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Culture Day at CHOP

Starting at 1 pm, on June 14, 2020, Black, Indigenous, and Asian Pacific Islander drummers, singers and dancers came together at the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (sometimes called CHAZ or CHOP, Capitol Hill Occupied Protest) for Culture Day, a cultural festival “to ground the space in tradition, culture and community.” The festival was located at the intersection of 12th Avenue and Pine. The festival occurred for several hours longer than the Collegian’s coverage could last, thus, this article is on the first group of the night.

Centered around Indigenous and Black voices from a variety of regions, the festival contained everything from song, to dance, to traditional medicine and life stories. “I believe our fight for liberty and sovereignty is inextricably linked,” said Nikkita Oliver, noted activist on the front lines of the Seattle movement. The conversation centered around Native and Black experiences with police brutality and white supremacy, something lead activists worried was getting lost in the conversation about how to keep CHAZ going. Oliver, particularly, worried about the CHAZ becoming a tourist destination instead of seeing the bigger picture of the movement.

Several speakers had lost husbands, brothers, sisters, and others to police brutality. One speaker, Rachel Heaton of Mazaska Talks, brought up the environmental toll and the inextricable link between environmental destruction and white supremacy. “These same police that are brutalizing Black and Brown bodies […] are protecting the pipelines,” she stated. Burning sage wafted down the Capitol Hill streets to the beat of drums and powerful voices. The intended message was clear: education is power, water is life, and we must help one another in this constant struggle if we are to get anything done.

The first half of the event finished out with a dance from a grass dancer and the call and response of the many names of those lost to police brutality in the greater Seattle area. The names were all said three times in a row. This is part of a belief that if the name of the lost one is said three times, they are being called home.

For more coverage, Seattle Refined has a photo gallery of images taken from the event.

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