Potholes in Olympia
Thank you, Michael Hood, for your informative piece on the upcoming session in Olympia ["Let the games begin!" 1/4]. I will be using it as a handy reference for the coming months. As you note, there are potholes in the Department of Social and Health Services, and as a mental health provider serving the GLBT communities, I will need to be much more politically active this year if we are to avoid deep cuts to mental health and other human services. My hope is that the Weekly will take an active role in covering the battles over the budget as they will surely be fierce!
SEATTLE COUNSELING SERVICE
In James Bush's "Back to work" [1/4], striking Seattle Times sports columnist Ron Judd was quoted as saying: "If [readers] want a paper put together by real journalists, they should take the P-I. . . ." That kind of easy yet false quip has been quite common in the Newspaper Guild's rhetoric during the course of the strike. More distressing, in that by contrast both the P-I and the Times have largely avoided playing that game.
The truth is that the journalism, and the commitment to quality, has never been more "real." Almost all "replacements" that occurred during this strike were in positions to keep the circulation and classified departments operating. But the "news" in each day's edition has been created by some of the strongest professional news people this region has ever known, with most giving every bit of their effort and expertise seven days a week, 10 to 14 hours a day, since before Thanksgiving. Theirs is not the work of "the Evil Empire," nor a simple war of egos. These people have been pushing themselves to the limit simply to bring the paper they so love to your and my doorstep every morning. And the mentality certainly has NOT been "hunker down and wait"; from practically the first day, the remaining newsroom and media staff have continued to plan, create, and implement new stories, content, and offerings. They haven't been doing this to "win" anything; they've been working like crazy because they care deeply about the news, their paper, their commitment to each reader, in a way that only those who love what they do can really appreciate.
Part of that professionalism means also that they don't thump their chest and shout about what they've done; but my respect for that work prompts me to try to offer a little perspective that has been neglected due to the easy snipe and black-and-white mentality.
I am one of the residents mentioned in your article about the South Park community's ongoing fight with Long Painting to force them to operate within existing laws and regulations ["South Park stinks," 1/4]. I want to set the record straight for Mr. John Fisher, GM of Long Painting, once and for all. His comment that Long Painting has great relations with the neighbors is one large stinking pile of manure.
Over 100 people turned out to speak against Long Painting's expansion of unpermitted paint and sandblast booths at a meeting two years ago at Concord Elementary. Another angry group of citizens verbally pounded a Long Painting executive who dared to turn up at a DCLU hearing regarding their illegal business practices. Most of the people at those meetings live in my neighborhood, within 5-6 blocks from where Long Painting spews out its filthy chemical barrage from tall smokestacks that face my back window. During his most recent (and to my knowledge only) visit to South Park Community Center last summer, I personally handed a letter to Seattle Mayor Paul Schell, protesting against Long Painting's business practices. Mayor Schell, the successful commercial developer that he is, praised Long Painting as a "great benefactor" to the South Park community for its efforts to establish a local branch library here.
Long Painting has continued to blithely pay its daily fines, and continues to operate outside of legal business practices year in and year out because the fines are simply the cost of doing business in the city of Seattle. After having lived in this city for 12 years, seven years in Ballard and Greenwood and the last five years here in South Park, I have concluded that this fight is as much about socio-economic status, race, and lack of political power as it is about one sleazy business entity perpetrating illegal acts against residential citizens of Seattle.
Our neighborhood is one of the poorest in Seattle. Our streets have been the setting for drug shootings, teen gang violence, and even a police shooting of an armed, convicted sex molester who just happened to be living across the street from the park where my 8-year-old daughter plays. At one point, Concord Elementary served reduced or free lunches to 70 percent of the students who attend the school. The median home price in South Park is around $125,000, in comparison to more than twice that price for Seattle residential property as a whole. The majority of the neighborhood is non-white and immigrant, and English is not their first language.
Long Painting has been able to take advantage of and discriminate against the South Park neighborhood in its pursuit of the Almighty Dollar, aided and abetted by sloppy investigation, poor follow-up, arcane regulatory agencies, and lack of oversight and enforcement by the City of Seattle. Why is this story hitting the paper now? Because Seattle is getting pricey, and the once-spurned neighborhood of South Park is now the only affordable residential area for Seattle's middle class. We have been moving in and "gentrifying" over the past several years, and finally the trickle of middle-income, predominantly white- and African-American, college-educated, white-collar taxpayers is becoming a force that could be difficult to ignore.
