In 1993 the People’s Institute was invited by the City of Bellevue, Washington to provide Undoing Institutional Racism training. Soon after, early childhood educators in Seattle encouraged the City of Seattle Human Services Department to host workshops. Over time, Undoing Institutional Racism groups were formed in City and County governments, social service agencies, and in the community.
By 2001, over 30 organizations in the region had some level of institutional commitment to address racism and it was evident that there was a need for a local office of the People’s Institute to support the organizing work. The People’s Institute Northwest was founded by a group of 20 local organizers. Blair Kruezer, who previously held a Solid Ground VISTA position focused on supporting the work of the Undoing Institutionalized Racism Group in the City of Seattle and the formation of Native Youth Action, became the first People’s Institute Northwest Office Coordinator.
Since 2001, The People’s Institute Northwest office has supported numerous community organizing efforts, including:
- Undoing Institutional Racism groups
- Taking Care of Kids Is Power
- Youth Undoing Institutional Racism
- Coalition to Undo Racism Everywhere
These community efforts identified education and juvenile justice as issues impacting families.
In partnership with many other community-driven efforts, People’s Institute Northwest worked to highlight racial disparities in the King County Juvenile justice system.
We have worked to influence Seattle Public Schools and City and County government commitments to race and social justice issues, including:
- Getting A People's History of the United States approved as an official textbook in Seattle Schools
- Changing the mascot and name of the team at West Seattle High School
In 2002 we organized Teach Outs to call attention to racial inequities and model alternatives to education that honor history and culture. Teach Outs were held at eleven locations, served over 300 students, and included sites focused on the history and culture of:
- Native Americans
- Pacific Islanders
- Africans/African Americans
- Europeans/Euro Americans
BLACK PRISONERS CAUCUS
In 2001 organizers in the People’s Institute Northwest were invited to provide workshops for the Black Prisoners Caucus at Monroe Correctional facility. As men were transferred to other institutions the workshops were done at Stafford Creed and McNeil Island.
Organizers and trainers in People’s Institute Northwest and the National People’s Institute have volunteered countless hours over the past decade in support of the work of the Black Prisoners Caucus. In return, the work of the Black Prisoners Caucus has helped to inform and strengthen much of the organizing work done locally and nationally by the People’s Institute.
During the 2009 fall elections, we attended and hosted candidate forums and posed strategic questions about racial and social justice. Our focus was to strengthen connections between city and county government and communities most impacted by racism. Most candidates made pre-election commitments to continue the work. As a result, the City of Seattle has chosen education as a focal point.