Remembering “Streetwise” — Why We’re Revisiting the Classic Documentary

By Shan Yonamine, Project Assistant, Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness


When I joined this team a few months ago, I was given the chance to watch and react to films about youth and family homelessness. My favorite, by far, was “Streetwise.”

It has been over three decades since this revered documentary first stunned the American public; however, the legacy of the film lives on, as many of the social issues illuminated in the film remain extremely relevant today. After watching “Streetwise” I found that it is not only an artistic representation of youth homelessness in Seattle, but also a powerful tool for advocacy.

As a project, we recognize the historical poignancy of this film, and we will be hosting a free screening on Friday, Oct.7 at Seattle University for anyone who wants the opportunity to watch this significant documentary. This is part of The Seattle Public Library’s “Streetwise Revisited” project, and the screening is just one way we are supporting the project.

In “Streetwise,” renowned photographer Mary Ellen Mark, her husband, Martin Bell and producer Cheryl McCall take us on a journey by providing us with a firsthand perspective on what it’s like to be a homeless youth living on the streets of Seattle – a perspective that was only made possible by spending months observing, building relationships with and gaining the trust of the children they chronicled.

Erin (who goes by her street name “Tiny”) on Pike Street, Seattle, 1983
Erin (who goes by her street name “Tiny”) on Pike Street, Seattle, 1983. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark.

After watching “Streetwise” for the first time, I was taken aback to say the least. The film is stunning, raw, heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time, which is not what I expected from a “documentary about youth homelessness in Seattle.” Continue reading

Inside “Heartbroken”: What we’ve all learned about domestic violence and the NFL
Emma Lytle with her boyfriend,  Ricky Martinez. She’s a lifelong Seahawks fan, but has recently been dismayed by the domestic violence incidents in the NFL.

It”s hard to believe, but when we first conceived of this blog series for Firesteel in late July, one of the most notorious, most-shared videos in history hadn’t even surfaced yet. All we knew was that last spring, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice had been seen in a surveillance video dragging the unconscious body of his then-fiancee Janay Palmer out of an elevator — an apparent domestic violence incident. We didn’t know yet what had happened inside the elevator.

As the National Football League (NFL) dithered about trying to decide how to handle that situation, we found out our project assistant, Emma Lytle, is a true-blue Seahawks fan. And we thought it might be fascinating to look at the incident through her eyes. So, we asked her to share her perspective via a Firesteel blog post for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Since then, it’s been a roller coaster. The shocking video* from inside the elevator was leaked — but why did it take so long and when did the NFL know about it? What’s the appropriate response to these incidents? Continue reading