136 items found for ""
- Juneteenth Reflections
Editorial Note: This post is part of our blog series about diversity, equity, and inclusion. These posts are written by staff on our Equity Committee and originally shared internally. We're sharing them publicly to be transparent about our internal dialogue, reflections and learning process as we work on being an anti-racist organization. I really struggled putting this newsletter together this round. While in the throes of a global pandemic, many of us also witnessed George Floyd take his last breath and die at the hands of an out of control police officer via a video recording that most of the world has seen by now. As a Black American woman, I have seen and read a lot about our history. I have also witnessed and experienced numerous acts of racism and bias. These acts of racism have occurred in the Mid-West, Pacific Northwest, West Coast, South, Mid-South, and the East. Point being that no part of the country is immune. Some of these acts are blatant; however, most are subtle but never go unnoticed by those of us on the receiving end. The acts that many of you may be witnessing for the first time are nothing new unfortunately. This is the reality of Black Americans, Indigenous People, and other People of Color. Racism is deeply woven into the fabric of America. Black American descendants of slavery were never expected to participate in this country as full citizens. In the 155 years since the total abolition of slavery and the 401 years since the first African slaves landed, we have been fighting an uphill battle to prove our humanity; a battle to prove that we are indeed citizens of this country and that we belong here too. The events of the last few weeks, months, and years proves that racism is still alive, well, and active in America. Racism is being followed throughout a store while being one of two shopping in the store and never being asked, “can I help you?”; it is everyone moving to one side of the small office kitchen to avoid being next to you; it is being perceived as a criminal and untrustworthy just because your skin isn’t white. These are just a few of the infinite examples of how this plays out day to day. June 19th or “Juneteenth” or “Juneteenth Independence Day,” is an important day in history for Black Americans. It is the anniversary of June 19, 1865 when the news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached those enslaved in Texas. The Emancipation Proclamation went to effect on January 1, 1863 abolishing slavery yet the news of this important law did not reach slaves in Texas until more than two years later as it was the most remote state with slaves. In 2020 we celebrated the 155th anniversary of a monumental day for Black Americans. I would like to say thanks Bellwether for acknowledging this day as a holiday. The Silent March that took place in Seattle on Friday, June 12th  was so powerful that it brought me to tears. Just thinking about it still does. It was so amazing and overwhelming for me. The fact there were so many people there from every race marching in solidarity to say that enough is enough, systemic racism has to end. This is a huge step in the right direction working towards lifting the veil and dismantling systemic and institutionalized racism in America. We have a long way to go but acknowledging and owning this legacy is the first step towards change. Secondly, I want to acknowledge that June is Pride Month! Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month (LGBTQ Pride Month) is celebrated annually in June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots, and works to achieve equal justice and equal opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans. In June of 1969, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City staged an uprising to resist the police harassment and persecution LGBTQ Americans were commonly subjected. This uprising marks the beginning of a movement to outlaw discriminatory laws and practices against LGBTQ Americans. In the end, I want to implore you all to open your minds and realize that at the end of the day, and before anything else, we are all HUMAN. Once we acknowledge that and realize that we all deserve the right to live, breathe, and enjoy the same inalienable rights as everyone else, we can begin to heal this nation’s wounds and move away from the legacy of racism and oppression that continues to the haunt the United States.
