What a year! From Omicron to Mpox to climate change and the midterms, 2022 was certainly eventful. In Seattle, Mayor Bruce Harrell finished his first year in office, the Mariners made it to the postseason for the first time in more than 20 years and we somehow had a historically rainy and gray spring, scorching hot and dry summer that stretched into October, a smoke season longer than the tenure of a British prime minister and vast sheets of ice pour down from the sky — suspending hundreds of flights and bus routes for a day.
Here at Real Change, volunteers, vendors, staff and supporters also had an action-packed year full of joy, work and heartbreak. More than 100 vendors sold Real Change every week throughout the Seattle area and Bellingham, delivering grassroots journalism to thousands of loyal readers come rain, snow or shine. Together with the House Our Neighbors! (HON!) coalition, the Advocacy Department collected nearly 30,000 signatures to put a historic social housing proposal, called Initiative 135, on the ballot. Real Change community members were once again able to gather in person and celebrate together at the art action, Vendor Picnic and the 28th anniversary fundraiser at the Wing Luke Museum.
With so much to contemplate about 2022 (let alone 2020 and 2021), we wanted to know what Real Change community members think about the new year. Real Change interviewed vendors, volunteers and staff about their thoughts on the past year and their hopes, goals and predictions for 2023.
Reflecting on 2022
Real Change community members reflected on 2022 and all of the ups and downs of the year. Some of the highlights included professional success, personal growth and spending time with loved ones.
Vendor Tommy Foster, badge 14628, started selling the paper about eight months ago in order to be his own boss and run his own hours. He was surprised at the success he experienced. “Last year was pretty good. I couldn’t believe how much money I made selling the paper ... it was like $1,000 worth of papers, so that’s pretty substantial to me,” Foster said.
Nicholas Steele, badge 14684, started as a vendor three months ago. He said that Real Change’s mission is one of the main reasons he decided to start selling the paper.
“It’s just really nice to be a part of and work for somebody that I actually completely agree [with] and root for their work,” Steele said.
Vendor Carl Nakajima, badge 12468, said he was proud to write his first two poems ever.
“I usually don’t like to write about myself, but I kind of did a little bit, and some people liked it, and I kind of liked it, too,” he said.
For vendor Darrell Wrenn, badge 13604, the biggest thing he was reflecting on is the importance of unity and equity.
“Unity and equity for everybody,” he said. “Unity and equity has to be key. We got to consider climate change. We got to think about Mother Nature. It’s more than just recycling and EV — electric vehicles — man. We got to talk about unity and equity. Unity and equity is key for all of us to come together and to balance the ship.”
For Real Change volunteer and journalism student Taija PerryCook, 2022 was all about healing.
“I feel like I’ve come to terms with a lot of things personally, and I feel a lot stronger in myself,” she said.
New vendor Noelcal Sohn, badge 14721, said the highlights of her year were being with her husband and spending time with animals.
“I used to train horses, so I go out to my aunt’s and ride horses out there,” Sohn said.
Advocacy Intern Camille Gix summarized 2022 as “busy” — Gix was active on the HON! campaign — while Real Change volunteer Nathan Greenstein said the year was about “rebounds.”
Longtime vendor Willie Jones, badge 9719, designed a jacket worth $900, embellished with helmets representing the logos of all the National Football League teams and decorated with the Seattle colors of blue and green. However, not everything about 2022 was good for Jones.
“2022 has not been a great year,” he said. “I just stayed in my apartment because I got Roku and watched movies and stuff like that.”
Steele said that after his van, which was his home at the time, was stolen a year ago, he went off the grid to focus on the next chapter of his life.
“I just sat down and I was like, something’s got to change, you know what I mean?” Steele said. “‘Cause I’ve been traveling for like 15 years, staying in some places for a year or two, and I forgot whether I was running from something or running towards something. And I just needed to find out why I was running at all? Like, what would happen if I stopped running?”
Sohn concurred that the year had a lot of difficulties, especially with the worsening fentanyl epidemic.
“2022 has been a really weird year,” she said. “It’s like a pot stewing down in Seattle of anger and hate, and it’s like somebody put a spell downtown.”
Looking ahead to 2023
Like last year, 2023 promises to unleash a whole new set of events and experiences with the potential to be just as chaotic. Real Change community members discussed their plans to make the best of life and fight for positive change in their communities.
Some shared their personal goals and resolutions. For example, Nakajima said that he hopes to continue writing, including writing more articles. He also wants to eventually learn to play his saxophone by ear. Meanwhile, Jones said that he aims to make more sports jackets, including one dedicated to the Seattle Indians, an early 20th century baseball team.
In 2023, PerryCook aspires to be more adventurous and get in touch with her creative side.
“I want to take a lot more risks and do things that kind of get my adrenaline going,” she said. “Just doing things that push me out of my comfort zone and scare me a little bit.”
Steele plays predominantly bass guitar and hopes to pick up music again in 2023.
“I was born and raised in a music store,” he said. “My dad’s had a retail music store my whole life, and I was really blessed, being raised in that environment when he was around. But I really feel like that’s something that’s a gaping hole in my life that can be very fulfilling.”
Greenstein, who started volunteering at the front desk a month and a half ago, said that he wants to add more structure to his free time so that he can pursue his more rewarding hobbies, such as biking. He’s also looking forward to starting his city planning master’s program in Sweden this fall.
Gix also has an academic goal, hoping to graduate from her University of Washington master’s program in June. She also plans to spend less time scrolling through TikTok.
“I could probably stand to use social media a bit less, but I don’t know if it’s gonna be a resolution I actually stick to,” Gix said.
Real Change community members also shared their desires to make the world a better place.
Sohn said that she would like to eventually start collecting donations for clothing for dogs and cats in need. She also wants to produce a documentary on impacts of the fentanyl epidemic and the government’s failure to respond to the crisis.
“Our government does not care,” Sohn said.
Wrenn is excited about the HON! social housing initiative, which will be decided on by Seattle voters in the Feb. 14 special election.
“I’ll continue to sell the Real Change newspaper and use that to leverage as far as I would like to see social housing become more mainstream as far as housing,” Wrenn said. “I think the current housing system has to change. It needs to be replaced — it’s trash.”
Gix also wants to see the social housing initiative passed in 2023.
“My biggest hope for 2023 is to get I-135 passed and see the Seattle Social Housing Developer start up,” Gix said.
The people at Real Change know that years are complicated, full of hardships and heartbreaks, loss and negativity. But they are also full of joys. While social injustices will continue to exist, community members will also continue to come together to fight against them. We hope that in 2023, the good outweighs the bad.
Read more of the Jan. 4-10, 2023 issue.