The International Examiner has awarded SCIDpda’s IDEA Space Manager Jamie Lee with the 2016 Community Voice Award for Community Service. Lee manages the funding, reporting, and vision for all IDEA Space projects and initiatives. Prior to joining SCIDpda in 2014, Lee worked in the University District with Sanctuary Art Center, an arts organization for homeless youth and young adults. She holds a Master’s in Social Work and Public Administration from the University of Washington. Lee is passionate about poverty alleviation, racial justice, youth development, neighborhoods, and the important interplay of policy and practice.
The International Examiner caught up with Lee to talk about her work in the community.
International Examiner: What else have you been involved in outside of SCIDpda?
Jamie Lee: I currently am about to step off the board of WAPI Community Services but I have been on their board for about five years. I’m on the board of a non-profit organization in the University District that serves homeless teens and young adults. I sit on a couple city committees—I’m on the Downtown District Council, I’m on the solid waste advisory committee, kind of this citizen review committee for the solid waste line of businesses of Seattle Public Utilities, which is basically garbage, compost, and recycling. I am also on the Association Recreation Council for the ID/Chinatown Community Center.
IE: It looks like you’re involved in a number of organizations in the ID. Why is important for you to help this community?
Lee: I used to work with youth development before coming to work with the PDA and actually interning at WAPI. I purposely wanted to be involved in the organization at the time. … It was kind of my way of staying involved in the API community and the Chinatown/International District. I had a long history of working in the U-District with homeless youth and young adults but I always wanted kind of one foot in the door with the API community because it was just one of a number of organizations I had been involved in down in this neighborhood before working here. I have always thought it was important for youth development and to work with youth who kind of reflect who I used to be growing up. My work with homeless youth/young adults with an arts organization was for me because I am also an artist myself. I have a BA from the UW in art and did art all the time as a kid and see the importance of creative expression for dealing with trauma or everyday life and I like that we can offer that to youth who are living on the street and it’s like a form of basic need that is not as concrete as food or shelter, but also really necessary.
IE: How do you balance your profession and community service?
Lee: Something that I’ve been trying to work toward more is focusing on my artwork. … I’ve been trying to focus my free time on that work and just recently rented an art studio in Hillman City, actually. I use this as my processing and outlet for everything that happens at work, because it can be really stressful and disillusioned sometimes, especially when I see or read articles in the IE about issues we are having 30 or 15 years ago and we are still having them today. Having that outlet for me to is keep sane with that. … Having that balance of not only being in the neighborhood just for work but to remember why I came here for the first 14 years of living in Seattle. Remembering my addiction to Mike’s Noodle House, and knowing more restaurants. Not only enjoying this neighborhood but enjoying with the people in the community that’s not work involved.
IE: What is the most important thing needed for the neighborhood right now?
Lee: I think the biggest issue is helping people to stay, and what that means is our businesses, the residents, development pressures and affordability is a real issue. … Like improving our buildings, making them more accessible to businesses because they are in better shape. … Some people could argue that the authenticity of this neighborhood is that it’s grimey but I don’t think that’s true, because we can make things beautiful. A lot of our buildings are gorgeous, but they also need a lot of work. … I think there’s a lot of dialogue around if it is nice, does that mean it’s still not Chinatown? I don’t think that’s what it means. It’s whether or not it is authentic to who we are. It’s the people and the community. It’s all nice and shiny, but we’re all still here.