- A Moment of Silence: Reflecting on Memorial Day
Editorial Note: This post is part of our blog series about diversity, equity, and inclusion. These posts are written by staff on our Equity Committee and originally shared internally. We're sharing them publicly to be transparent about our internal dialogue, reflections and learning process as we work on being an anti-racist organization. Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States that is observed on the last Monday in May. Memorial Day is different from Veterans Day because it commemorates those who died while serving in the military. In contrast, Veterans Day is for those who served their term(s) and were discharged from the armed forces. Memorial Day is on May 31st this year. A personal note from a BW team member about their Memorial Day experience “My family is lucky enough to not have anyone who died while part of the military. Of the four people I can think of who are veterans in my family, none of them ever seemed to want to talk about their time in the military. My family never went to Memorial Day Parades or had anyone close to us to commemorate on this holiday. “My first time at a Memorial Day event was in my early twenties when a family member I was visiting in Pennsylvania took me to a small gathering at the graveyard behind a local church. Thirty or so people waited quietly in the grass still damp and cold with morning dew for a small group of four or five men and boys dressed in historical clothing to make their way out from the church basement to the graveyard. As they walked over, in step to the beat that one of the boys struck on his drum, one of the men unfolded a copy of the Gettysburg Address and read it to the modest crowd. At the end of the reading, another person raised their trumpet and played Taps. “At the conclusion of the trumpet song, the crowd dispersed and that was it. The relative who had brought me to the event had tears in their eyes as we turned to our car and set about our day.” History of the Holiday May 1, 1865 “[A] commemoration organized by freed slaves and some white missionaries took place on May 1, 1865, in Charleston, S.C., at a former planters’ racetrack where Confederates held captured Union soldiers during the last year of the war. At least 257 prisoners died, many of disease, and were buried in unmarked graves, so Black residents of Charleston decided to give them a proper burial. “About 10,000 people, mostly Black residents, participated in the May 1 tribute, according to coverage back then in the Charleston Daily Courier and the New York Tribune. Starting at 0900hrs, about 3,000 Black schoolchildren paraded around the racetrack holding roses and singing the Union song John Brown’s Body, and were followed by adults representing aid societies for freed black men and women. Black pastors delivered sermons and led attendees in prayer and in the singing of spirituals, and there were picnics. James Redpath, the white director of freedman’s education in the region, organized about 30 speeches by Union officers, missionaries and Black ministers. Participants sang patriotic songs like America, We’ll Rally around the Flag, and The Star-Spangled Banner. In the afternoon, three white and Black Union regiments marched around the graves and staged a drill.” (source) May 5, 1868 “Three years after the Civil War ended, […] the head of an organization of Union veterans […] established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Major General John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.” (source) “During that first national commemoration, former Union Gen. and sitting Ohio Congressman James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there.” (source) Post-WWI “After World War I, [Memorial Day] became an occasion for honoring those who died in all of America’s wars and was then more widely established as a national holiday throughout the United States.” (source) (image source) 1968 “In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May instead of a set calendar day. By 1971, the three-day weekend for federal employees went into full effect.” (source) December 2000 “[…] in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law The National Moment of Remembrance Act.” (source) More information about this moment of remembrance is below. Commemoration Practices Displaying the Flag “On Memorial Day, the U.S. flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon. In the morning, the flag should be raised momentarily to the top and then lowered to half-staff. Americans can also honor prisoners of war and those missing in action by flying the POW/MIA flag.” (source) Visiting Grave Sites and Memorial Monuments “Many Americans make special flower arrangements and deliver them as a family to grave sites of their loved ones and ancestors.” (source) “Each year on Memorial Day, veterans and their families congregate at The Wall [of Vietnam veterans] to remember and to honor those who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. On these special days, prominent Americans from all walks of life come to the Memorial to deliver thoughtful and patriotic speeches.” (source) National Moment of Remembrance “The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 1500hrs local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: ‘It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.’” (source) Wearing Memorial Day Poppies “The tradition of wearing red poppies on Memorial Day was inspired by the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrea. War worker Moina Michael made a personal pledge to always wear red silk poppies as an emblem of ‘keeping the faith with all who died,’ and began a tradition that was adopted in the United States, England, France, Australia and more than 50 other countries.” (source) Other Ways to Observe the Holiday “Major League Baseball games usually come to a stop during the Moment of Remembrance, and for the past several years, Amtrak engineers have taken up the practice of sounding their horns in unison at precisely 1500hrs. “[…Both] the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C., and the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade in Queens, N.Y., bill themselves as the largest Memorial Day parades in the nation.” (source) There is a biker event each Memorial Day. According to Newsweek, “Rolling to Remember will […] honor all of the veterans lost [and] also advocates for memorializing all veterans who die by suicide in and out of deployment, according to their website. The event is asking individuals to ride 22 miles in their hometowns to advocate for the 22 veterans who die by suicide daily.” Additional Resources "One of the Earliest Memorial Day Ceremonies Was Held by Freed African Americans" - History.com, 2019 "Discover Memorial Day" - PBS, 2021 "Memorial Day History" - U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs "When Is Memorial Day 2021, and What’s the Real Meaning of Memorial Day?" - Parade Magazine, 2021 "The Real Meaning of Memorial Day" - Washington Post, 2020 "Memorial Day Weekend events 2021" - Greater Seattle on the Cheap, 2021
- Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
Editorial Note: This post is part of our blog series about diversity, equity, and inclusion. These posts are written by staff on our Equity Committee and originally shared internally. We're sharing them publicly to be transparent about our internal dialogue, reflections and learning process as we work on being an anti-racist organization. Image from https://www.uihi.org A quiet crisis consumes America’s indigenous women. While violence against women plagues every community across the globe, the Native American indigenous groups of North America are particularly hard struck by a malicious problem. Missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW) present some of the highest statistics for violence and death in North America. The situation has existed for generations and continues to damage and destroy individuals and families to this day. The US Department of Justice maintains records on murders every year across all demographics of men and women in the United States. When it comes to indigenous women, however, they are 10 times more likely to be killed than the average national murder rate. And, despite how high these statistics seem, they cover only a small percentage of all the native women who are victims of violence every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Native American women under the age of 35 experience a higher murder risk almost any other group. Among indigenous women, death by murder is the third most prevalent cause of death for girls and young adults from age 10 up to age 34. Despite this, indigenous women are grossly underreported as missing or murdered on a national level. In 2019, a total of 5,712 cases of missing indigenous women were recorded by the Urban Indian health Institute. However, the US Department of Justice’s official missing persons list only includes 116 of these individuals. While these numbers are shocking, the high rates of killing and kidnapping of indigenous women are so much more than a devastating data point on the crime charts of this country. The problem has existed for generations, and very few things are being done to solve it. The complexity of the issue is as deep and wide as any other crime issue in the United States today. May 5th is recognized nationally by the United States Congress as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Day. This day honors the birthday of Hanna Harris, a young Northern Cheyenne woman who went missing in Lame Deer, Montana and was found five days later in 2013; she was determined to have been raped and murdered. This day seeks to honor the memory of Hanna Harris and to commemorate other missing and murdered Indigenous women within the United States while raising awareness about this issue. To honor these women, to bring awareness of this issue, to show solidarity and solicit an increased dialogue about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, please take a moment to learn more about this issue by visiting: https://www.nativewomenswilderness.org/mmiw
- Systemic Racism: Untrustworthy Actions of the Healthcare System and the COVID-19 Vaccine
Editorial Note: This post is part of our blog series about diversity, equity, and inclusion. These posts are written by staff on our Equity Committee and originally shared internally. We're sharing them publicly to be transparent about our internal dialogue, reflections and learning process as we work on being an anti-racist organization. Throughout the past year I have anxiously awaited the COVID-19 vaccine. As a white woman who grew up trusting the medical (and other) systems that were designed to meet my needs, when news reports started airing about reluctance of people in the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) community to receive the vaccine I could not understand, especially given the health and economic impacts that have disproportionately fallen on our BIPOC neighbors. I began to research the instances of systemic racism in the healthcare systems, and quickly started to understand how the health care system’s actions have reduced its trustworthiness and now impacts the willingness of some communities to get the COVID-19 vaccine. In a March 11, 2021 article in Native News Northwest, Abigail Echo-Hawk, director of the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) said, “Willingness to receive a vaccine and hesitancy are not mutually exclusive. Fear and distrust of government and medical systems still exists in our community, which are hurdles that we have to overcome.” American Indian and Alaska Native people continue to be disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Covid-19 incidence and mortality rates are 3.5 and 1.8 times that of non-Hispanic whites, respectively. A study released last Thursday by the UIHI says 75 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives are willing to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. According to the UIHI study, The primary motivation for participants who indicated willingness to get vaccinated was a strong sense of responsibility to protect the Native community and preserve cultural ways. The medical systems mistreatment of communities of color make it more likely they will distrust the COVID-19 vaccine An article written by Jennifer Richmond, “What Can We Do About Medical Mistrust Harming Americans’ Health?”, and published by the Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science, raises some disturbing questions and offers some ideas for change. She asks the question, “Why should people trust a healthcare system that historically abused people of color and continues delivering suboptimal care to diverse communities? …R]esearch suggests that people of color get worse healthcare than do white Americans and that your chance of receiving high-quality healthcare may depend on your race or ethnicity.” The medical establishments