Ellen Kissman, Urban Planner and Policy Analyst, 350 Seattle art activist
“I’ve been fortunate, Ellen Kissman says. “I’ve spent my career on things that make a positive difference in the world.” A urban planner and public policy analyst, she’s currently working for equitable community development in several neighborhoods: the International District, Little Saigon, the Central District, Capitol Hill and First Hill.
But today her professional work, “is not enough.”
The Artful Activism Workgroup drew her to 350 Seattle. “With everything that needs doing now, you might as well do something you enjoy,” she says.
Calling herself “a little bit of an artist,” she helped sew the salmon flags (“they’re dispersing now, just like salmon in the ocean”) that were hoisted at the Paris Climate Change Conference, painted yellow handprints on the red flags that flew with the kayaktivists, and batiked fabric for a huge banner for the Seattle Womxn’s March.
She’s joined her friend Lisa Marcus, the leader of the art workgroup, and others to create a leadership team that will enable the artful activists to work together effectively. They challenge themselves “How are we going to communicate? What systems do we need so that people will know what’s going on? How do we make sure people get the support they need?”
This big picture, systemic thinking informs her view of climate change. “Because of changing weather patterns, people’s ability to grow their own food is changing. There are places that experience major drought. The people have to leave so we have mass migration.” Connecting the global and the local, she points to the arrival of the many Somalis in Seattle in recent years.
So she appreciates 350 Seattle’s recognition that other issues– like immigration and the movement for black lives — are intertwined with environmental justice. “You have to be ally. You have to step up on civil rights, immigration, Black Lives Matter or Standing rock. This is a must-have for me in my activism and 350 Seattle does that.”
Check out the Voices of 350 blog!