This past weekend, Ian Eisenburg, the owner of Uncle Ike’s Pot shop, released a video of longtime Black activist and Seattle community elder, Omari from the Umojafest Peace Center. In this video, Omari is yelling at Eisenburg, telling him to leave the Central District and go back to where he came from. Particularly white people have responded in anger to the video, saying that Omari was in the wrong, and a hateful person to say such things. These individuals with their “post-race” racism failed to ask, let alone understand, why Omari had come to Eisenburg in the first place.
The Central District is a historically Black community, and once was home to a thriving Black community. But with the rise of the war on drugs and gentrification in the Seattle, which directly targeted Black and People of Color Communities, Black members of the community were forced out of the Central District, pushed into a cycle of incarceration through the war on drugs, and further south due to the rising cost of living and their properties being sold to developers.
At this point the Central District has lost much of its Black community, and it has been replaced with large businesses that have forced out community owned businesses, and housing too expensive for the residents who once lived there. One of the businesses is Uncle Ike’s, a pot shop located less than 100 feet from a church, on 23rd and Union. There are other locations throughout Seattle and a location in White Center. The remaining Black community in the Central District has centered their distress of gentrification and unjust drug laws on Uncle Ike’s, stating that it as a large business has played a role in the gentrification of the Central District, taking away a potential source of revenue from the Black Community who continues to be policed and incarcerated at alarming rates, while the business’s white owner benefits economically from the legalization of marijuana. There are also concerns as to why a pot shop was able to be opened so close to a church, something that would never happen in a predominately and historically white neighborhood.
On Saturday, April 1, the Black community, and those in solidarity with the Black community, came together not to protest Uncle Ike’s directly, but to speak against the displacement of the Black community from the Central District, through hosting a mini Block Party. Live performances and music was played, and the event was meant to be upbeat and empowering. But Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop would not allow it to be so, having its security stand on the edge of their property glaring at the Block Party attendees and eventually turning on their music system in attempt to tune out the performances and music being played at the Block Party. In response, some attendees decided to stand on the sidewalk in front of Uncle Ike’s, with signs supporting the Block Party and the Black community. That is when Uncle Ike’s security came out onto the sidewalk and began to aggressive push and hit Block Party attendees, with one security guard punching an attendee in the eye. The attendee who was wearing their glasses, suffered a deep cut above their eye.
Omari arrived to the Block Party after this scuffle and when he heard what had happened, was outraged. He as an individual had been recently evicted from his property, a Black Community Center, in the Central District, it being instead sold to developers. He has organized in the Central District for over 40 years, and an elder to many of the younger individuals at the Block Party. So in outrage he went to Uncle Ike’s, and yelled at Eisenburg, who had been present at Uncle Ike’s the entire time this ordeal had occurred. Ian Eisenburg himself has aggressively attacked protesters and organizers alike.
When Omari said, “go back to where you came from” to Eisenburg, it was in direct relation to the fact that Eisenburg was participating in the forced removal of the Black community in the Central District, both by his business’s presence and his active participation in silencing the Black community. The Black community which was either forcefully taken from their land and enslaved by the United States or had to leave their nations due to the colonization of the African continent from white, European nations. The community that continues to be enslaved through mass incarceration, while Eisenburg gets buckets and buckets of money from legalized marijuana. The community that continues to be displaced through the gentrification that Eisenburg benefits from.
Color-blind white racists, who call themselves “Seattle liberals” are outraged that a Black man told a White Jewish man to leave, while being complicit in the forceful removal of the Black community. What kind of tired ass bullshit is that, white Seattle? Y’all fell for the post-racial, reverse racism, bullshit that is Eisenburg’s video, finding another way to ignore the racist gentrification in your beloved “progressive” Seattle. You’ve instead chosen to support a white man who has assaulted protesters, and have had his security aggressively assault people on public sidewalks and streets, particularly targeting Black people, People of Color, and womxn. Well done white Seattle, well done.
While we acknowledge in the heat of an intense moment words were said that do not reflect the work that we have all came here to do, we are confident in the relationships and community we are building with our Jewish relatives here in the Central Districts.
We don’t condone or support anti-Semitism or any isms fuelled by fear or misunderstanding. We reject ideologies that divide us, seeking to understand the context in which these ideologies are used as tools of oppression.
We are working together to heal as a community from intergenerational/historical trauma as well as combating current traumas being experienced by our peoples.
We don’t abandon those who act out of anger from traumatic histories/provocation. We stand with our elders and their lived experiences. We share a mutual respect for growth and undoing, knowing we need both to build strong, healthy, resilient communities•