unwillingness to acknowledge that “most healthcare providers harbor implicit biases that spark negative attitudes towards people of color and may affect treatment decisions” needs to change. Jennifer also asks: “What can we do about medical mistrust? “[…]To move forward and regain trust, healthcare systems must accept responsibility for past injustices (e.g., unethical research practices) and work to end current injustices (e.g., widespread medical errors and disparities in quality of care). Healthcare systems should also measure and track trust and take action when indicated to earn public trust in their organizations.” Healthcare systems must recognize that the work will not be easy or simple and will require some innovative and often controversial thinking. Jennifer points out, “It’s time to get creative and uncomfortable and start working towards a healthcare system that deserves public trust”. Examples of Untrustworthy Behavior of the Medical System Havasupai Tribe In 1989, the Havasupai Tribe agreed to allow the Arizona State University to study their communities’ blood samples to determine if there was a genetic reason for their increased rates of diabetes. The tribal members who signed a consent form believed they were giving consent for the study of diabetes only. Instead, researchers went on to study and publish findings on several unrelated medical conditions, as well as the tribe’s likely historical origins. Forced Sterilization Jane Lawrence documents the forced sterilization of thousands of Native American women by the Indian Health Service in the 1960s and 1970s—procedures thought to have been performed on one out of every four Native American women at the time, against their knowledge or consent. Henrietta Lacks In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, a young Black woman and mother of five visited The Johns Hopkins Hospital complaining of vaginal bleeding. Upon examination, gynecologist Dr. Howard Jones discovered a large, malignant tumor on her cervix. At the time, The Johns Hopkins Hospital was one of only a few hospitals to treat poor African Americans. Mrs. Lacks began undergoing radium treatments for her cervical cancer. A sample of her cancer cells retrieved during a biopsy were sent to Dr. George Gey's nearby tissue lab. For years, Dr. Gey, a prominent cancer and virus researcher, had been collecting cells from all patients who came to The Johns Hopkins Hospital with cervical cancer, but each sample quickly died in the lab. Mrs. Lacks’ cells were unlike any of the others he had ever seen: her cells doubled every 20 to 24 hours. Although Mrs. Lacks died on October 4, 1951, her cells are still being used to study cancers, toxins, drugs, and viruses and have aided many medical discoveries, including cancer treatment and the creation of the polio vaccine. Lacks never knew her cells were being studied, and neither she nor her family were ever compensated, despite the discoveries that emerged from her cells. Racial Bias in Pain Assessment and Treatment Recommendations A study published in the National Academy of Sciences on April 4, 2016, on racial bias in pain assessment and treatment recommendations, and false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites, examines the well-documented fact that “Black Americans are systematically undertreated for pain relative to white Americans. [The study] examine[s] whether this racial bias is related to false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites (e.g., ‘black people’s skin is thicker than white people’s skin’).” The study finds that Black patients continue to receive less pain medication for broken bones and cancer, and that Black children receive less pain medication that white children for appendicitis. Well into the 20th century, researchers continued to experiment on black people based in part on the assumption that the black body was more resistant to pain and injury. The military covertly tested mustard gas and other chemicals on black soldiers during World War II. The Tuskegee Study The CDC describes how “[i]n 1932, the Public Health Service, working with the Tuskegee Institute, began a study of syphilis called the ‘Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. The study involved 600 black men – 399 with syphilis, 201 who did not have the disease. The study was conducted without the patients’ informed consent. In exchange for taking part in the study, the men received free medical exams, free meals, and burial insurance. Researchers told the men they were being treated for “bad blood,” a local term used to describe several ailments, including syphilis, anemia, and fatigue. Originally projected to last 6 months, the study went on for 40 years… and even when penicillin became the drug of choice for [treatment and the cure of] syphilis in 1947, researchers did not offer it to the subjects.” Gynecology "Experiments" on Enslaved Black Women Between 1846 and 1849, Dr. J. Marion Sims, known as the “father of modern gynecology,” operated on at least 10 enslaved women without anesthesia. One enslaved woman, Anarcha, endured at least 30 painful surgeries, the first of which occurred when she was 17 years old. His breakthroughs emerged from experiments on enslaved Black women without the use of anesthesia. According to History.com, “Sims’s decision to not use (anesthesia) — or any other numbing technique — was based on his misguided belief that Black people didn’t experience pain like white people did.” A February 7, 2017 airing of Hidden Brain on NPR comments on three of the ten enslaved woman Dr. Sims operated on. A final comment from Dr. Vanessa Gamble, a physician and historian who investigated Dr. Sims' complicated legacy, suggests that the inscriptions on the statues erected to honor Dr. Sims (one of which was removed from NYC in 2018) could be modified to include the three woman and relabeled “Remembering Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey: The Mothers of Modern Gynecology”. What actions you can take? Educate yourself more fully about these, and other instances of systemic racism in the healthcare system. Be open to points of view that are different from your own on the topic of vaccines, with some new understanding for the underlying reasons. When you hear others express confusion regarding hesitance to get the vaccine, share information you’ve learned with them so they can gain new insight into the actions taken by the healthcare system that erode trust. Talk with any friends or relatives who are nurses, phlebotomists, doctors, hospital administrators, health insurance representatives, etcetera about the history and the current reasons why the medical system could be seen as untrustworthy and what they are doing to make changes. Ask what they do and what their employer does to address healthcare disparities based in false ideas about racial differences. We really appreciate everyone in the organization who is engaging in educating yourself and sharing resources with others in our journey towards becoming an anti-racist organization,
