June 17, 2017

The Current

In this week's edition:

  • Gentrification in Ultimate (2/4)
  • Extra Resources on Gentrification
  • Announcements

Ultimate and Gentrification (2/4)
Seattle's History of Segregation

Audience participation. (Photo Credit:  AGE UP )

Audience participation. (Photo Credit: AGE UP)


Series overview: As ultimate players, we strive to build a community that is inclusive, supportive, and just. This means we have to look directly at how racism and white privilege harm people of color and benefit white people. In Seattle, a group of white ultimate players hosted an event to hear the stories of people of color, learn how gentrification and segregation impact our access to ultimate, and commit to supporting groups that challenge racism and empower youth of color. We invite you to explore this with us! This is part two of a four part series, click here to read part one.

At our event on a rainy May night called Power, Privilege, and Plastic, we heard a story from Tali Hairston on growing up as a young black man in Seattle. He reflects on the realities of displacement and what it feels like to be pushed around in your own city. And now, as the father of a young woman who plays ultimate and is part of AGE UP, he connects us to the realities of how race and ultimate intersect. Please take a listen to Tali’s story.


Tali is the Director of The John M. Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Community Development, and Leadership Training at Seattle Pacific University. He credits his multicultural upbringing in Seattle’s Rainier Valley and at-risk youth ministry experience for preparing him for his work as a speaker, lecturer, preacher, and trainer in which he brings his local hands on organizational and leadership knowledge together with his theological training in reconciliation and community development.

Seattle’s history is complicated, colonized, and critical to understand. To do so, one of the event organizers Margo Kelly had us sit and stand to represent the history of racial distribution across Seattle and over time. We started the first history and first people who called this area home. Margo asked everyone in the room to stand up. “The people standing,” she said, “represent the Native population that lived in the Puget Sound region over 13,000 years ago. All of this land was inhabited by Native Americans. Then a group of white settlers arrived and ‘founded’ Seattle 1851.”

The Margo asked us all to sit. “Now the people standing represent the total number of Native Americans counted on the 1860 census for King County,” she shared, “Zero.” When we look at recorded facts of Seattle, they are facts documented by the European settlers and for the European settlers. There were indigenous people who lived in King County in 1860, but the census - conducted by white people - completely erased an entire population of people by how they categorized them. Plus, the European-American’s complete disregard for treaty promises pushed Natives to the outermost areas of the city, and stripped them of their rights. As of 2015, the Native population in Seattle was 1%. (source)

Stop & think: How has this history of pushing out indigenous people from our cities impacted their ability to play ultimate? Why is it unjust to take elements from a culture that white people have erased, and use them for our own gain (i.e. jersey designs, tournament names, etc.)?

This is important history to know. This is a history of colonization, one that Seattle is now built upon. Every day, we live, walk, work, and play on stolen indigenous land.

(Photo Credit:  AGE UP )

(Photo Credit: AGE UP)


Visualizing Seattle’s Segregation

The influence of white, land-seeking colonizers has continued to shape where people in our city can and can’t live. Margo led us through standing and sitting to represent the change of population across the city. Through redlining, Seattle’s policy makers, housing authorities, and banks successfully influenced where people could and could not live, based on their race.

Definition: Redlining
In the early 1900s, neighborhoods were ranked based on their wealth and racial makeup, with communities home to primarily people of color ranked as “Type D” and outlined on maps in red. This property rating system perpetuated racial discrimination by creating grounds for denying loans to - and pricing out - people of color. Redlining also labeled these communities as lowest priority for investment, leaving them undeveloped and in disrepair. Learn more about redlining here and here.

In 1927 for example, white Capitol Hill residents went door to door asking homeowners to insert restrictive language into their deeds to keep black folks south of Madison Street. Property deeds contained legal, discriminatory language, like this one from Capitol Hill, “...no part of said premises shall ever be used or occupied by or sold conveyed, leased, rented, or given to negroes or any person or persons of negro blood.” (source)

Designed by Natalie Jamerson. ( Source )

Designed by Natalie Jamerson. (Source)

Black folks, people of color, and indigenous people were pushed, constrained, restricted, and forced around the city. At our event, Margo had everyone stand up to reflect these changes over time. View the graphic below to see how racial distribution has changed over time. (source)  

It was only in 1968 when Congress passed the Housing Rights Act and Washington law finally outlawed discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity in the sale or rental of housing. Redlining became illegal, and federal and state law recognized that their housing practices were racist - but without leaving a racist footprint and legacy across the city. Read more about how gentrification is pushing more black families out of the city here.

And in 2006, Washington state passed a bill that finally allowed neighborhood homeowners’ associations to remove all remnants of discrimination from their property deeds. That's just 10 years ago.

Did you know? In the last 15 years, the average income in Seattle has risen $25,000, reaching a high of $70,000. Meanwhile, the average income for Black residents in Seattle has dropped, nose-diving to $25,700 a year. (source)

How does segregation intersect with ultimate?

The effect of determining where people of color were able to live had rippling effects on funding for education and parks, on investment in public transportation, in access to clean air and water, among countless others - all of which impact our ability to access and thrive in an ultimate frisbee community.

People of color were forced to live in areas near highways, polluting factories, and dangerous industries. In Seattle, race is the number one predictor of air pollution, and communities of color and lower-income people are exposed to more fossil fuel related air pollutants than other populations. Exposure to pollution has led us to a reality of in which white adults in Washington are living an average of 10 years longer than black adults. Imagine growing up in a community where you face air pollution so bad, it will shave years off your life. This is the reality for many people of color who play ultimate today, particularly in South Seattle. This is the result of years of racism and environmental injustices. (source)

Stop & think: What does segregation in your city look like, and how has that impacted opportunities for people to play ultimate?

Written by Natalie Jamerson with Caitlin Cordell, Clay Dewey-Valentine, Erica Petru, Katy Craley, Lindsey Wilson, Margo Kelly, Molly Sinnott, Noah Baker, and Sam Terry. If you want to share your questions, thoughts, or suggestions, please email us at powerprivilegeandplastic@gmail.com.


  • We're organizing The Great Workout Challenge of 2017 in Vancouver, BC with over 100 top elite women in ultimate. Want to bring The Great Workout Challnge to your city? Email us at laurel@thenationalultimateleague.com.