A mural on the Wing Luke Museum featuring community leaders. Photo by Auriza Ugalino.

The need for systemic change has become a central topic of concern, both nationally and within the city of Seattle. With a spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement, the city has been focused on coming up with ways to make changes that will benefit and support BIPOC communities.

In an effort to begin administering this change, Mayor Jenny Durkan has appointed a task force consisting of 28 community leaders that will help guide a proposed $100 million set of investments next year for communities of color. One member of this committee is Maiko Winkler-Chin of Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation District Authority.

“I am curious from a theoretical standpoint, how can you disperse money to communities in certain ways and what’s the data that they’re going to use that supports how you allocate or distribute all of that,” said Winkler-Chin.

With a diverse group of members on the task force, there are various perspectives and ideas that will likely come about. While Winkler-Chin has various questions surrounding the logistics of this task force, she expressed her desire to listen and participate as honestly as she can in order to strengthen the community as a whole.

“My organization came out with a statement in support of Black Lives Matter and knowing that we are an organization, I think this effort should really center around those most impacted, so what does that mean for a community that’s not being the center of this conversation?” said Winkler-Chin.

Although the main focus of this initiative from Maiko’s perspective is the Black community, she does not discount the fact that the actions centered around benefitting Black community members will also be benefitting the API community.

“Any changes in public safety that the Black community may want would probably also benefit ours because our community is very divided on public safety in some ways. Changes that benefit one community probably benefit all communities,” said Winkler-Chin.

Despite the fact that $100 million dollars may feel like a significant amount upon first glance, Winkler-Chin mentions that in reality, this is only about 1.6% of the city budget.

This may be a start, but there is still a lot to consider in regards to how the money will be disbursed and how the system will be reoriented in order to work with BIPOC communities to make valuable and lasting changes.

“How does the city reorient itself with how it works with communities? I think it takes multiple tools to change anything. This is one way, demonstrations are another way and everybody needs to try to do their part,” said Winkler-Chin.

Considering the fact that the $100 million dollars is not an extremely large sum of money in relation to the entirety of the city budget, Maiko places a strong emphasis on the necessity of changing the systems in which disbursal happens. She mentioned how there needs to be consideration for public safety, infrastructure, and how certain communities get particular public goods.

“We know through this COVID-19 crisis that our internet infrastructure is not good in our community and our kids can’t necessarily easily get on for school, so how do we improve those types of basic infrastructure?” asked Winkler-Chin.

“I think about the recession that will come out of COVID, and the small businesses in our community tend to be sole proprietorships and do not necessarily set themselves up as Limited Liability Corporations and they’re really at risk,” said Winkler-Chin. “How do we make sure communities get housing and support for this housing? And we should be looking at how that money flows.”

The task force has a lot to take into consideration, but above all, Winkler-Chin emphasized the fact that it isn’t as much about the money as it is about structurally changing how things happen in order to strengthen and enrich BIPOC communities. Everything is up in the air and a lot of things are on the table which is inherently overwhelming, but she is hopeful that positive changes can be made that have beneficial effects on communities of color.

“I feel that I am not the person to guide this task force. I am not black or indigenous. It is not my job to guide it. I think my job is to listen and to participate as honestly as I can and to ask the questions. It’s not mine to guide, it’s mine to participate in and we will just have to see where it goes from there,” said Winkler-Chin.

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