Keeping the Unity in Community

Keeping the Unity in Community

Despite the many obstacles in place against it, community has remained an important part of Black culture. Seattle’s Black community transformed the 12 acres of land once belonging to William Grose, as a result of exclusionary and discriminatory policies, into a haven of cultural pride known as the Central District. However, much like many other cities around the US, these inhabitants eventually found themselves faced with displacement. With so many people being priced out of the neighborhood, the community and its rich history of triumph and innovation began to fade.

From this arose Africatown Central District Preservation & Development Coalition. Their work has been purposed to interrupt the erasure of Blackness from the CD by highlighting the history and monuments that hide in plain sight on its streets. For the many Black people who have moved to the city and are looking for community, it serves as a compass by which they can find home. Its comprehensive website bridges the gap between events and attendees, Black businesses and consumers, community and people. Most importantly, the coalition is championing to reinstate ownership of land and other assets back into the Black community. They have plans to acquire the Liberty Bank property on 23rd & Union following its development.

With the guided tours, acquisitions, and comprehensive online platform, Africatown Central District Preservation & Development Coalition is keeping the soul of Seattle in the Central District for the generations to come.

To find out more about the work being done and resources available, visit their website.

Equitable Outreach & Engagement from the Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods

Equitable Outreach & Engagement from the Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods

Message from Kathy Nyland, Director

"Mayor Murray recently issued an Executive Order directing the city to approach outreach and engagement in an equitable manner. Putting an equity lens on our approaches is bold and, yes, brave. It shows a commitment to practices that address accessibility and equity.

What does this mean?

  • We often hear that meetings can feel like we are “checking a box.” The Mayor’s action means we can create processes that are more relationship-based and build authentic partnerships.
  • It means that we can create plans that are culturally sensitive, which includes an emphasis on translated materials.
  • It means we broaden access points, identify obstacles and turn them into opportunities.

What else does this mean?

  • It means we have an opportunity to recreate, re-envision and reconcile many lingering issues, including defining the difference between neighborhoods and communities, providing clarity about roles, and creating a system of engagement that builds partnerships with, and between, communities throughout the city of Seattle.
  • It means that we will be working to expand choices and opportunities for community members throughout this city, recognizing a special responsibility to plan for the needs of those who face barriers to participation.
  • It means that we’ll work with city offices and departments on community involvement to ensure that they are effective and efficient through the wise use and management of all resources, including the community’s time.
  • And it means we will expand the toolbox and make some investments in digital engagement.

Seattle is a unique city, and we are fortunate to have so many valuable partners currently at the proverbial table. Those partners play an important role and that role will continue. While we are appreciative of the countless hours our volunteers spend making our city better, we recognize and acknowledge there are barriers to participation. There are communities who cannot be at the table, while there are some communities who don’t even know there is a table. This is where the Department of Neighborhoods comes in.

This is not a power grab. It is a power share. At the heart of this Executive Order is a commitment to advance the effective deployment of equitable and inclusive community engagement strategies across all city departments. This is about making information and opportunities for participation more accessible to communities throughout the city.

This is not about silencing voices. It’s the exact opposite. It’s about bringing more people into the conversations or at least creating opportunities for people to participate so they can be heard.

Face-to-face meetings are incredibly important and those are not going away. But not every person can attend a community meeting, and the ability to do so should not determine who gets to participate and who gets to be heard.

We’d love to hear what tools YOU need to be successful, and we’d like to hear how WE can help you. Share your ideas with us:

  • Send an email to kathy.nyland@seattle.gov. 
  • Contact us at 206-684-0464 or mail us at P.O. Box 94649, Seattle, WA 98124-4649
  • Join and follow the conversation online using #AdvancingEquitySEA at: Facebook - @SeattleNeighborhoods, Twitter - @SeaNeighborhood.

This is about making things easier and less exhaustive. This is about connecting communities to government and to one another. This is about moving forward. 

Kathy Nyland, Director
Seattle Department of Neighborhoods"

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.  

PEACE For Our Youth at UPC

PEACE For Our Youth at UPC

When Dr. Karenga created the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, he did so in an effort to celebrate family, community, and culture. It comes as no surprise that these very principles are the guiding force of the work done at Umoja P.E.A.C.E. Center (UPC).

As a “youth focused, community based cultural center in the heart of Seattle’s historic Central District”, UPC aims its efforts at one of our most invaluable assets: our youth. With a mission of empowering and inspiring young people through Positive Education, Art, Culture, and Enterprise (PEACE), UPC has been fulfilling that goal for years. Because of UPC, youth have access to activities and programs on topics such as civic learning, digital media production, visual/vocal/performing arts, gardening, and more.

Equally as important as the knowledge and opportunities made available are the relationships formed. UPC embodies the importance of unity (Umoja) andcooperative work & responsibility (Ujimaa) in their partnership with families, providing a wider net of community for our young ones. A shining example of this can be seen in the Game Changers Program that originated at Washington Middle School. Black men from the community saw a need for mentorship for the young Black males in our schooling system and created Game Changers to fill that gap. The 1st Annual Black Graduation was held to this very affect, as a community celebration and rite of passage for our youth who are excelling.

By enacting these principles, UPC has helped expose youth to new opportunities that may have otherwise been outside of their reach.  UPC is not only building their sense of competence, they are also putting them on their path toward their purpose (Nia) in a culturally relevant way.

Stay connected with UPC through their website  or Facebook page.

An Open Letter to the Black Community in the CD and Beyond

An Open Letter to the Black Community in the CD and Beyond

20% is not 0!

Dear Black Community,

           Over the past weekend the Seattle Times dedicated a lot of space to proclaim  “Seattle is losing its blackness” and “The Central District’s African-American Community is Moving Away”.

Black Community, ask yourself WHY would they do that!? 

Why would they want to drop the hint that “… Kent, where many Black Seattle households have resettled in recent decades, had become the “new” CD”? Could it be that nothing was done to mitigate the displacement of the historic Black residents from the CD, as is now being done for other ethnic communities in South Seattle and Chinatown/ID/Little Saigon? Or, could it be that there are some Black leaders still in the CD asking for that investment now and they think it’s too costly? Or, could it be that they have already promised the Central District to others? 

 

            All ethnic communities, including the majority community, understand the importance of a “sense of place.”  It is vital to a child’s sense of self-worth and self-value. A connection to a “place” where a person went to school, played on the playground, went to church, cried, ate, and danced is what grounds the spirit and soul of an individual. In fact, there are white educational institutions teaching young white leaders the importance of a “sense of place.”  The Central District is the historic Black Community in Seattle.  If we, as a people, let that die, our children will suffer even more. 

 

Let’s focus instead on hope.  Focus on the end of each article that spoke of:

  • A successful campaign that ended in the establishment of the Historical Central Area Arts & Culture District (HCAACD);
  • The words of Allen-Carston, “If we don’t take care of us, nobody is.”
  • Wyking Garrett and the efforts of Africatown to bringing economic and social justice to the CD;
  • The Black fathers determined to fight for their children. 
  • Focus most of all, to the words of our elder, Pastor Pat Wright who said, “I’m willing to fight for it, even at 72...Until the day comes that I can’t, I’ll still be out there fighting.” 

We stand with these community members and groups to stop the bleeding of our people from their historic community:  The CD.  We can heal the wound if we work together.  United, we are a powerful force!  Let’s keep our home--our “sense of place!”

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/

2016 Legislative Watch List

2016 Legislative Watch List

Bills & Budget Items that Black communities are organizing and developing policy around to help achieve greater racial equity for Black families.