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community

Building the Community at Village Spirit Center

Building the Community at Village Spirit Center

“Our Vision- Being genuine and authentic in the spirit of the village, we will work for the collective wellbeing of the Black community across western Washington in helping to elevate the social and economic realities of Black/African American families.”

There are a select number of entities that are truly working toward equity for the Black community. Oftentimes, to the detriment of our success, those that claim to aid us do so in a mad dash for resources or from a place of ill intention. We see a divergence from that theme of faux-advocacy with the Village Spirit Center.

Housed underneath Catholic Community Services, the VSC sprouted from an initiative charged with aiding communities of concern individually, including the African American community. It has been elevating the well-being of the Black community since its origin, under the leadership of Evelyn Allen. The work done at VSC has cultivated opportunities for the Black community in areas such as affordable housing, transformative services, and asset acquisition. They currently operate three residential properties with several more in their pipeline, offer on-site assistance for residents, and have opportunities for residents to learn about ownership and wealth building options.

The Village Spirit Center’s consideration of cultural norms and celebration of the Black community’s contribution are, no doubt, a product of its Black leadership. The genuine and authentic village-centered approach of VSC shows that we go farthest when we go together. To stay updated on what’s next for VSC, visit their website.

Strength Amid the Struggle

Strength Amid the Struggle

The recent killings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and Alva Braziel at the hands of law enforcement have served as somber reminders of the realities facing the Black community in America. These tragic events highlight the importance and necessity of change within our country and systems. Although the need may be apparent, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with a feeling of helplessness. 

We, at BCIA, want to take this moment to remind our community that our power is still present and thriving in our collective commitment to strengthen ourselves by our own efforts. We are utilizing this moment of anguish to reassure our community that we are not helpless and change is ours to make.

Here are some local organizations and causes that are working toward strengthening our community: 

BlackOutWA- building Black political power at the state level, leading legislation around legal financial obligation reform, community review board and funding for the William Grose Cultural Innovation Center

YUIR/EPIC- fighting the construction and destruction of a $210 million dollar youth jail on 12th and Alder; redistributing $500k+ for Black-centered, community-owned organizing that will combat youth incarceration

BUILDconducting Walk in Talks at Seward Park.

Black Prisoners' Caucus- organizing men from behind the walls to be leaders in the outside community.

NAACP- pushing for the election of a Black King County prosecutor committed to prosecuting officers for misconduct. 

Not This Time- gathering signatures for statewide reform to change the law requiring malice to prosecute officers.

AfricaTown- connecting community members/ builders to opportunities to add their gifts/talents/skills towards making our village viable and vibrant, peaceful and safe. 

Justice Or Elseadvocating the Black Dollar Boycott. 

 

We share these, not only to spread awareness, but to connect assets to movements for those who haven't found a place where they can help bring about change. If you know of any other efforts, feel free to share.  

Hack Nation Creating Viral Change

Hack Nation Creating Viral Change

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community...” –Cesar Chavez


A flame was sparked in 2014 at the Hack the Central District Cultural Innovation Conference (“Hack the CD”). Great minds convened to tackle issues affecting their community and, as a result, many noteworthy solutions were introduced. Of those ideas that surfaced, Hack Nation organically sprang forth from the desire to share the example set by Hack the CD with neighborhoods across the globe.

Hack Nation holds the vision of being a facilitator of change at the neighborhood level, a target base that separates it from most other organizations and efforts. As an entity that enacts human-centered design and approach, Hack Nation empowers resource-constrained communities to use their intellectual, ingenuitive, and skill-based wealth to change their realities.

Leveraging community assets is an identifiable theme in many of its programs. For example, the Africatown Seattle Entrepreneurs Meetup Group seeks to share knowledge and provide a productive environment for like-minded people to incubate ideas. Black Dot, a membership community for black entrepreneurs, is an example of an idea that came out of last year's Hack the CD event and has continued to thrive. Hack Nation has partnered with Black Dot to pilot Accelerate Africatown, a series of workshops and bootcamps throughout the year that help propel seed stage and existing businesses. The Seattle Black Music Summit is a yearly gathering of music-related artists that increases awareness of opportunities and strengthens the networks between creatives and potential collaborators. Hack Nation also now houses the Hack the CD conference under its umbrella of awesomeness.

Its programming is just a small glimpse into the potential Hack Nation has of bringing inclusive innovation to non-dominant populated neighborhoods. They are shifting the individual mindset to a collective prosperity for the community. Get ready for a Hack Nation event near you!

Visit their website or find out how you can support here.

All Power to the People with Black Out WA

All Power to the People with Black Out WA

“We say all power to the people- Black Power to the Black People, Brown Power to the Brown People, Red Power to the Red People, Yellow Power to the Yellow People.”


This quote, taken from the Black Panther Party’s slogan, perfectly sums the importance of self-advocacy for marginalized groups around the world. Considering Seattle’s own extensive history with the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Movement, it is no wonder that this mantra would be embodied in one of the most crucial community organizations in town- Black Out WA.

As an anti-racist, Washington-based advocacy group focused on building capacity around political advocacy & civic engagement for families of African descent, there is a marked difference between the work Black Out WA does compared to other policy-focused advocacy groups.  They are led and organized by members of the Black community.

For people of African descent who suffer the trauma of colonialism and racism, it would be remiss not to counter the dominant white culture and practices that fuel oppressive institutions with a more culturally-reflective and holistic approach to legislative work. In recognition of this, Black Out WA intentionally bases their approach, attitudes, and focus around pan-African culture, making sure to engage every group of the community from young to old.

