There has been an overwhelmingly positive response to the Ghosts of Seattle Past anthology, and we could not be more thrilled! In the first couple weeks after the launch, all copies of the book were sold out of Seattle bookstores. More are on their way and bookstores are frantically restocking shelves as we speak. Thank you, Seattle, for giving Ghosts so much love and for embracing this project!
We also want to thank everyone who came out for the two-part launch event on April 11. It was simply incredible. We had a packed house in the basement of Elliott Bay Book Company, with standing room only all the way back through the hallway. The energy in the room was palpable—it was nostalgic, supportive, powerful, and celebratory. Readings from contributors Anisa Jackson, Chuck Wolfe, Hollis Wong-Wear, and Sara Brickman were challenging, stirring, hilarious, and powerful, and Davey Oil had so much heart I felt like we were all in a big group hug during his piece. Many of us were crying. In short, it was epic.
From top left: On the shelves at EBB, Ghosts’ curator Jaimee Garbacik, Jaimee with Chin Music Press’s Cali Kopczick & Bruce Rutledge, Ghosts’ mapmaker Josh Powell, contributors Anisa Jackson, Davey Oil, Chuck Wolfe, Hollis Wong-Wear, and Sara Brickman (photos: Victoria Holt)
Part two at the JewelBox Theatre was equally amazing, with dessert cocktails and extraordinary performances. We kicked things off with a riveting reading by Kibibi Monié, and the rest of the night continued to envelope us all in readings from Kate Lebo, Elissa Washuta, and Kathy Fennessey, who revisited a record store, a bowling alley, and many prior versions of the self, to consider our various relationships to the city and personal accountability. The evening was punctuated by intermittent heartfelt speeches from Jaimee, and capped off with poignant and topical folk music by Aaron Semer. Again, a big thank you to everyone!
From top left: Kibibi Monié, Kate Lebo, Elissa Washuta, Kathy Fennessey, Ghosts creators: Josh and Jaimee and Jon, Aaron Semer (photo: Victoria Holt)
We’ve just now wrapped up our national Ghosts tour, with events these past couple weeks in New York; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; and Portland. The events were so encouraging—connections were made in each city, where we attempted to talk about what was happening on the ground everywhere we went. It felt like we were really tapping into the heartbeat of something important, having dialogues across the country about lost places, cultural erasure, and the costs of redevelopment. And as we went, we shared what had happened in Seattle, and how our maps and storytelling worked to preserve stories and raise residents’ voices. We offered digital maps of each city and demo’d how to pin them with places they missed.
New York: We started our tour at Bluestockings, a legendary activist bookstore on the Lower East Side. There was a deeply profound sense of loss and nostalgia in the air, but we also got the sense that a lot of residents felt defeated. Much of the discussion centered on how Manhattan has been ceded to the rich, and what’s left of the thriving arts scene struggles for space in the outskirts of Brooklyn. Seattle’s strong community network seemed a relic of the past to many in attendance, as so many businesses in New York (prosperous or not) lose their space at the end of ten-year lease cycles. Audience members shared a handful of personally significant spaces that had disappeared and, frankly, conveyed dismay that something like this hadn’t happened sooner.
Philadelphia: For the second leg of our travels, we teamed up with local DIY venue The Waiting Room and had a wonderful musical guest, Elaine Rasnake. Our event took place in a punk house venue called the Art Church, and it was a very intimate gathering. Here, a very different sort of discussion took shape, as in Philly almost 25% of residents live below the poverty line. There isn’t a booming real estate market pricing residents out, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t experiencing cultural erasure in other ways.
In Washington, D.C., we read at a much beloved bookstore called The Potter’s House, whose chalkboard reads: “In this rapidly changing city – one in which development so often means displacement – we are a deeply rooted space where we all can build relationships across our differences, envision just alternatives, and grow the movements that will make them possible. Together.” Clearly, we had found some kindred spirits.
That night, we partnered with ONE DC, a local organization committed to using political strength to create and preserve racial and economic equity in Shaw and the District. Ghosts contributor Sara Brickman drove up from Virginia to join us, and her performance of her piece about queer assimilation and erasure on Seattle’s Capitol Hill was extremely moving. Conversation with ONE DC and the audience continued until after the bookstore had closed for the night, as we discussed culturally specific services, buildings ONE DC was working to save, and different ways that communities of color were being priced out of homes and businesses.
In Portland we presented at IPRC, an independent publishing resource center whose silkscreen, zine, and art making space reminded us a little bit of our days at The Vera Project and ZAPP. It’s a pretty tremendous space. Know Your City, a local Portland organization who engages the public in art and social justice through creative placemaking projects, lent us their historian Melissa Lang for the evening. And while letterpress artists worked in the background, Melissa presented on Vanport and black history in Portland, its redlining, and some of Portland’s culturally significant buildings that could be in jeopardy. We were thrilled to see Know Your City’s zines about lost places in Portland, and we are definitely eager to produce another event with them in the future.
Another massive thank you to everyone who came out and supported us on the tour!
The whirlwind of Ghosts of Seattle Past continues, and we have a whole bunch of good stuff coming up this month. Next is our walking tour of Yesler Way, in partnership with Atlas Obscura. The tour will end around 4pm at KOBO Gallery with readings from various contributors, focusing primarily on the International District-Chinatown and the Central District. While tickets for the walk are currently sold out, you can still join the waitlist!
Ghosts has also been invited to participate in this year’s Northwest Folklife Festival! The event will be on Saturday May 27, from 1:15-2:15pm on the Narrative and Cultural Cuisine Stage in Seattle Center’s Armory, and will feature Jaimee, Josh, some as yet to-be-announced contributors, a Q&A with the audience, and the opportunity to share memories of lost Seattle places and pin them on a digital map. Folklife is free, all ages, and open to the public. We hope to see you there!
Last on the docket is an event in mid-summer with the Northwest African American Museum. We’ll be partnering with their exhibit An Elegant Utility to put on a panel discussion focusing primarily on the Northwest African-American community’s creation of place and identity in the Central District. There’ll be more information coming soon on that front, so stay tuned.