- The Legacy of University Christian Church Lives On
Back in 2018, Bellwether opened the doors at Arbora Court, a 133-apartment complex in the University District. This project was made possible by the University Christian Church who sold the property (a former parking lot and adjacent land across the street from the church) to Bellwether for below market rate. Later that year, University Christian Church merged with Lake City Christian Church to form a new congregation, Journey Christian Church. As the merger conversations evolved, UCC made the difficult decision to sell their church property too. Proceeds from the sale were used to establish the University Christian Legacy Foundation which funds causes consistent with the former church’s mission and values. As part of this effort, Bellwether was selected to receive funding to support and advance educational opportunities for children and youth residing at Arbora Court. An application process was developed and rolled out to residents. On April 5th, Bellwether awarded its first round of scholarships to residents. We were able to fund every application! Requests included vocational training, college tuition, private high school tuition, private grade school tuition, academic tutoring, swim lessons, music lessons and dance lessons. The ages of grantees ranged from 2 to 22. Bellwether is excited to partner with the University Christian Legacy Foundation to provide transformative opportunities for youth at Arbora Court. We look forward to sharing the impact of these scholarships in a future post.
- The Asian Community is Being Attacked and Staying SILENT is NOT ok.
Editorial Note: This post is part of our blog series about diversity, equity, and inclusion. These posts are written by staff on our Equity Committee and originally shared internally. We're sharing them publicly to be transparent about our internal dialogue, reflections and learning process as we work on being an anti-racist organization. Authors' Note: This statement began as a single Equity Committee member’s statement, then later became a collaborative statement that all committee members have agreed upon. Though there are references to the first-person “I,” this statement is one that represents all 12 members. This statement as originally shared internally, with staff on March 17th, 2021 Violence against the Asian Community keeps increasing since the beginning of pandemic. Yesterday a tragedy happened in Georgia. A white supremacist man murdered eight people – six of them were Asian women, in a domestic terrorist hate crime. A hate crime against ONE community is a hate crime against ALL communities. Their fight IS our fight. Apathy – could be reflected on SILENCE – toward hate crimes only uphold white supremacy. It’s wrong. Period. It needs to stop. We do not condone violence against Asian from our community or any others. However, who is considered “Asian” in America? –– It’s complicated. The Census Bureau Defines a person of the Asian Race as: “Having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent.” For example: Japan, China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippine, Maldives, etc. It sounds straight forward, but it’s not America. What defines Asian in America? American culture tends not to regard ALL regions in Asia as equally Asian. Here, physical composition is often used to determine if someone is Asian, rather than geography. To be honest – that what made me had an identity crisis the first couple of years since I moved here from my home country. How many countries are actually in Asia? The UN says there are technically 48 countries in Asia, divided into 6 sub regions: Northern Asia, e.g. Siberia Western Asia, e.g. Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirate, Turkey, etc. Central Asia, e.g. Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan. etc. Eastern Asia, e.g. China, Japan, Korea N, Korea S, etc. Southern Asia, e.g. India, Pakistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, etc. Southeast Asia, e.g. Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Singapore, etc. BUT If you Google “Asian food near me” it is unlikely that restaurants from any of these specific sub regions will pop up. Various countries around the world define Asian people differently. Countries like Canada, Sweden, and Norway consider people of Asian background to be people from all Asian countries. In the UK the term “Asian” is more commonly associated with people of South Asian region. So, why isn’t there a global definition of Asian? Because history largely determines how a country defines Asian people. For example: In the UK, the breakup of the British Empire contributed to a wave of immigration from South Asia. So “Asian” often refers to people from India subcontinent. In America, contact with Asian cultures was predominantly via East Asia countries in the mid-1900s. The US was at war with Japan, then Korea, then Vietnam, and has occupied other parts. In addition, the Immigration & Nationality Act 1965 made way for large scale immigration from Asian to US. Why understanding it matters? On one hand, there is power in Asians of all background unifying under that broader identity, and it can prevent feelings of erasure. However, it is important to acknowledge the UNIQUE differences of EACH group in order to meet the NEEDS of those communities, which can be VERY different. I am Indonesian, I am Asian. But I recognized that the current conversation on Anti-Asian attacks stemming from pandemic rhetoric are unique to groups with specific physical features. Even though the term “Asian” can get complicated, it is important to understand that the recent attacks are happening to a specific group. No matter how we identify ourselves, remember to be supportive. We are stronger in solidarity. So, say it again with us – I do not condone violence against Asian, whether from my community or any others. Equity Committee
- Celebrating Nancy! Nancy shaped Bellwether in the early years.
