the business of defending or decrying any ex-boss of mine.
But I will say that “It Gets Better” is built on top of standard, unquestioned liberal notions of “identity politics.”
And that “identity politics” is the continuation of demographic marketing by other means.
It divides, when we should be uniting.
We need to make a better world for everybody. Not just for people in “our” category.
…the last places in America where books are still a dominant part of the culture, consumed, discussed, pondered, and critiqued with gusto.
delamar apartments (built 1909); from queen anne historical society
This weekend, three major figures from world affairs left us.
…you could give free money to everyone else assuming some of that money would be deposited in banks and/or used to pay down debt owed to those banks.
scene from antiwar protest downtown, march 2003
After all the recycled bluster about the police and the firefighters and especially the troops, about the valiant politicians and the flag waving celebrities, about the need to never forget the horrible day which begat the horrible decade of the endless wars and the mass intimidation and the institutionalized fear mongering and the ugly racism and the corruption of democracy, what more is to be said?
Quite a bit.
We can remember the World Trade Center’s Seattle architect, Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986). His local works include Puget Sound Plaza, Rainier Square, the Pacific Science Center, and the IBM Building (based on his early WTC design work).
Yamasaki didn’t live to see the towers attacked. But he knew the consequences of war-inspired fear and prejudice.
It was only the intercession of an early employer, and the fact that he was working in the northeast at the time, that got him exempted from the WWII internment of western Americans of Japanese ancestry.
We can remember the opportunities for international cooperation to build a safer world. And how those opportunities were deliberately quashed by the Bush-Cheney regime.
We can remember the Patriot Act, the TSA, the “total information awareness” domestic eavesdropping scheme, the media’s ignoring of an initially strong antiwar movement, and all the big and little ways the regime waged war on its own citizens.
We can remember the Americans troops still in harm’s way in Afghanistan and, yes, in Iraq. And those who didn’t make it back. And those who are back home but seriously harmed physically and psychologically, and who have received insufficient care.
We can remember the thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis who had nothing to do with the original attacks but died in the ensuing wars and occupations.
We can remember we still need exit strategies from both occupations, strategies that will protect Iraqis and Afghanis of all sexes and ethnicities.
We can remember the terrible damage wrought on the U.S. budget by war spending, combined with the millionaires’ tax cuts and the rest of the neocon economic misadventure.
And remembering all that, we can say, yes, “never again.”
Never again will we be manipulated by fear, either by foreign civilians or by our own leaders.
Never again will we let peace and reason be treated as dirty words.
Never again will we invade first and ask questions later.
Never again will we strike against entire nations over the horrendous crimes of a few dozen individuals (most of whom had never lived in either invaded nation).
Never again will we allow fear of “Islamic” fundamentalist repression to become an excuse for “Christian” fundamentalist repression.
Never again will we sacrifice our freedoms under the excuse of protecting them.