“It was real organic”: the past, present, and future of CHAZ/CHOP’s urban garden

Authors: Keith Harris*, University of Washington, Shannon Tyman*, university of washington
Topics: Urban Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: Seattle, CHAZ, CHOP, BLM, garden, Deleuze, Guattari
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 43
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

“‘It was real organic,’ shrugs Marcus Henderson. ‘I came here with a shovel.’” In the midst of international Black Lives Matter Protests, at a time when the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle was making news as CHAZ and then CHOP, a group of activists and strangers were breaking ground and planting tomatoes in Cal Anderson Park. Though the protests have died down, the tent village has been mostly cleared away, and much of the graffiti has been scrubbed clean, the Black Lives Matter Memorial Garden remains and is tended by volunteers. As is all too familiar with community gardens, though, the fate of this land is undecided. The Seattle Department of Parks is in negotiation with activists and local design firms to decide the future of the space.

Empirically, this essay mines stories and photographs form the garden's creation, as well as media coverage, to understand the meaning of the space. We also consider the rich and contested history of the park (located on unceded Duwamish land, named after Washington state’s first openly gay legislator), to contextualize the ongoing attempt to transform this space into something “official.”

Theoretically, we marshal Deleuze and Guattari’s conception of the relationship between the “war machine” – Black urban farmers and their allies who center the discussion of dispossession from land – and the “State apparatus” – Seattle’s municipal government, continuously oscillating between progressive environmental and social policies and neoliberal economic positions – to interrogate the opportunities for becoming new ethical subjects through collective cultivation.

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