CD Graffiti Watch: Anti-gentrification misfire hits Cortona?

Who can guess the word under the white bag in this message scrawled next to the door of 25th and Union’s Cortona Cafe? (It’s probably not “I love”)

I am a little bit confused by this message. Cortona Cafe (Full disclosure, the cafe was a CDNews advertiser at one time) is a non-profit shop that, aside from selling coffee and cafe food, focuses on providing community space for meetings of all kinds and on job training for youth (see our 2011 story about their changes). The despicable racial gap in employment rates among youth is often cited as a cause of youth violence.

On the other hand, Cortona offers their upstairs space to just about any community group that needs a space. Did this person target them for providing free meeting space?

Cortona has a diverse staff, diverse management and a mission that is specifically tailored to addressing problems in the Central District. In fact, gentrification is exactly one of the problems Director Jason Davison attempts to address. From our 2011 story:

There are a lot of issues affecting teens in the CD, like gentrification, said Jason.  “We want to work with youth that are caught, sort of lost in this phase of transition that the neighborhood is going through right now.” Little and the Davisons also see a lack of positive activities and job opportunities for young people in the Central District. These holes in youth services and outreach led them to want to develop a job training and placement program. With that in mind Cortona Cafe piloted this program last year by hiring two teens to work in the cafe. The teens learned barista and other food service skills and both completed the program and have moved on to other employment opportunities with solid training under their belts.

If people (or at least one person) thinks Cortona is part of the problem, that points out all the more the need for a deeper community discussion about gentrification. We’re clearly not all on the same page about what it is or how to address it. Seriously, someone should organize one. I know of a non-profit cafe on Union that has some space we could probably use.

44 thoughts on “CD Graffiti Watch: Anti-gentrification misfire hits Cortona?

  1. “We want to work with youth that are caught, sort of lost in this phase of transition that the neighborhood is going through right now.”

    This comment is pretty emblematic of the whole problem.

    The “transition” that the neighborhood is going through is not a neutral force of nature like a thunder storm or drought. People want cheaper rent or house prices and so they have started moving into the CD. This has gone on long enough to alter the make-up of this neighborhood.

    But there is this thing called capitalism that has created things called “property value” and “profit.” If property value goes up in hip neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, then young hipsters will move down the hill.

    Property values have gone up on the hill because of this thing called profit. Developers want to make profit and increase the value of their property. The profit motive is the heart of gentrification and makes it not a neutral thing.

    I have more sympathy for people who just want a cheap place to live than petty capitalists trying to make a buck off the new demographic.

    To get back to the quote:

    “We want to work with youth that are caught, sort of lost in this phase of transition that the neighborhood is going through right now.”

    This could also read:

    “We have noticed a lot of young white people have moved in so we want to give the natives the chance to serve them coffee and be able to adjust to the invasion.”

    This is a very colonial thing to say. Sorry. Not getting much sympathy from me on this one.

    Also, to further this discussion, any analysis of gentrification that does not take into account the FBI counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO) that destroyed revolutionary black movements (like the Panthers in the CD, for example) will always be a faulty and hollow analysis. Secondly, any analysis of gentrification that does not take into account the the importation of heroin and crack by the CIA into black neighborhoods in the US (this occurred with heroin from Vietnam in the 1970’s and cocaine/crack from Central and South America in the 1980’s) as part of their counter-revolutionary strategy will also be a faulty and hollow analysis.

    Basically, the FBI and the CIA helped destroy black communities for four decades. Anyone reaping the rewards of this operation are doing just that: profiting off misery. Just sayin.


    Before anyone levels accusations of conspiracy theories, I direct you to these three videos:
    (yes, even the CIA agent is profiting of being whistle blower)
    (if you watch anyone of them all the way through, watch this one)

  2. Unless the ownership has changed since 2011 none of what you posted applies to this particular story. The ownership is people from the community offering useful training to young people in the community. Being a trained barista allows you to pay for an undergraduate education while working flexible hours.

    Please see the link above (From our 2011 story)to the earlier story. Seems actually very much like a community place worthy of community support.

  3. There are people out on the fringe who will never want to join society in a productive way – such as somebody who would actually think as wordtoyourmother posted. Not saying that wordtoyourmother actually thinks the things (sheheit) says, just that somebody who would think that simply does not want to be an American.

    The thing is – you actually have to melt in. Remember the “melting pot” that we learned about? Let’s use a Faux Newsism here, because it does make sense. Let’s use the “multiculturalism” (MC) word which has replaced political correctness (PC).

