There was an evening at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center on October 23, 2019, for the presentation of the book WE LIVED HERE - interviews of 20 diverse heritage individuals who live and lived in Seattle’s Central area. Madeline Crowley collected stories from her own neighbors and it was published by Chin Music Press.
As the over 70 of us sat to hear the presentation by Madeline and her facilitator, someone sitting in front of me on the left seating area, who was black, kept interrupting with the repeated comment about “appropriations” that were used inappropriately by Madeline, a white person, in publishing the stories.
The meeting was hijacked and orchestrated because the interrupter was echoed by someone sitting in the right section of chairs on the other side of the room. The interrupters were seated in the front areas and clearly took the role of “victimization”, stating, “Madeline, you are not the first one or the only one collecting our stories. You took grants that could have been used by people who are already collecting stories.”
The disrupters emphasized that a “white person” was telling the black people’s story and that was not acceptable. William Lowe, one of the black story tellers in Madeline’s book, stood up to defend Madeline and clarified the fact that the stories were transcriptions of his own words and only collected by Madeline, saying, “I was born and raised in this Central Area and had a comfortable relationship with all the ethic groups, including whites. I am comfortable with who I am.”
My first thought was to wrinkle my forehead and wonder,”Why am I being hijacked of my Japanese Heritage being part of the Central District?” I’m at times disappointed when white people tell our story, but mostly I’m irritated that we are not telling enough of our own stories. Therefore, at least these stories are being collected and there are times when others tell it better. We need both.
As I discuss the evening, a friend’s take is, “We have a long way to go.” I disagree. It’s here and now and always has been. The black person took it upon herself to attack Madeline with “racist comments” because she can. She lives in a free country and has a right to be a “victim” who speaks out and takes it upon herself to victimize others. But it was uncomfortable, uninspiring and I did not sleep well.
As a colored person myself, I choose not to stay away from these episodes. I will stay emotionally non-reactive, be a positive leader, get plenty of healthy sleep and continue to live freely.