From a community harvest day on July 4, 2022 • Courtesy of BLMG

Seattle Parks & Recreation (SPR) plans to remove the Black Lives Memorial Garden (BLMG) as early as this Friday, October 13th, to complete a “turf renovation” project and return the space to “natural grass.”

Black Star Farmers was notified on October 4th about SPR’s plan.

The BLMG is a dedicated memorial space to honor the countless Black and Indigenous lives murdered by law enforcement in Washington State and beyond. Born through protest, the garden has been a source of joy and healing for many members of the Capitol Hill community for the past three and a half years.

It symbolizes a deep connection to this city’s legacy of occupation protests led by poor and working class queer people of color. 

The garden grows an abundance of produce and herbal medicine that is harvested and distributed freely to the local community, and is home to many native plants that are vital for the regeneration of the Capitol Hill urban ecosystem. The garden has expanded beyond its symbolic representation of resistance against violent state oppression to become an active community hub for mutual aid networks, food distribution, and political education.

Now, SPR plans to remove the BLMG and re-colonize the garden’s thriving biodiverse ecosystem with invasive European grass, even though lawns have long been a blatant tool of colonization, gentrification, and classism. SPR’s actions involving the BLMG are aligned with a shameful history of worker exploitation and violent displacement of houseless neighbors and activist movements for at least 25 years. 

So the nine days’ notice is unsurprising. 

SPR has reached out many times over the last three years to attempt garden relocation. These conversations have felt one-sided, pushing toward their preconceived outcome of moving the garden. Despite their claims of seeking partnership, SPR has not sought to come to a deeper understanding of our work, nor have they recognized the importance and wide community support of the garden. Due to a fundamental misalignment in values, we chose not to enter into any contracts with them, accepting the constant risk of removal. 

This is what it means to be an occupation protest. 

Left: Serving garden-grown food cooked by local chefs to the community as mutual aid during monthly events at the Black Lives Memorial Garden (June 2023). Right: Pounds of produce coming out of the garden – potatoes, basil, collard greens, kale, and so much more (October 2020) • Courtesy of BLMG

The Black Lives Memorial Garden shares a legacy with Black- and Indigenous-led occupation movements working to resist state violence. We recognize that we are on the unceded ancestral lands of the Duwamish and Coast Salish peoples and that land was stolen through a variety of violent and coercive strategies that include treaties, assimilation tactics, and veiled threats.

It’s important for settler-colonial organizations like Seattle Parks and Recreation to understand that the dominion that they oversee was created through the same violence used to separate Black and Indigenous communities from their land for profit.

Organizations like SPR must recognize this historical context and should thus support opportunities for marginalized peoples to reconnect with the land, even if it does not fit within their current paradigm.

SPR has not made any effort to acknowledge their role in perpetuating systemic harms. Thus, we do not recognize their authority in deciding where we situate our cultural practices and community spaces. For this, we are being swept.

This is the reality of living in a capitalist and imperialist state.

The Black Lives Memorial Garden stands tall as a symbolic representation of resistance, grief, and healing. Regardless of what happens, the fight will always live on within us. The occupation that is this Garden is not the movement — the people are — and though we may bend, we will not break.

Lovage at BLMG that grows 10’ tall each year • Courtesy of BLMG

“A real sustaining community hub like BLMG takes both years and circumstances to grow, and is rooted in its place. To ‘try to move it’ is to destroy it, and to attempt to erase that history.” 

-Capitol Hill Community Member

“The Black Lives Memorial Garden stands tall as a symbolic representation of resistance, grief, and healing. Regardless of what happens, the fight will always live on within us.”

Black Star Farmers is a small diverse collective working together with local communities to establish regenerative and community-led foodways for Black, Indigenous, queer, and working class people. Our goal is to end capitalism and the structural inequities it relies on.

We understand that the BLMG is not the solution, but it has served as a beacon to people seeking change for the past three years. Events hosted at the Garden provide community connection around land stewardship, garden and political education, and mutual aid through cooked meals using ingredients sourced directly from the gardens.

Black Star Farmers’ monthly stewarding events brought around sixty people to BLMG in July to discuss “Gardening against Globalization: Impact of Neoliberalism on Food Sovereignty”. (July 9, 2023) • Courtesy of BLMG

This is what SPR seeks to co-opt through its offers to relocate and control within its own system. In order to remain true to our values, we must resist this co-optation even if it means the garden may eventually be swept.

Thus, this struggle is not only for the Black Lives Memorial Garden.

The displacement of the BLMG community is but one tiny microcosm of the far more egregious exploitation being wrought upon the world by the United States through neoliberal free trade policies and excessive militarism. We will continue to work towards food sovereignty and liberation alongside people struggling against the oppressive forces of capitalism and imperialism. 

Please join the BLMG community this Friday, October 13th for “Communi-Tea” from 7 – 10 a.m. and for a garden party from 12 – 10 p.m. Together, we can stand up to capitalism, to the state violence against Black, Brown, queer, and poor people, to SPR sweeping our unhoused neighbors, and more.

Join us in telling the City to let the Black Lives Memorial Garden stay. 

Cilantro and amaranth bloom together amongst chamomile, plantain, and dahlias. (Aug 2023) • Courtesy of BLMG
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