In that same vein, Black Out WA partners with other community organizations and interests groups to ensure that the work being done reflects an expressed need from the community. Some of their projects include Legal Financial Obligation Reform and the “2nd Chance Act”, An Anti-Racist Approach to Parole: two efforts led by the Black Prisoners Caucus. Through their work with the BCIA, they have also helped secure $2.2 million for the William Gross Cultural Innovation Center. Moving forward they will be supporting the Seattle King County NAACP- Police Accountability and the Seattle Black Book Club with their #BlackLivesMatter Police Accountability platform; aiding the All-City Black Student Union, NAACP-Education, and Black Law Student Association on their #ArrestTheLegislature campaign; supporting EPIC’s work with #NoNewYouthJail; and furthering the causes of the BCIA and NAACP-Economic Development in supporting Black entrepreneurship and growth with the #StopBlamingHookahLounges initiative.

Learn more about their work by following their Facebook page. Meetings are also held every 1st and 3rd Friday, 6 PM, at the Black Power Epicenter (for Black community members only).

Setback at Africatown Innovation Center

Setback at Africatown Innovation Center

On March 26, 2016, emails and social media posts began to circulate regarding an attack on Africatown's edifice located along Martin Luther King Way S. and S. Alaska.

Post from Africatown Innovation Center's Facebook page.

 

The center, which provides programming and support for youth and families of African descent, was the target of burglary and vandalization. Computer chords were cut, anti-Black speech and threats were tagged on the walls and whiteboards, and electronic equipment was stolen.  Due to the damage of essential equipment and security concerns, the center was forced to suspend all after-school and summer programming until the space has been restored and new safety measures are employed.

Over 100 members of the community come together to support reconstructive efforts.

A community meeting was held on the 28th to plan the next steps for rebuilding. Despite this truly saddening setback, the team members at Africatown Innovation Center remain undeterred in their effort to continue working toward the betterment of the community.

If you are interested in contributing your services or donating in-kind or monetary gifts, click the links below.


For more information on Africatown Innovation Center, visit their website or follow their Facebook page.

Reclaiming the Narrative at Black Dot

Reclaiming the Narrative at Black Dot

Seattle's Central Area community members have seen the corner of 23rd Ave. and Union St. change immensely over the years. Shifting from a lively node along the corridor with an unparalleled 73% Black population, to less than 20% today*; this corner has heard the outcries of rebellion and felt the shimmering pride of a resilient community. Despite all of the great things birthed from this epicenter, the area has been branded as a place of violence and drug activity among the larger city. Noting this, the founders of a new entrepreneurship cultivation hub, called Black Dot, make it a part of their mission to rewrite the narrative of 23rd & Union.

Honoring the strong sense of community that was once there, Black Dot fosters an intentional community of entrepreneurs all aiming to support new, existing, and prospective Black businesses. They do this in three ways:

 1) By providing a physical space for entrepreneurs to vend in the retail/gallery area, or work in the tech lounge area;

2) Providing the opportunity for networking in the entrepreneur sect and surrounding community; and

3) Hosting workshops and trainings for business owners to gain knowledge.

With events such as “Selling Your Art, Not Your Soul” providing professional advice for artists, “Finding Money for Small Businesses” detailing sources of funding for business owners, and  “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” offering a breakdown of effective marketing images, Black Dot is keeping the benefit of the community at the core of what they do.

In a neighborhood that is ever-changing and forgetting the positive imprint the Black community had on that very corner, the work being done at Black Dot reminds us all of the greatness that was and is to come at Midtown.

For more information about Black Dot’s mission, memberships, or event line-up, visit their website blackdotunion.com or email blackdotunion@gmail.com.                                                                                                                     

*Source: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/historically-black-central-district-could-be-less-than-10-black-in-a-decade/

A Legacy of Storytelling Continues

A Legacy of Storytelling Continues

“All we do is story.” –Ben Okri

Historian. Praise-singer. Musician. Griot. Poet.

The tradition of storytelling has been upheld within West African culture for ages. In an effort to preserve and share the culture and happenings of the African-descended community in Seattle, this practice will be continued within the Black Community Impact Alliance (BCIA).

In my work as the Community Storyteller Fellow of the BCIA, I will highlight some of the work taking place in the community, as well as, document the rich history of Seattle’s Black population.

Before stepping into this role, however, I find it necessary to introduce myself. I was born and partially raised in St. Louis, MO, with an older sister and younger brother. For the rest of my youth I grew up in states below the Mason-Dixon Line, so my Southern hospitality is still intact and my kitchen is forever blessed by my grandmother’s recipes. As a child, if I wasn’t playing outside or bothering my sister, I was writing poetry. In my teenage years I experimented with songwriting and, as I grew, so did my craft. I attended Fisk University and graduated with a dual degree in Psychology and Spanish, which helped me join my passion for writing with my propensity for observation.

Having witnessed the frustration that can occur when one can’t see the work being done to better our situation, I hope to bridge the gap between the community and those members who champion on its behalf. I hope to connect the stories of our elders to that of our new generation and those to come. And, as I carry on our cultural tradition of storytelling, I hope to honor and preserve our story, page by page.

Monica W.  Community Storyteller of the BCIA  Photo by Morgan Preston

Monica W.

Community Storyteller of the BCIA

Photo by Morgan Preston