+togetherSEATTLE is a local organization that was established this year by local chefs and their friends. Their mission is simple: "+togetherSEATTLE is dedicated to uniting the Greater Seattle area and supporting the most important human rights issues in our local community." And one of those ways they're supporting human rights is with a special event called chefs+togetherSEATTLE. On Wednesday, November 14th, more than 140 Seattle restaurants and businesses will donate 10% of proceeds to the NW Immigrant Rights Project.
KEXP's Outreach Coordinator Alina Santillan reached out to learn more about +togetherSEATTLE and the event.
KEXP: What is +togetherSEATTLE?
Ericka: I was sitting in my office reading one devastating article after another. I was overrun with outrage and sadness at the cruel and inhuman treatment of immigrant families. I was sick to my stomach and had to do something, so I reached out to some of my chef friends. I didn’t have a plan. I just said, “We need to do something, anything to help these families that are being torn apart.
Kate: That spark brought a group of us together and we quickly realized that we wanted to create something ongoing… and +togetherSEATTLE was born! +togetherSEATTLE is dedicated to supporting the most important human rights issues in the Greater Seattle Area. We believe in the power of community and are working to bring people +together and raise awareness/funds for important local and global causes. We are so grateful for the incredible response and desire to help that we’ve experienced so far.
Our first event — chefs+togetherSEATTLE — will support immigrant rights with all funds raised going to NW Immigrant Rights Project. More than 140 businesses have signed up to participate so far and dozens have volunteered their time and resources to help get the word out. Our hope is that everyone in Seattle, Burien, Bellevue, Redmond, and Woodinville will find a participating business and EAT+DRINK on Nov 14 to support immigrant rights.
+togetherSEATTLE friends and founders, Ericka Burke, Tara Clark, Brian Clevenger, Monica Dimas, Kirsten Graham, Kate Jarvis, Brendan McGill, Tamara Murphy, Ethan Stowell, John Sundstrom believe that by standing +together we are stronger to face the toughest challenges that affect our community.
What restaurant do you represent?
Tamara: Terra Plata
Monica: Neon Taco, Little Neon Taco, Westmans Bagel & Coffee, Tortas Condesa & Sunset Fried Chicken.
Brendan: Hitchcock Restaurant Group — Bruciato, Café Hitchcock, Café Hitchcock Express, Hitchcock Deli, and Hitchcock
Ericka: Volunteer Park Cafe
How can we use food as a form of social justice?
Tamara: Well, there are many ways. Of course how it pertains to TogetherSeattle and our chefs + TogetherSeattle event is about raising awareness and resources for our immigrants who are being treated unfairly and separated from their families. Our nation IS a nation of Immigrants. In order for our nation to thrive, we must celebrate and be inclusive of our different cultures and people. Food is the one thing that brings everyone together. I think of the saying "we don’t need to build a wall… we need to build a longer table." I cannot think of a better way to get to know people than to have a meal with them. Have a meal and become friends. The America that I love is compassionate, open and welcoming. Food IS LOVE!
Brendan: Food is highly political from its sourcing to its preparation. Choosing how to spend money on food can be one of the most political acts we participate in on a frequent basis. Buying food grown locally and organically all but eliminates the chances that immigrant labor is being exploited. Knowing the producers leads to transparency and education from top to bottom of the chain.
Monica: A restaurant is like any other business and you can choose to be vocal & progressive or you can be silent, but the difference with restaurants is that we employ a large number of immigrants. Not just Latinos, but from around the world. Diversity is the nature of restaurants so using that as a positive platform for immigrants and social work/human rights isn't a far stretch.
Why is this work important?
Tamara: I am so proud to play a part in +togetherSEATTLE. When Ericka Burke [Volunteer Park Cafe] reached out after the story of the children being separated from their families at the border, I did not hesitate. I had a similar thing happen to me when I was 3 years old. I knew first hand what these kids were going through. My upbringing began in the deep south and later to South America. As well I have traveled all over the world. I have had people around me all my life, that speak different languages, eat different foods, dress differently and have different faiths. I cannot imagine an America, without them... who bring so much to the table. Our different cultures are the most interesting and THE BEST part about our country, and I will do whatever I can to support our immigrants, who are now being threatened by this administration.
Monica: Human rights as a whole is important to me because I'm a woman of color (Mexican) and specifically immigrant issues because I'm not only a child of immigrants but an immigrant myself. I've seen first hand how immigration policy has hurt my own family members, seen fellow cooks lose their "safe" status, and even felt it personally when I started hearing that being a permanent resident wasn't even safe anymore. Which to many is the safest you can be next to an actual citizen. Legal paths to citizenship itself are being eroded by this administration by slowing down a straightforward process and thus suppressing the immigrant vote. Immigration policies from the time my parents came here (the '70s) to now are so beyond extreme that you can watch videos of Reagan and Bush Sr. talking about immigration and their policies in the 80's and today they would be seen as very far left. And they're not — they're just compassionate and humanist. Probably the only time I will ever say that/have ever said that about Reagan but it's true. Immigration rights are human rights and somehow people have forgotten that and see them as an abstract with no one being hurt but we know that narrative is false and dangerous. We have seen children in cages and enduring abuse on so many levels, we have seen families being treated inhumanely, and refugees from dangerous situations turned away at our borders. This is not a time to make excuses this is a time for us all who can to stand up for people who have no voice.
Brendan: This work is important as immigrant rights are human rights. Our nation is made of immigrants and our industry has traditionally relied on immigrant labor. It is a service industry that most middle-class Americans don’t have much interest in. You don’t need to speak English or have much education to succeed if you work hard and see curious to learn. In these conditions, immigrants can excel. There is an egalitarian aspect that provides an opportunity straight to ownership through hard work.
Tara: Community is so powerful. When individuals bring their unique gifts, perspectives, and experiences together, the possibility to create real change is amazing. I am hopeful that +togetherSEATTLE will bring individuals, businesses, and communities together and be the change we want to see in our world.
How can people get involved?
Kate: It’s so easy to get involved on November 14: morning coffee, donuts to work, cupcakes to your kid’s class, an afternoon sweet, lunch, dinner, evening drink… bring your friends and enjoy some time +togetherSEATTLE and support an incredibly important human rights issue… immigrant rights. More than 140 businesses will donate 10% or more to NW Immigrant Rights Project on Wednesday [see a list of participating restaurants here].
You can also share the chefs+togetherseattle spots you go to throughout the day (for example: Eat + drink to support immigrants today! Grabbed @cupcakeroyale for meetings because they support #immigrantrights + @togetherseattle. #nwirp [+ photo from the field]) and follow us on IG and Twitter and Facebook, and watch the website for updated ways to get involved.
KEXP: What is NWIRP?
Rebecca Neff Brown: Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) promotes justice by defending and advancing the rights of immigrants through direct legal services, systemic advocacy, and community education. We have been around since 1984 and have 4 offices throughout Washington State. We believe access to justice shouldn’t depend on where you are born or how much money you have.
How can people support NWIRP?
The best way to support our work is to donate, this helps us hire more attorneys with the experience needed to navigate the confusing and arbitrary immigration court process, which immigrant community members must face without appointed counsel if they cannot afford an expensive private attorney. We are one of the only organizations in WA state providing free counsel to community members, while also advocating for systemic change so more of our neighbors can access justice. More info on donating and fundraising for NWIRP can be found here.
And, please save the date for our Spring Gala on Friday, May 17th, 2019 at the Westin Seattle! Watch our events page for more events, such as free Immigration 101 trainings, and other opportunities to learn more and get engaged with our work. You can watch this page for updated ways to get involved, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.