Photo: Joshua Huston
Last Christmas, Anthony Battiste and his four sons — Chris 9, Anthony, 5, Abraham, 4, and Alvin, 2 — spent the holiday in a homeless shelter. After he and his wife separated and she moved to California, Battiste was left with one income and too many expenses. Though he tried to make ends meet with his earnings as a roofer, after a couple of months the family was evicted from their rental in Tacoma.
There were many times when Battiste had to choose between providing food for the children and paying for a hotel room. Despite his best efforts, the family sometimes had no choice but to sleep in their vehicle.
“It was trying, but at the same time it was binding,” says Battiste. “It presented an opportunity for me and the boys to become a strong cadre, leaning and depending on each other to get through the hard times.”
Photo: Joshua Huston
When Tripat Singh and Jasmine Marwaha were growing up together in North Seattle in the early 1980s, there were only about 20 other Sikh families in the area and a single gurdwara (place of worship). They fell in love while Jasmine was studying law at Harvard and married soon after. The Central District couple are now raising their 4-year-old son, Kabir Singh, and 4-month-old daughter, Sahiba Kaur, in a large, dynamic Sikh community.
Sikhism was born in the Punjab region of northern India during an era of extreme class inequality. “The turban used to be worn only by kings and royalty,” says Singh, a clinical practitioner of Eastern medicine. “Sikhs started wearing it as a way of giving the finger to the government. The circumstances you are born into aren’t what you have to be relegated to for the rest of your life.”
Photo: Joshua Huston
A day in the life of Seward Park children’s musician Eli Rosenblatt sounds downright idyllic. After a morning spent in his garden with a famous florist (his wife, Kelly Sullivan) and lively 3-year-old (his son, Elian), Rosenblatt takes a stroll through his neighborhood to teach music and movement at three local preschools. Though some might find engaging a room full of 4-year-olds exhausting, for Rosenblatt it’s nirvana.
“There are moments when you can feel so much love in the room,” he says. “Just seeing the parents seeing their children and the children seeing their parents. It’s really special. It feels really joyful.”
Whether baking family recipes, crafting decorations, or dressing up as dinosaurs, these local families know how to put the happy into the holidays. From an “A-Team”-inspired celebration to a Sikh musical tradition to a recently homeless family making merry in a new home, the holiday season in Seattle is as multifarious as it is memorable.
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Aleksa Manila. Photo: Joshua Huston
Once upon a time at the Seattle Children’s Festival, drag queen Aleksa Manila read books to children. Perched regally atop a cozy nest of blankets and wrapped in a glamorous fuchsia kimono, Manila inspired awe in each child who toddled into the room. Coco, age 4, was moonstruck by Manila’s hot-pink hair adorned with magenta flowers.
“Are those flowers real?” said Coco skeptically.
“Fake,” whispered Manila, with a heavy-lashed wink and a smile. “Now who wants to pick our first story?” A field of tiny hands sprouted up and story time began with a reading of Manila’s favorite children’s book, “My Princess Boy.”
Written by Seattle author Cheryl Kilodavis to help explain her son Dyson’s fondness for “pretty things” to teachers and classmates, the book inspired a movement of acceptance for children who feel misunderstood. “I love my Princess Boy. When we go shopping, he is the happiest when looking at girls’ clothes. But when he says he wants to buy a pink bag or a sparkly dress, people stare at him,” Kilodavis writes.
“The Princess Boy’s story is very close to my own story,” says Manila, who began to question her gender identity while attending Catholic elementary school in the Philippines. “I remember being in the boys section and staring at the girls section, wondering, ‘Should I be there?’”
For the past five years, Manila has hosted Drag Queen Story Hour for families all over Seattle. Check the website for upcoming events and appearances.
Excited to share a few gems from my first issue as Editor of Seattle’s Child magazine! Proud to feature artist and activist Aleksa Manila on the cover talking about her Drag Queen Story Hour! We also have an infants at work program feature, a Seattle reggae artist profile and tips on how to avoid food waste! Pick up a copy at your local Seattle library or subscribe here.
Click on the cover below to view the full issue!
Photo: Joshua Huston
“The Racial Equity in HCC Team, a network of about 100 Seattle parents, teachers, students and community members district wide, has worked hard this year to improve the racial equity of Seattle Public Schools’ advanced learning programs.
The Seattle school district offers advanced classes “for students who have been evaluated for and designated as Highly Capable.” To place into the Highly Capable Cohort (HCC), a student needs to score in the top 2 to 3 percent on standardized tests of cognitive, reading and math skills. SPS also offers Advanced Learning (formerly known as Spectrum) for students who have been evaluated for and designated as Advanced Learners.
However, both accelerated programs overwhelmingly consist of white students. In 2015, white students made up 45.6 percent of SPS population, but were 72.3 percent of HCC-eligible students. That same year, 16 percent of students in the Seattle School district were black, but only 1 percent were in Advanced Learning programs. Among SPS’s 12 percent Latino student population, only 3 percent were counted as HCC- and Advanced Learning–eligible students. This compares to data from the U.S. Department of Education from 2009 that shows black students comprising 16.7 percent of total U.S. students and 9.8 percent of students in gifted programs. Data from the USDE also shows that as of 2009 Latino students comprised 22.3 percent of students nationally and 15.4 percent of students in gifted programs. Among the 200 biggest school districts in the U.S., Seattle has the fifth-biggest gap in achievement between black and white students. Seattle’s white-black gap is also the biggest in Washington.”