    Under multiculturalism everybody can act according to their own laws. Typically this is used to swipe at muslims wanting to have their Sharia law. But, we can through anybody in to it. Gansters can follow their laws. Catholics can follow their laws. Sanduski can do his thing. Tea Baggers can do their thing. Every home can be a nation of it’s own.

    Thing is, we will end up having a civil war at some point. 20-200 years from now, probably closer to 20.

    You have to have some ability to forgive. Bad things happened to black people. Bad things happened to Chinese, Loatians, Japanese, Irish, Italians, Indians, Pollocks, Jews, etc, etc.

    So, do we all have to have reparations? Who’s gonna pay us? Prince Harry? Trump? Ya’ll owe me. I ain’t taking nothing less that everything I deserve or I ain’t gonna play your games ya big meanies?

    OK baby brother. Go to your room until you can learn how to play.

  4. No doubt it’s a carefully constructed statement… as the people who wrote it didn’t even bother to find out anything about the place.

  5. “We have noticed a lot of young white people have moved in so we want to give the natives the chance to serve them coffee and be able to adjust to the invasion.”

    This interpretation is pretty bitter. All I read is contempt, attitude, ignorance and bias. What would you want? An all black nation with no entry for lighter skin colors? Why aren’t black owners doing this sort of thing and blogging about it? I mean I study and understand a bit of racial history, including redlining and the past organization in the CD, but the times are a changin’. I don’t look for skin color, I look for ignorance and hate… they know all colors. I mean, the investment banker takes advantage of us all, from the mortgage crisis to the trend of betting against governments that are about to fail (to make a profit) rather than vesting themselves in fixing the problem. He doesn’t care what color the punked are, he only sees green. So I hate white advantage takers too, but I can make the distinction between unbridled capitalism and altruistic capitalism.

    Teaching youth how to make lattes equals a skill that could get you a job while you study to become a professional, not gentrification. If you don’t want to work for anyone that is not your color, it’s your problem. It’s your hate, too. Just know that.

  6. If you look at the photo of the owners from the story in 2011, the argument made by wordtoyourmother is moot…

  7. Check it:

    Skin color doesn’t matter when it comes to gentrification. Some dude from India who moved to work at Microsoft can be, for sure, a total asshole and hate his neighbors and want everything to be sterile as a fucking mortuary.

    So some of the owners of this cafe are a bunch of UW students who settled in the CD. Great, but it doesn’t erase any of the past crimes of the triple assault of government imported drugs, gang warfare, and police terrorism, all aimed at crushing black resistance movement to capitalism.

    Also, the cafe has/had some shady connections to Mars Hill, that psychotic church that hates women.

    Anyway, I hope you all watch Bastards of the Party and not Fox News like Grumbo does.

    Capitalism was restructured in the 1970’s, around the same time the FBI and the CIA were putting the finishing touches on channeling revolutionary black energy into drugs and gang warfare. This restructuring left black families without work and with children who could only make money by selling drugs. When I say restructuring, I mean relocating industrial and manufacturing jobs overseas, eventually paving the way towards the service-work-centric world we live in today.

    “We have noticed a lot of young white people have moved in so we want to give the natives the chance to serve them coffee and be able to adjust to the invasion.”

    It is an invasion, it has a history, and too bad if you don’t want to learn that history. Everyone is being funneled into the service sector and those who live off the underground or don’t make enough money are being pushed out of their traditional neighborhoods, sometimes by gentrifiers, sometimes by police, sometimes by raised rents. Nothing is neutral, everything has a cause.

    I have no idea what the tagging is referring to, but it clearly sparked some conversation and reaction.

    Word to your mother.
    (re: coping with a shit ass life)

    So……..that’s why I wrote this:

  8. Try Tuogo. Great Coffee. I think Brian owns the place and he looks kind of black to me. Excellent coffee and nice sidewalk seating.
    18th and Cherry. His drinks are better than Broadcast, but, too far to walk on a work morning.

  9. Lot’s of local blacks are doing just fine. Much like a bunch of white swamp people some of the local’s are having trouble because they are shiftless, lazy, aimless dorks. It’s not a race thing. Race can play a part. But you get no race card if you won’t even sit at the table and play poker.

  10. Brian’s a successful business owner partnering with two others, teaching kids skills and modeling how to run a business is positive. If it’s problematic, well, then there’s not much to talk about…

    As to your historical, financial points about the market forcing people to move, that’s true. I’d wager in most countries that’ll always be true and it effects all of us in different ways. As to your other point about a decisive and destructive shift in this country to a service economy that’s also true and it’s a dangerous development.

