Intent Versus Impact — Seattle-Based Social Justice Therapy Institute MEND Fails to Disclose to Tenants that Building is Owned by ICE Beneficiary and Billionaire Trump Supporter, Martin Selig
by Rian Roberson, LMHCA with contributions from Bryanna Boyd, LMHCA and Porsche Frye, LMHCA
Susan Hall, Ph.D., is a co-founder of the MEND Institute (formerly Seattle Therapy Alliance) and leaseholder for several therapy suites in the 200 1st Ave W building in Lower Queen Anne. The 200 1st Ave W building is owned by billionaire real-estate mogul Martin Selig, who is currently under fire for unapologetically leasing office space ICE’s regional field office.
This building, located at 1000 2nd Ave, was targeted by immigrant’s rights group Chinga la Migra on June 5th, 2018, and several protestors were arrested. Selig, who is a Trump Supporter and republican financial donor, has shown nothing but distain for protestors who are calling for businesses to boycott Martin Selig buildings.
On Friday, July 12th, just two days before ICE’s planned raids on undocumented people in sanctuary cities, I was shocked to learn that my office, which serves primarily queer people of color, has unknowingly been funding Martin Selig and his anti-immigration agenda. During this time of political chaos, it is easy for important news stories to slip through the cracks. I had hoped that my leaseholder, who holds a doctorate in feminist theology, who co-founded a therapist training institute hailing itself as “dedicated to social change,” would’ve been forthright and transparent about this fact as soon as it was known.
In an email sent to tenants by Susan Hall on July 14th, 2019, she disclosed that she has known since last year that the building was owned by Selig, and felt “flooded and flattened” by the prospect of getting into a legal battle with Selig, and failed to take any action. By failing to inform tenants like myself, I unwittingly signed on another year’s lease in March, unaware of where my rent was headed. Current owner and CEO of MEND, Jacquie Gallaway also admitted to having known about the problematic ownership and said she was “unsure if she’d renew the lease in 5 years.”
During this time of political unrest, when so many of my clients are targets of this oppressive regime, when immigrant families are being torn apart and kept in cages, I often struggle with feeling like I am not doing enough to fight back. One of the simplest forms of resistance would have been moving my office out of a building owned by an anti-immigration billionaire Trump supporter. It feels like a betrayal to the communities I serve to be unwittingly complicit in funding this man.
Ironically, Susan should be quite sensitive to the plight of immigrant families and refugees. According to a 2015 interview with Friday Best, (an online magazine that highlights the achievements of primarily white women), Susan dealt firsthand with her own immigration struggles when she was unable to bring her adopted Ugandan son back home to the United States. She then faced the risk of deportation herself from Uganda. She shared how she naïvely believed it would relatively easy to bring her son into the US, proving she is aware of the realities of immigration, even for a white woman of privilege. Still, when confronted with the responsibility of transparency, for actually walking the walk and taking the unrelenting blows that are essential for true social change, like so many white feminists, Susan froze and failed to act.
I get that Susan is operating from a place of defensiveness for herself, her family, and her business, but by failing to address this issue, she forced the labor onto the queer, black, female tenants in her 200 1st Ave suite. When the news spread that our rent was funding Martin Selig, my peer QPOC therapists and I unanimously decided to vacate as soon as possible, as this was a clear breech of our ethical values, and we felt unsafe and unable to trust our suite manager who prioritized her own feeling of safety than that of her POC tenants and clients.
Fortunately, the larger Seattle POC therapy community has been generous in offering solutions to our sudden loss of office space, proving that by working together and connecting through communities, we can achieve more than operating alone. For some reason, Susan thought she had to go head-to-head with Selig himself. If she had been transparent, it is possible that through cooperation through protest groups and POC communities, we could have sent a powerful statement to Selig about his policies. Those who display white saviorism designate themselves as knowing what’s best for marginalized communities, resist deference to black female leadership, and default to their own instinct for self-preservation when challenged.
The work of social justice is not glamorous. It is not lucrative or romantic. If you’re white, it means losing financial, political, and social capital. It means putting yourself on the line in place of marginalized others, it means implicitly knowing that your white privilege protects you more than marginalized others. If you are only willing to receive the accolades of allyship and not accept the hardship, you are not an ally.
This essay illustrates an unfortunately common account of white-led liberal organizations causing harm against the marginalized communities they claim to serve, and why it can be risky for POC to trust white allies. You can quote bell hooks to me all you want, and tell me how great my hair is, but I’m not interested in financing white dreams of any scale.
The three displaced queer, black female therapists displaced from 200 1st Ave W are :
If you are interested in financing our queer black dreams of continuing to provide mental health services to predominantly marginalized communities, we are receiving donations to be evenly distributed through Venmo @Rian-Roberson or Cash app $RianRoberson.