Nancy Smith served as the Executive Director for Bellwether Housing from 1982 – 1997. In addition to leading the organization through its early years, Nancy was responsible for finding sites for new buildings or acquiring buildings that could be preserved as affordable housing. She also developed funding structures and schedules for development. Nancy says that creating a good, supportive work environment where employees had the chance to grow and feel job satisfaction as one of the most meaningful aspects of her career at Bellwether. She also enjoyed the challenge of making new project come together. Tell us about a woman that you admire or are inspired by (past or present): Michelle Obama and Melinda Gates #WomenofBellwether #WomxnofBellwether #HERStory #womenshistorymonth #womxnshistorymonth #whm #herstorymatters #HerStoryInTheMaking
- Celebrating Ayu: "My mother taught me that being an ambitious woman is good"
Describe your role at Bellwether: As an Asset Management Analyst, along with the Asset Management team, I’m oversighting the performance of properties in Bellwether’s growing portfolio. My team is actively involved in the direction and strategically plan for the intended outcomes of the properties. As a non-profit affordable housing provider, Bellwether has relatively more complex goals compared to private real estate companies – we have not only business-based goals but also have mission-based goals. My team helps steering the properties toward these goals. Often, we have to take a wide and long-term view, looking beyond just what is happening at the properties to the broader environment and how this will impact the properties. In my day-to-day basis I actively collaborate with other departments across the organization as well as our stakeholders – generate data to inform property management decisions, maintain compliance with lender and investor requirements, and ensure the long-term financial health of the portfolio. Aside from that, I’m also a member of Bellwether’s Equity Committee, where along with 11 other members, I’m actively proposing changes that need to be made within Bellwether to hold the organization accountable to become a more inclusive, equitable, and anti-racist organization – as part of our Strategic Plan. What do you find most meaningful about your work: I found meaning and satisfaction from quite different things over the course of my time and several roles at Bellwether. I started as a temporary compliance assistant. Then I got a permanent role as Property Management Administrative Assistant where I got to meet and speak with our residents and prospective residents daily. What I found to be the most meaningful of my work at that time was my role acted as a bridge that connects people who have the needs and reached out to us, to the affordable housing, services, and any other kind of resources that we have to offer. Later, I took the chance to join the Asset Management team. I studied and have work experience in finance, and I fell in love with Bellwether’s missions and what we do. I thought that I could use my skills and experience to contribute more to the organization that could be amplified and extended to the residents we serve, although it might not be as direct as in my previous role. I find it’s really meaningful to me that every day, the work I do along with every single employee at Bellwether, directly or not, touches and affects the lives of residents we serve for the better. Even though I work behind my desk, my team ensures the properties perform and comply so the organization can continue the work it’s doing – providing affordable housing. It motivates me every day imagining all of the lives touched by living in our properties, those who call it home – home that provides security for themselves and their families, so they can focus on other aspects of their lives. I also find the work that Equity Committee does is deeply meaningful to me. We center residents and employees on our work towards becoming a more inclusive, equitable, and anti-racist organization. Tell us about a woman that you admire or are inspired by (can be past or present): I admire and am inspired by my mother; by women trailblazers and women leaders who paved the path for other women behind them and who gave the real examples that women can lead and should lead; by every amazing woman and those who identify themselves as womxn around me – most of them are the ones I have the privilege of working with at Bellwether; as well as by those who crossed my path, because every woman has their own story worth learning. My mother taught me to be resilient, to have principle, to believe that being an ambitious woman is good – it’s not bad, that it’s something to be proud of, and to believe that I can be whatever I want so long that I keep making the effort to get there. One advice that I hold dear to my heart, my mother said, “Respect yourself, only then people can start to respect you; and always treat people the way you want to be treated.” Many times, the way someone makes us feel, tell us more about that person than it does about us. A vessel can only pour out what it contains. So, I make sure that I take care of myself including my mental health, so that I can only give the best to others. My mother also made me believe in good karma and bad karma, so that I’m aware that everything I do will come back to me, as she said, “What you give is what you get – but make sure to give more than you take.” This not only applies to material things but also all the things beyond that. Charity does not decrease our wealth. Humility does not decrease our honor. She told me that gratitude and giving were the keys to happiness. That, for me, is a pure fact. That is what it means to have an “abundance” mindset over a “poverty” mindset. To not letting the temporary and quantifiable hold us back from what is permanent and priceless. She taught me to be an independent woman ever since I was a kid, as if she knew someday I would be living all alone far away from her, and here I am more than 8,000 miles away from her – fortunately not all alone. The Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of women trailblazers and women leaders that I admire and am inspired by. One of the most memorable and powerful quotes of hers to me is, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” I am a strong believer of it. And I am proud of the fact that this is what I’m witnessing every day at Bellwether. What Colleagues Say: "Ayu is a natural leader with a deep commitment to advancing our equity and antiracism work. She has been an inspiration to work with!"