    Still, in this particular case a business seems to be offering valuable, marketable skills to young people from our community that will allow them to stay in school and get a degree while making money and also teaching them a bit about what it means to be a small, effective business. Teaching someone what it takes to run a business is likely the one way for individuals to escape the service economy, and that is learned by working in those businesses. Overall, I think that’s a great thing for us collectively in our community.

    I’m just saying this business deserves our support and our kudos and to label them gentrifiers is missing some other valuable points.

  11. oh gawd, the last thing we need is people trying to talk more about this subject….people are over it already. its a dead horse. cant we rail on pit bulls or bike lanes??

  12. alright, man, you just said “As to your other point about a decisive and destructive shift in this country to a service economy that’s also true and it’s a dangerous development.”

    fostering that destructive development AND profiting off it are not steps towards destroying this out of control economic system. sure, people can survive off the wages these cafe owners provide, but it fucking sucks to be a wage slave and float around all your life. I know grumbo is probably nice and happy but everyone else who isnt an old man who worked real hard for this country are precarious workers drifting around getting whatever work they can get.

    this shit sucks and i’ve seen and been part of the petty-bourgeoisie you work for me/i give you money/your still my employee/you have to do a good job thing long enough to know i probably wouldn’t be friends with the owner of my cafe had i not needed money and were they not willing to take advantage of the fact i was looking for work. capitalism is rotten to the core. no, i’m not a communist, socialist, whatever.

    i think people should question more, deconstruct more, and not help perpetuate what they know is fucked up.

  13. This Grumbo ( hesheit ) is out of touch with reality! Hooray to whoever tagged on that door!! Its got people talking about real community issues. Just because you choose to ignore it, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. I think ol’boy’girl’it ( wordtoyourmother ) makes some valid points, but choose the wrong platform to soapbox. Clearly thee afore mentioned did no research into the coffee shop. What happened in the CD over the last 20yrs is a true tragedy that should have a documentary about the before and after! This fact can not be changed. Folks on both sides need to stop and LISTEN to each other. I do Believe if more neighbors did neighborly things, simple things, like say “hi” or responding when one does says “hi” can ease some of these tensions. You people are making this out to be way tougher than it needs to be! At the end of it all, we are AMERICANS 1st, and all your titles 2nd.

  14. what i’m over is all the crappy nostalgia that people have for this magical great time 5,10, 20, 50 yrs ago ‘before’ whatvere they’re comlaining about happened…whether its gentrification, or before the city got too crowded, or when traffic wasnt bad , or beforentheir favorite little haunt was discovered blah blah blah.

    if you actually bring someing new to the discussionm or an actual plan or idea on something to do about, all this ‘talk’ and consensus building or ‘blame someone else’ for my problems is a loser mentaility which will only result in more victimization. btw, its 50 yrs since the 60s……entire comunities of immigrants from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam,Mexico et al have moved here and succeeded tremendously…and i think the CIA messed up their homelands way worse than what happened to the Black Panthers.

    so please, enlighten me…tell me where its OK to buy my coffee, get my groceries, and get a beer? where will i not be keeping someone down? awaiting breathlessly….

  15. It is the oldest story in the book. Has been taking place since groups of people built home near each other and called it a village. Blaming the CIA and FBI for this is asinine and a distraction. Blaming the “non-native” (ha!) people who move into the CD is hateful and ignorant. Yes, our economy is screwed, young people have few career prospects and their future is bleak but these are separate issues from CD gentrification. The graffiti writers are disaffected people lashing out at a convenient target because the real targets are inaccessible.

  16. One of the things that happened in the CD over the last 20 years is that many old buildings were saved from becoming demolition projects. Mostly people with a little money and a lot of sweat equity. A neighborhood cannot survive without ongoing work on the building side. If something is torn down, it will be replaced with something new and upscale, and there is more gentrification. You can’t build an old apartment house or home.


  17. I’m not from Seattle but I been here 12 years. I have a low income. I moved to the CD because I like the area and people and I can afford it.

    I’m white.

    Am I allowed to live hear?
    Do all my black neighbors secretly hate me?

  18. Look up a 100 year history of the neighborhood, and you will find that in the late 19th century it was a largely Chinese-American neighborhood before becoming a largely Jewish-American neighborhood, and then a largely African -American neighborhood after the Korean war.
    That’s all after it was a Native-American neighborhood for about 9000 years.
    Everything’s always in transition.
    Equity is a universal problem not solved by neighborhood turf wars.

