Even the Walls Premieres to Sold Out Crowd at SIFF

Early last week we were excited to learn that the Seattle International Film Festival 2015 program "Faces of Yesler Terrace" (Even the Walls + Hagereseb) had sold out in advance! Approximately 400 people filled the historic (yet soon to be lost) Harvard Exit Theater to capacity. We attribute this to being SIFF pick of the week, to some amazing coverage, and of course to our awesome supporters. 

          Crowd finds their seats for Hagereseb + Even the Walls 

          Crowd finds their seats for Hagereseb + Even the Walls 

Thank you all SO much for making it out on Saturday. For those of you who couldn't find tickets, please know that we are planning future screenings, and will let you know their time/place once we have confirmed the details. You can sign up for direct updates here









We're loving this short piece from Oregon Humanities. It discusses communal spaces, architecture, gentrification and race in Portland, in a way that is very honest and compelling.

Arguments for gentrification typically lack any reference to how new construction will negatively impact historically important places for relating. Future:Portland takes a look at why spaces are important. It looks at why the disappearance of important places can feel like the disappearance of more than bricks-and-mortar, but of life rafts that helped people of color feel connected and at home in the Pacific Northwest. 

Black Artists on San Francisco's Black Exodus

We came across this beautiful piece today about an art collective, made up of Black artists and art professionals, in San Francisco working to counter the diminishing number of Black voices in their city.

Responding to their city's Black exodus, they address themes such as the African-American history of displacement and their search for home and roots. Bringing more voices to forefront of the discussion on gentrification is essential, said one collective member:

"My hope is that there are many more stories that are being told....even within the African-American community, I'd like to hear a thousand stories about our experience, rather than just one."

San Francisco seems to be the poster child for tech-boom gentrification, with many long-time residents being pushed out, and with them, their contributions to the richness of the city. Seattle may not be too far behind. 

What lessons can Seattle learn from San FranciscoHow do we define progress? Is there room to expand our definition of progress beyond the mere material? 

There's got to be. 







Mindy Fullilove on "The Whole City"

We're big fans of Dr. Fullilove's work. Her book Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It was pivotal in our understanding the history of urban renewal, its racial dynamics and the destruction of emotional ecosystems by misinformed urban policies.

Understanding wholeness and our interconnectedness is a theme we keep coming back to as we explore gentrification. Fullilove says:

We can face disasters if and only if:

  • We understand that the problems of poor neighborhoods were not made by the residents, nor can they be solved by the residents alone; and
  • We understand that the inequality among neighborhoods affects the whole society.


Um, also, we just have to say - she liked our Facebook page--- we're so honored!

We All Do Better

Last week GRITtv with Laura Flanders featured a 3 minute teaser from Even the Walls after an interview with Alicia Garza, co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Garza spoke to the importance of building movements without shedding differences. The focus on #blacklivesmatter, she explained, is not meant to exclude, but is a call to understand structural racism in America and how it affects us all.

"Changing #blacklivesmatter to #alllivesmatter is not an act of solidarity. What it is, is a demonstration of how we don't actually understand structural racism in this country. When we say all lives matter, that's a given...but the fact of the matter is some human lives are valued more than others, and that's a problem."

Denying the experiences of entire groups of people is problematic. Perspective and representation are important. Yes, we're all in this together. But our experiences are not all the same. Even the Walls was an effort to afford a platform for perspectives and experiences that often are drowned out by the mainstream. Instead of interviewing architects, developers and housing authority members about Yesler Terrace, the film focused solely on the experiences of its residents. Although not monetized, their social capital and experience of their community has value. And that value extends beyond the borders of Yesler. The community connections that Yesler's residents fear losing are what we are all losing.

The late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone's words ring true - "We all do better when we all do better."    

"...if there’s a group of workers that don’t have rights, that means that your rights are being threatened…because there’s gonna be an excuse at some point to take your rights away from you."

"When we talk about black liberation being intrinsic to everybody's liberation we're really talking about how systems in this country have been not only built on the backs of black people and black labor, but certainly have been crafted to exclude and exploit black people. So if we are able to dismantle those systems, everybody is able to have a chance of living a better life..."

Can we really call it "progress", if (at the very best) members of our city community feel unheard, frustrated and without agency?

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*2nd Bill of Rights

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
— President Roosevelt's January 11, 1944 message to the Congress of the United States on the State of the Union

What should we do about gentrification?


Alan Watts, The Wisdom Of Insecurity (p69-75)

"The question "What shall we do about it?" is only asked by those who do not understand the problem. If a problem can be solved at all, to understand it and to know what to do about it are the same thing. On the other hand, doing something about a problem which you do not understand is like trying to clear away darkness by thrusting it aside with your hands. When light is brought, the darkness vanishes at once.

This applies particularly to the problem now before us. How are we to heal the split between "I" and  "me", the brain and the body, man and nature, and bring all the vicious circles which it produces to an end? How are we to experience life as something other than a honey trap in which we are the struggling flies? How are we to find security and peace of mind in a world whose very nature is insecurity, impermanence, and unceasing change? All these questions demand a method and a course of action. At the same time, all of them show that the problem has not been understood. We do not need action yet. We need more light."


Reading this text the other day made me think of our film, Even the Walls. After describing the context of the film, we often hear the question: What should we do about gentrification?

Some argue that gentrification is bringing safety and stability to blighted areas. Others argue that blight is just an excuse to tear down neighborhoods rich in history but poor in development dollars. 

More understanding is necessary, and we chose to start with what's disappearing first: community networks in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. We wanted to inspire more questioning, more thinking, more critical intrigue. Why are neighborhoods important? What is community? Who gets to live in the city? Who gets to decide what the cityscape looks like? 

What should we do about gentrification? Our film doesn't pretend to answer this question. It does, however, try to bring light to one community in Seattle, Washington, currently changing due to the pressure of the frenzied rush of people and money to the urban core. It brings light to the residents' attachment to an imperfect place. It brings light to the power of community connections, and the meaning of home. It makes us miss, appreciate or wish that we had those connections. 

Do you feel connected to your community? Are you experiencing gentrification? What does home mean to you?