- Standing with our Asian and Asian American Pacific Islander Communities
We are devastated by the rise in anti-Asian violence here in our own community and in communities around the country over the past year. We grieve the eight people whose lives were taken in Atlanta earlier this month, six of whom were Asian women. We join others in condemning racist and misogynist violence and reaffirm our commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization. This commitment means, in part, naming and condemning these acts of violence that are spurred by racial hatred and white supremacy. It means calling on our staff, our residents and our supporters to become educated about the consequences of white supremacy. And it includes offering our Asian and AAPI community members our solidarity and support. If you’ve experienced or witnessed a hate crime, Chinese Information and Services Center (CISC) in Seattle has set up hotlines and an email address to report incidents: Cantonese-粵語/ English: (425) 240-5825 Mandarin-普通话/ English: (206) 393-2110 Russian/ English: (425) 326-9497 Spanish-Español/ English: (425) 598-5436 Vietnamese/ English: (206) 235-4372 If you or someone you know is in need of mental health support related to anti-Asian violence, contact Asian Counseling and Referral Services (ACRS) at (206) 695-7600.
- Celebrating Katrina! "My passion is mentoring others."
Describe your role at Bellwether. I oversee daily operations of a Portfolio of Affordable Housing Apartments. I have 8 buildings in my group along with several commercial spaces. What do you find most meaningful about your work? What I find most meaningful is seeing the smiles and hearing “thank you” from the families that we serve. When we do tenant events where we hand out school supplies and a parent comes to you with tears in their eyes expressing gratitude because they didn’t have enough money to buy supplies that makes it all worthwhile. My passion is mentoring others and sharing experiences that was done with me. Over the years I have been able to work my way up from a temp leasing agent to where I’m at today. Tell us about a woman that you admire or are inspired by (past or present). The woman that inspired and mentored me was Judy who was my Senior Manager in conventional market rate housing. As I started this career as a leasing agent, I would be intimidated by her during site visits or training. During the 10 years Judy and I worked together, she showed me how to work with vendors and maintain lasting relationships. She elevated my confidence when dealing with residents with effective communication. She also reminded me that people are the same as I am and I should never be scared of other individuals. She would always say, “They put their pants on the same way as you do, one leg at a time!” I still stay in touch with Judy to this day as she relaxes by her pool in sunny Arizona. What Colleagues Say: “I’ve really admired the way Katrina’s able to handle very difficult, delicate situations with grace, ease and humor. She is a leader who is open, fair, and honest. Her ability to balance her job with family is amazing. “
- Celebrating Tory - Creator of the Impact Investment Fund
Describe your role at Bellwether. I was a housing developer from 1997 to 2003 and Deputy Director / COO from 2009 to 2016. I first joined Bellwether in 1997, when I moved back to Seattle from Washington, DC, where I had been developing affordable housing since 1991. I had been in touch with Executive Director Nancy Smith, and when I was exploring positions back in Seattle, she let me know that she and Sarah Lewontin could probably use some more help on the housing development front. So, with a newborn and a toddler at home, I took a “part time” job as a project manager, working with Nancy, Sarah and Vaughn McLeod on our development deals. The construction of Tate Mason was underway at the time and my introductory project was to refinance a buildings. For me the real thrill over those subsequent years was developing two new downtown buildings, Stewart Court and the Gilmore. After the completion of the Gilmore, I left Bellwether to do some independent project consulting and then spent the next five years in executive positions with private companies focused on workforce housing development. In 2008 then-Executive Director, Sarah Lewontin, asked me to return as Deputy Director following Lee Murray’s retirement. In that role I led the real estate development group and directed internal operations, allowing Sarah to focus on the outward-facing roles of the CEO. During that time we rebranded the organization and were making structural changes to enable healthy growth and build greater development capacity. As we were contemplating bigger organizational changes, I was able to entice Susan Boyd, formerly our housing attorney but recently back from a year’s sabbatical, to join Bellwether as Director of Real Estate Development. Susan was obviously a pivotal addition to the team. That new leadership in development allowed me to focus more broadly on the operational structure, financial health and