  19. Yes. There is widespread racial disharmony. You are also a racist. Deal with it the best you can.

  20. “…so we want to give the natives the chance…”

    The “natives”?
    Your attempt to reconstruct that statement speaks volumes.

    Unfortunately we live in a world where people’s personal truths become “facts” and any attempt to discuss outside the boundaries of their “facts” will be rallied against.

    And if you haven’t noticed, the discourse is picking up.

  21. “We’re going to invade your neighborhood and make you all work for us. Deal with it, sissy.”


  22. Gentrification?? ok hate to burst your bubble but that’s old news. I heard about that a couple years ago. can we talk about something else?

  23. i know you are new her “MrsD”… you”ll understand soon enough. (hi Grumbo!)

  24. Though I’m not a fella, it’s more about the fact that Grumbo is a self admitted troll who may or may not actually live in the neighborhood. I have leaned both ways in regards to whether he lives here. Currently I’m leaning towards doesn’t live here. After all, he didn’t even know there was a water feature in Pratt park but that is his supposed turf.

    I have no qualms with alternate points of view. Absolutely. No. Qualms. In fact, I prefer to read them in neighborhood blogs and their comment sections. I also prefer that the opinions belong to real people who hold them. Instead we get grumbo, deliberately trying to offend and experiment with his writing and ideas and characters. Grumbo is like salt. How much you like is definitely a personal preference, but there is a undeniable point where there is too much salt and the food sucks. If he hasn’t hit the level yet, he is quickly approaching it.

    Sadly, I find there are not a lot of alternate points of view discussed on this site. There tends to be a few different vantage points represented here, but things are pretty predictable nevertheless. There is a central district news peanut gallery and I’m not sure it creates a place where readers want to comment. The dynamic of discourse in the comment section was set a long time ago, with the dinosaurs and Scott. Nothing much has changed regarding that.

  25. There is growth then there is urban decay and then renewal or gentrification if you will. Plant a garden and you can observe the same thing. If you want your seed to survive, fertilize it. Complaining about your seed isn’t doing shit for it.

    I work alongside all races and beliefs and we produce wonderful things without thought of our color or religious beliefs. What a sad place to work it would be if we focused as much on the advantages and disadvantages of our background than the product we produce.

    Get over it and join the march forward. That’s where your future is. No one is going to give you a reservation where you can put a black casino. In case you didn’t notice, that model didn’t make anyone happy. Even there a few at the top profit while the majority live with less.

  26. I really don’t see what you are so bitter about. I was simply answerring a question.

  27. “Get over it…No one is going to give you a reservation where you can put a black casino”

    Why hello, Offensive. My name is offended.

  28. Don’t forget the Japanese, whose houses and businesses the new black middle class bought at fire sale prices as a result of the internment, in concentration camps, of our American neighbors of Japanese descent.

  29. Say all your assumptions about the government actions are true. I personally don’t believe your assumptions are correct but for the sake of conversation lets assume they are. Then what? Sit around, be mad and wait for that to not have happened? We are where we are and kids need skills to make money. Making coffee is perfectly respectable job. You provide a service, you get a paycheck. What you choose to do from there is really where the rubber meets the road.

  30. You know, my wife calls me crazy, but I swear my new white neighbors are CIA and counter-intel. Thanks, I thought I was plain ol’ crazy!

  31. Whites leave a neighborhood?


    Whites move into a neighborhood?


    Pick a lane and stay in it folks.

  32. lhunter76 Why not contribute to the conversation rather than attacking your neighbor? It’s a common net tactic to attack someone rather than their argument. Stick to the topic, rather than personal attacks.

  33. Just look at what this privilage minded gentrist thinks it is all about me me me. Just stfd now and then.

  34. The problem is following the civil rights all of us black folks were no longer forced to live in the hoody hood hood. Now we could live wherever we wanted most of us like all the white people left for the suburbs abandoning our neighborhood and only leaving the trash behind and a few people who were smart and stayed in the CD. People predomitaly white with no children relized how close the CD was to downtown and the wonderful housing stock. That’s when the gentrifaction happened. Today most of the people that left the CD are in areas like kent and or Renton where you are depended on your car and just is not the same as the CD. We all want ot experience what we don’t have and that’s what did by fleeing the neighborhood that we were forced to live in for generations due to housing covenants. I wish my realtives and friends did not have left the central area and hung on to their houses and kept the Central District a hub of the black community.