Politics and endorsements aside, documenting the community leaders and activists that keep our neighborhood running is a duty of this website. For the first in a multi-part series on Central District’s neighborhood leaders and activists, I interviewed community builder and mayoral candidate K. Wyking Garrett.
Ignoring for a moment his candidacy for mayor, you wont find a person with the community driven background and determination comparable to Wyking Garrett. A third generation community builder born and raised in Central District, Garrett has been fighting for his neighbors since demanding a “culturally relevant, career based education” from his advanced progress program classes at Washington Middle School. He graduated from Garfield High School and headed out to New York to attend college and create hip-hop with a positive message. But Garrett came back, and volunteered as a member and mentor at Central Area Youth Association, at the Miller community center, and coached with the Seattle youth sports.
It is with this community focus that Garrett hopes to drive neighborhood improvements in Seattle as mayor. “Citizens have many of the answers, but government is not working with them for the solutions,” he said. Garrett said he sees education as an essential foundation for any neighborhood, but the current educational system is outdated for today’s economy. Attributing these problems to school closures, lack of universal access, and diminishing teacher pay, Garrett hopes to create cultural and historical centers to provide supplemental education until the system can be revitalized.
Outside of schools, Garrett stressed the need for proactive solutions to youth violence and gang activity with projects like the African American Heritage Museum at the Coleman school. “We need to give our young people something positive to look up to and build on,” said Garrett. He wants to build on the current makings of the African American community in the CD by creating “Africa Town,” a neighborhood foundation similar to the International District that builds a “coordinated effort” towards community improvement. Garrett also seeks to create bridges between historical residents and newer residents of the CD.
When questioned about equality and neighborhoods outside of the Central Area, Garrett stressed the issue of diversity, and the need to address neighborhood concerns from the ground up. “Issues are citywide, but not every neighborhood is the same. We can’t expect the same solutions to work across Seattle.”
On direct policy and platform questions:
- Garrett opposes the new Jail, and says the money is going into negative housing instead of education, rehabilitation, and positive, affordable housing.
- On overall housing, Garrett plans to follow a model based on the Habitat for Humanity: create jobs building affordable homes that the workers themselves can live in.
- Garrett is against the plastic bag tax, saying it is unfair to low income citizens, but supports mass transit and localizing jobs for less car travel.
Alongside his campaign, Garrett is still working actively in the community: leading the recent Umojafest, and as the founder and co-founder of the African American Heritage Museum and Cultural Center and the Umojafest P.E.A.C.E. Center respectively.
You can find more information about Wyking and his campaign at his website.