Web Analytics Made Easy - Statcounter

Seattle Parks to remove Black Lives Memorial Garden in Capitol Hill

Share this Post:
Photo courtesy of Black Star Farmers
Photo courtesy of Black Star Farmers

On October 7, 2023, signs began popping up around the Black Lives Memorial Garden (BLMG) in Cal Anderson Park, notifying the public that the plot of land known as the "Sun Bowl" would soon be undergoing a turf renovation.

The announcement sparked immediate backlash in the Seattle community, which had come together in 2020 during the George Floyd protests to start the garden.

The Black Lives Memorial Garden started as a part of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Protest Zone, or CHAZ (also known as CHOP), which lasted for about three weeks. Protesters set up a home base with tents, medical aid, and other resources in Cal Anderson Park. During this time, urban farmer Marcus Henderson first established the plots for the BLM garden.

In short order, the garden was flourishing. It remained in place following the police raids and public reopening of Cal Anderson Park. For the last three years, the garden has remained one of the only lasting reminders of CHAZ, a living memorial to the lives lost to police violence in the United States. It was managed by a collective made up of city and neighborhood residents, known as Black Star Farmers, and has fed thousands of people.

Following the news that Seattle's Parks and Recreation Department planned a hasty overhaul of the land, activist groups returned to the park to protest once again on Thursday, October 12, Led by Black Star Farmers.

The SGN reached out to Parks and Recreation, which responded by saying, "Unfortunately, the BLM garden is not appropriate for this section of the park, because the 'Sun Bowl' is one of the few spaces that is appropriate to host gatherings and events (because of its intentional design as a natural amphitheater proximate to electrical and water hook-ups)."

SPR said they had tried numerous times to work out a compromise with Black Star Farmers to relocate the garden elsewhere, but the collective was unwilling to budge.

"Additionally, the community engagement SPR conducted in the wake of CHOP protests yielded the community desire to relocate the BLM garden to another location within the park," the department said. "SPR has been in regular communication with Black Star Farmers since 2020, offering alternative locations for the garden within Cal Anderson Park and/or in other Seattle parks, including the space behind Rainier Community Center. Unfortunately, Black Star Farmers has not been interested in relocating the garden to any of the locations offered."

Photo courtesy of Black Star Farmers  

Black Star Farmers' response
In an October 19 press release, Black Star Farmers clarified that they were not given enough notice before the Parks and Recreation Department began posting signage stating their intent to remove the garden.

"Black Star Farmers, a small collective founded through the creation of the BLMG alongside hundreds of local community members, was notified by SPR on October 4th about their pending turf renovation project to begin as early as October 13th," the collective wrote.

"The Seattle Parks and Recreation Department (SPR) plans to remove the BLMG and recolonize the garden's thriving, biodiverse ecosystem with invasive grass, even though lawns have long been a tool of colonization, gentrification, and classicism. SPR's actions involving the BLMG are aligned with a shameful history of worker exploitation and violent displacement of houseless neighbors and activist movements for at least twenty-five years."

According to Black Star Farmers, the department has revisited the garden's site several times over the last few weeks, along with Seattle Police, who have conducted sweeps of homeless people in the park and investigated the garden.

"In their plan to remove the Black Lives Memorial Garden, the city has proposed a false solution to these problems," the collective added. "The real solution to these problems is reliable access to housing, harm reduction programs, and access to healthcare that is not contingent on employment and disposable income — not further removing community access to free and accessible food and liberatory education."

Black Star Farmers says the garden is a symbol of deep connection to the city's legacy of occupation protests led by poor and working-class Queer people of color. "The garden grows an abundance of produce and herbal medicine that is harvested and distributed freely to the local community and is home to many native plants that are vital for the regeneration of the Capitol Hill urban ecosystem," they said.