A musical activist for the environment

Bee Elliott
Bee Elliott

Growing up in Southern California, Bee Elliott loved the outdoors — hiking in the redwoods, spending time on the beach. She also loved music — playing the piano and guitar. And, after her family moved to a small town in eastern Washington, she played the drums in the high school band.

When she was considering where to go to college, the University of Washington Bothell struck a chord.

“I was blown away by the campus. I fell in love with the biodiversity, how it was blended between the built and living environments,” Elliott said, noting the campus wetlands. “It was really attractive to me, not just another concrete paradise.”

While taking the Music and Philosophy course, she played her guitar in the greenhouse at the Sarah Simonds Green Conservatory. She saw the research projects there and resolved to major in Environmental Studies in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences.

“That’s when I decided to jump in, and I’m so glad I did,” Elliott said. “Learning about the climate crisis and extinction crisis while at UW Bothell, I decided this is what I want to devote my life to.”

Impactful activities, connections

Elliott was recognized this last academic year as one of the Husky 100, students from across all three UW campuses honored for making the most of their UW education.

At UW Bothell, Elliott met other students interested in combining music and environmental activism. They now sing in a group called The People’s Echo, which is supported by the nonprofit advocacy group 350 Seattle. Their music for climate justice includes a song about the Green New Deal that they performed during a Seattle City Council public comment period.

“It brought everyone in that room together, clapping,” she said.

Elliott also found passionate friends in the Sustainable Student Action Club. It connects with projects in the community, such as anti-pipeline campaigns and the FridaysForFuture movement inspired by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg. The club held dinner and discussion nights about the climate. It participated in exchanges with the Songaia co-housing sustainable community in Bothell.

As an outdoor wellness leader with the Office of Recreation & Wellness in the Activities & Recreation Center, Elliott once led a nighttime hike in the wetlands. After the pandemic changed the job, she shared ideas remotely for solo hikes and backyard meditation.

Seeing possible futures

Inspirational mentors at UW Bothell include Lecturer Amy Lambert, Assistant Professor Naomi Macalalad Bragin and Senior Lecturer Jennifer Atkinson, Elliott said.

“It’s awesome to have such strong womxn who are role models in my life — people I look up to and can see myself in, who allow me to see other possibilities for me,” she said.

Lambert led one of her classes into the wetlands. She asked everyone to close their eyes and listen to the sounds of the environment. Hearing the traffic on nearby I-405, she asked students if they would consider the place wilderness, Elliott said.

“It made me realize how the wetlands, this wilderness here, was so real regardless of I-405 being so close,” she said. “Wilderness is all around, waiting for us to help nurture it back into our communities and cities.”

Macalalad Bragin’s Hip-Hop Dance 4 Social Justice course taught Elliott how art and performance are strong messengers of healing and activism. “It made me realize how much we all carry stories, culture and language in our bodies through dances,” she said.

Atkinson’s Eco-Grief and Climate Anxiety seminar was transformative, Elliott said.

“I remember being really depressed a lot my first year because these things I was learning and participating in were so heavy,” she said. “So, I really appreciated Atkinson’s class on how to face these very real feelings and transform them into grounded action.”

More, please

After graduating in March 2021, Elliott hopes to continue at UW Bothell in the Master of Arts in Cultural Studies program.

“I really want to explore more of my music arts and performance work because that’s what I want to pursue, related to climate and social justice,” she said.

UW Bothell is a great place to bring your interests together in the classroom, Elliott noted.

“UW Bothell has really helped me step into my passion of being a climate and social justice activist — and has connected me so much deeper to the value of community,” she said. “When we can get a group of people together to devote some time to something and build a healing space for each other, it’s really empowering. It feels really good, and it gives me hope.”

Each year, the University of Washington selects 100 students who are making the most of their Husky experience. Thirteen UW Bothell students were recognized as part of the Husky 100 Class of 2020. What’s special about a Husky 100 recipient? They dare to do. They use what they learn inside and outside the classroom to grow personally and to create change in their communities.

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