Last week when we heard Nikkita Oliver speak to the crowd at El Centro de la Raza’s Plaza, they told the moving story of their father who died last December. Formerly incarcerated and years without healthcare, Nikkita’s father succumbed to his illnesses during the pandemic. And like so many who have died during this pandemic, Nikkita could not fly to Indianapolis to be by his side. It is these personal experiences and others that dare Nikkita to dream and to visualize a world where people have what they need. Because as Nikkita said that night so movingly, “Maybe, just maybe, my father might be alive now if he got what he needed.”
Nikkita’s vision allows them to view people and our community as one where together we can create healthy, thriving, safe communities that are not reliant upon punitive or oppressive structures to accomplish that vision. Pipedreams? No, because is that not the world that we all really want?
We believe that Nikkita can help us in the transformation that this city needs to begin the process to start working towards that vision. Last year, we saw Seattle come together during the pandemic to help our neighbors by forming mutual aid organizations to feed people and access services and vaccinations. We marched in the thousands to stop the killings of innocent Black people, and we came together in the face of attacks on our Asian American community members. Nikkita was there at every step. We dare say, where was Nikkita’s opponent?
Nikkita was with us last March in Hing Hay Park as hundreds mourned the brutal killings of the six Asian women and two men in Atlanta. Nikkita said in their speech, “We can stand with, for and protect our Asian communities without negating that at the root of this, in the United States, is both anti-Blackness and white supremacy.” They drew the parallels with the Black community that more policing does not provide complete safety for the International District – that safety comes with community building and providing worker protections and economic opportunities, especially for vulnerable workers like sex workers.
Nikkita understands that working people can only uplift themselves out of poverty if they have housing, food, jobs, clean air and water, healthcare, education, art and culture. It is a broad, holistic agenda that you can read about on their website, but it reflects how complex poverty is in our city and society. Most importantly, Nikkita’s agenda was not drawn up in a vacuum. It comes from years of working as a community organizer, renter, youth advocate, educator, civil rights leader, lawyer and cultural worker. It also comes from knowing that listening to our communities is key to building cross community alliances. It is Nikkita’s core value that policy priorities are determined by what they hear from communities most impacted by historic and present-day systemic oppression and inequities in our city. Solutions are best designed by those most impacted and in going to those communities and listening, Nikkita has built roots and relationships with them.
Nikkita held a worker policy summit to hear from workers what their goals and priorities are for our region. Working class and low-income families spoke of the many obstacles to thriving in Seattle and the region from a lack of affordable housing, the rising cost of rent, high-transportation costs, an inaccessible public transportation system, lack of access to high-earner jobs and workers protections, lack of affordable childcare, food insecurity, the high cost of utilities and environmental and climate injustice. Since then, Nikkita has organized many more community listening sessions with the goal of building community and an evolving community platform that identifies the priorities and solutions of communities that live and work in Seattle as well as those that have been forced to leave Seattle because of the high cost of living and gentrification.
Nikkita and their campaign came to the aid of UNITE HERE! Local 8, the union that represents hotel and hospitality workers who became largely unemployed during the pandemic and continues to till today. Like many communities of color, Local 8’s membership which includes large numbers of AANAPI people, found it difficult to access vaccines, especially those Chinese workers who speak Cantonese. Nikkita worked with Local 8 to organize a vaccination clinic for those workers who successfully vaccinated forty-eight people while providing translation services, food and care packages and hot meals for the workers.
The issues that have arisen to the forefront of this November election of homelessness and reimagining community safety go hand in hand with the plans to build affordable housing and housing and homelessness support, reforming the criminal legal system, employment and educational equity for our children and young adults, equitable transportation, affordable and accessible childcare, community-based options for supporting domestic violence survivors and restorative responses for those who cause harm, a civilianized 911 system, community-based drug user supports and a progressive tax system so that we can fund the needs of our communities. That is the vision that Nikkita holds.
The three of us have at least 150 years of organizing experience in Seattle on many different issues and arenas. We know Nikkita because they have been on the frontlines with us of many struggles that impact the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. We trust Nikkita to continue to work with us to meet our communities’ needs and to be accountable to us. That is why we chose Nikkita Oliver to represent us for Seattle City Council Position 9.
By Sutapa Basu, Cindy Domingo and Velma Veloria