In our shared work of solving poverty, the scale of the crises we face can be so daunting that we sometimes forget about the countless victories we achieve as a community every day.
We see these wins when one of our neighbors experiencing homelessness gets a fresh start in supportive housing, when a family going through a hard time is able to stay healthy and fed thanks to a food bank, or when a senior who relies on a wheelchair can go grocery shopping and visit friends using paratransit services.
At Solid Ground, we know we can only sustain our work if we take time to acknowledge and celebrate these life-changing victories along the way, which is why we gather every year with donors, volunteers, participants, and community partners for a joyous celebration we call the Building Community Event.
This year’s event, held May 11 at Town Hall Seattle, drew 165 people and raised more than $125,000 to further Solid Ground’s work and get us closer to the day when everyone in our community has a chance to achieve their own victories.
Forest Ember, the founder and host of a series of comedy wordplay events called Pun Intended Pun Slams, shared her story from the stage. She came to Solid Ground several years ago after she was abruptly cut off from a state program that she’d relied on to pay her rent following a debilitating on-the-job injury that left her unable to work.
“I was in a very dark, desperate, devastated place,” Forest said. “I was injured, and I was going to lose housing. And then when I got connected with Solid Ground, I mean, it was life and death for me. It really was.”
Solid Ground’s Benefits Legal Assistance got Forest’s benefits restored for a few months, which was long enough to allow her to go back to school and eventually get her degree, find a new job, and even convert an old school bus into a tiny home of her own. She now donates a portion of ticket sales from her pun slams to Solid Ground.
While we celebrate victories like those Tiffany and Forest achieved, we also know that our work isn’t done until we dismantle the systemic barriers at the roots of poverty and homelessness.
“We need to figure out how we continue to unite people to undo the systems of power that exist so that every single person can thrive in this country and in this county and in this city,” said Solid Ground CEO Shalimar Gonzales. “That’s really what we’re going for. That is our goal at the end of the day.”
To delve deeper into how communities overcome barriers, event Emcee Eva Walker (KEXP DJ and The Black Tones frontwoman) led a conversation with Colleen Echohawk (CEO of Eighth Generation and former Executive Director at Chief Seattle Club) and Erin Jones (award-winning educator and Champion of Change), who shared their wisdom on how they sustain their work fighting for social justice in their own communities.
“I am grateful every day – I choose gratitude by intention, every single day – and it has become a habit,” said Erin. “And by the way, you can build that gratitude muscle, there’s science to it, and it changes how you see the world.”
Both Colleen and Erin said they find inspiration and hope in young people, even as many of them struggle to find a sense of belonging after a three-year-long pandemic. Colleen described seeing young Indigenous people stepping up to not only advocate for their own communities but also for solutions to the crises we face as a country and species.
“I have so much hope in young Indigenous leadership,” said Colleen. “There are young Indigenous people rising up saying, ‘You know what, we have some solutions that you should think about that are rooted in our traditions and … in our ancestors.’ And I just get so pumped up thinking about what they’re going to do.”
We capped off the night with an Afterparty featuring powerful live music from Maya Marie and Stephanie Anne Johnson. The entire Building Community Event was a joyous celebration of community, and we’re grateful to all who helped make it a success.
You can watch a replay of all presenters and performances from the May 11, 2023 Building Community Event: Overcoming Barriers to Social Justice. And of course, we’re still accepting donations to help push us toward our fundraising goal – so please consider joining us in making more victories possible!
We couldn’t have done it without support from our event partners!
Solid Ground is endlessly grateful for the support from our sponsors, event partners, volunteers, speakers, performers, and everyone who joined us to build community together. Special shoutout to our presenting sponsor QFC, which also provided food for our attendees.
… with additional support from Walsh Construction.