Long Painting has been able to poison the residents of South Park for 20 years because they were generally non-white, non-English speaking, or poor and disenfranchised. Now that South Park is becoming more attractive as a place to live, and we are beginning to resemble business and political powers in this town, suddenly the South Park Stink has become a story worth telling.
KENDA L. COOK
Thanks to Mr. Caramanica for his piece "Black rock" [1/4]. As far as I am concerned, as a black rock guitarist who put down his axe in the early 1990s when hip-hop and rap seemed poised to completely overthrow black musicianship, rap music has virtually extinguished the ebbing flame that was black rock 'n' roll.
This isn't necessarily a disaster, though. The problem isn't that there is no longer a category called "black rock." The problem is that young black musicians who like rock music have fewer and fewer role models to remind them that it's "OK" to like rock. I can still remember the bewilderment on the faces of many black friends when they learned that I spent more time listening to Andy Summers and Alex Lifeson than RUN-DMC and Slick Rick.
Your article "Black rock" [1/4] was extremely insightful and touched on many issues that I have explored during my relatively short tenure of adult life. You see, I am a musically inclined 24-year-old black guy living in London. My musical aspirations lead towards "rock" or "alternative." And to hold these influences up high within black culture is to subject oneself to scorn and disdain from black people in general, and confusion from white people. Yes, there are black musicians in the rock/metal/alternative genre (bands such as Skunk Anansie and Sevendust, many of which you will already be aware of) and black artists in more conventional arenas that draw upon the rock genre, but the problem lies in preconceived notions. The perception of rock is a genre that "belongs to whites"—to associate with any cultural group is to claim allegiance, therefore in an essence I am "betraying" my culture.
What I have witnessed and experienced being the singer in a band is tremendous pressure within black culture to represent black culture in all musical endeavors. Therefore, black musicians produce a more fusion-orientated rock—one that represents hip-hop/funk/soul—what is commonly perceived as "black music." Some might say that this is expected as natural influences, and this is valid to a point, but . . . does this mean that the public at large cannot accept the concept of a black musician removed from the perception of black culture?
I know this to be the case when I am described as the "Lenny Kravitz type" by family and friends. It is an inherent trait within society to categorize everything to deconstruct it, but within music no category exists for modern rock music made by black people, save the standards of Hendrix/Prince. Anything outside of these parameters is instantly written off.
I could probably go on for hours about this, but I'll spare you the bulk of my rant. Good article—keep writing 'em and I'll keep reading 'em.
What the hell
Whoever this person is who wrote this article ["Black rock," 1/4] doesn't know what the hell he is talking about. He turned a simple story on Mos Def's new band into a white-backlash fear and uneasiness. This article was poorly written, hardly stuck to its topic, and was full of personal hang-ups. It begins with a history of Jack Johnson, a man whose life was full of "contradictions" because he was married to a white woman, wore gold teeth, and owned businesses. Then it jumps to an analysis of white rap and black rock. This is music, not race reflections. To quote Mos Def "I ain't tryin' to fuck with Limp Bizkit," but to categorize their fans as "couldn't-be frat boys who listened to . . . NWA" is equally offensive. I'm not going to ramble, but that article was offensive and definitely not a proper music review of Mos Def's new band Jack Johnson. This article is being read by millions of readers who I'm sure will be as offended as I am now. If you don't believe me, check out okayplayer.com and see for yourself.
Letter o' the week
It is always amazing to me the reviews people offer for music. As if you have something to offer the world of music by writing your opinion of what music should be. If you were really as visionary and revolutionary as you claim to be, why are you writing thoughtless insults for a horrible zine? Instead try pushing away the keyboard and the English language that you have proven, with such eloquence and intelligence, that you have no understanding of, and pick up an instrument, since you evidently claim to know all about that. What a chance for you to be good at something. Sounds like to me a writer is upset Rolling Stone hasn't called. Try moving out of that oh so depressing climate you are living in up north, and move back to the real world. Constructive criticism is the wave of the future, check it out.
Do we offend? Give us the smackdown. Write to Letters Editor, Seattle Weekly, 1008 Western, Ste 300, Seattle, WA 98104; fax to 206-467-4377; or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include name, location, and phone number. Letters may be edited.