strategic initiatives of the organization. Those years of close collaboration with a dynamic Leadership Team on the evolution of the organization were extremely satisfying. My last big project at Bellwether was creating and launching the Bellwether Impact Investment program, which exemplified the willingness of the organization to try a new approach to address a long-standing challenge—in that case the shortage of gap funding for our new housing developments. What did you find most meaningful about your work? I found meaning and satisfaction from quite different things over the course of my time and several roles at Bellwether. I was initially drawn to affordable housing development because I saw it as core to developing vibrant urban communities for all. I had studied architecture and later finance, and I just loved managing all the complex moving parts of a new development. Though my work was mostly done before people started moving in, at each stage of design and construction I could picture the spaces and imagine the thrill of moving into that fresh new building myself, happy to think of all the people that would enjoy that comfort of home over time. In my later leadership roles at Bellwether, I had a broader view on the magnitude of our impact: all of the lives touched by living in our housing over the long arc of Bellwether ownership, and the magnifying impacts as we increased our development capacity and buildings under management. I found real satisfaction in making the incremental adjustments within the organization to strengthen our position—financially, culturally and organizationally—and then investing in changes that I knew would grow future impact. That vision was very gratifying: that the impact of what I was doing in the moment would get magnified over time and the benefits would accrue to people yet to move into Bellwether housing yet to be built. Tell us about a woman that you admire or are inspired by (can be past or present). I feel like my life path has been influenced by a succession of impressive women around me, significant among them those that I have worked with at Bellwether. At times when I was making formative decisions, I was fortunate to intersect with strong women exemplifying values-driven lives and that made all the difference. Had my college roommates not been social justice leaders, would I have focused on the impact of housing in society? Had I not worked with Virginia Anderson and other powerful women in Seattle real estate development early in my career, would I have pursued housing development? If Nancy Smith hadn’t shown me the exciting developments that Bellwether was doing back in Seattle, would I have stayed in the non-profit housing field when I left DC? All along the way I have been fortunate to have had the counsel and partnership of smart, bold, committed women whose values I share. Frankly, the best work I’ve seen in housing around the country has been driven by organizations led by these kinds of women. What Colleagues Say: “Tory was the concept-creator, the spreadsheet analyzer, the pitch-maker and the functional organizer for Bellwether’s impact investment strategy and implementation – an approach to funding affordable housing that really put Bellwether on the map. And Bellwether’s impact investment fund has been the inspiration for funds such as the Microsoft affordable housing fund, the Seattle Foundation’s Evergreen Fund (for which Tory is the lead consultant) and the Amazon Housing Equity Fund, which have brought BILLIONS of corporate dollars into affordable housing in the Pacific Northwest.”
- Celebrating Nancy! "She has transformed office management’s relationship with employees."
Describe your role at Bellwether. I view my role as threefold. Starting with ensuring that our staff have a well-cared for space to work and the tools needed to complete their important tasks. The next role is to be consistently available to our residents as a center to respond to questions or requests for assistance in unforeseen situations. The third role includes providing accurate information and giving help navigating the rental process to perspective residents. What do you find most meaningful about your work? Often the smallest heartfelt offer of assistance can help change the lives of others. I find that my days are filled with these opportunities. Tell us about a woman that you admire or are inspired by (past or present). I would like to tell you about my friend SanNi. She went back to school and got her law degree when she was 30. She is now 40, a labor attorney, and recently opened her own law firm. SanNi is a mother of three children, litigators all. Several nonprofits find her organizing for them. It is so easy to admire her endless skills and to be her friend. Her life is messy, she is fearless most of the time, and helping others is what she does. Quote from a colleague: “Since joining us in 2019, Nancy has transformed office management’s relationship with employees. She works diligently in service to them and our residents. She is highly autonomous in her role and leads by example.”