“A Vision for AfricaTown”
by: Addisalem Gebremedhin (of NewHolly Community) and Solomon Welderfael (of Yesler Community)
Photo Credit: Gari Watkins
Imagine a place where people of one community share resources. Imagine life without competition and instead replaced with collaboration. Imagine a collective society. Imagine our very own Central District possessing these qualities; building each other up instead of dragging one another down. Wouldn’t that be some place? Who wouldn’t yearn to live in that world?
…What if I told you that world was possible, even better what if I told you it was already in the works? Would you believe me? Or would you have to see? On Sunday,April 21st 2013 at around noon I stepped into this reality. The Umoja Peace Center (UPC) was holding their annual Africatown Spring Fest at the Horace Mann building on 24th& Cherry.
A lovely workshop titled “Meeting of the Minds” was being held in one of the classrooms. I found myself among 30-40 passionate African-descent people generating ideas for an “Africatown Center”. What a beautiful sight, our people coming together for the greater good. Now I may have stepped in here on accident but my involvement would most definitely have great purpose. As the saying goes, “everything happens for a reason”.
Furthermore, in this meeting we were all able to identify resources the community was lacking, resources the community possessed and resources the community could potentially do without. It was fascinating to learn about all the great things that people were already doing around the community –entrepreneurs galore, in their respective fields. With this knowledge we came to the conclusion that it would be best if all of these resources could be centralized, all working in one part of the community for all members of the community to access and contribute to. Much like a mall, but with important purpose. The resources within this building would both: generate revenue for the community, as well as provide services to the community members in many facets.
Following that meeting, on Sunday April 28th at 2pm we held a follow-up “Meeting of the Minds” at the UPC. This meeting continued the initial conversation which dove into what the operations of the “AfricaTown Center” could be.
The building is the property of the community by way of the Seattle School District, which for the past three years has leased the building to an organization, “Work It Out”. Also a Spanish immersion school has been renting a space from Work It Out for the last year.
Now, imagine if this building were able to be the home for many programs/services and businesses that directly impact the immediate community -and people of African decent in the greater Seattle area and northwest! At one point in time this was (one of) the most successful community of color in the northwest! Let’s take that back.
This is a progressive movement for all of people to support. A movement that will ensure that the dollar spent outside of the community, which never makes it back, can be spent within the community creating a flourishing effect to uplift us as a single community, in harmony. The time for us as a people to join in a unified manner has come; to eradicate the negative image we have been branded with, and more importantly the negative image we have of each other. We can change our world for the better, as one family.
After all, what good is an idle space? If not idle, what good is a space that does not aim to benefit the members of the community around it? Is it not the community that knows what’s best for them? Should it not be the decision of the community that matters? Far too long communities – especially those of color – have been dictated to. We’ve been told what we should have with no opportunity for input. We’ve been told what we should eat, wear, play, watch and how we should live. I say our time to have an input is well overdue.
Let’s take back power of what’s rightfully ours – our lives! But not only our personal lives, but the lives of our kids, our grandparents, our relatives, and the lives of our generations to come. We must not take the backseat in our lives. We must not stay silent and act as bystanders. We must be proactive, we must be fully engaged and involved in all things that effect our well being.
We must be aware of the food that we consume, the way we dress, the homes we live in, the streets we walk on , the overall lifestyles we lead. No one owes us anything but ourselves. We owe it to ourselves to lead healthy, positive lives. We can’t expect anyone but ourselves to make this true. That being said, we’ve got to make sure we do all that we can to build this hub in our community. This hub of resources will change our lives for the better, this hub will be the revolution we so desperately need.
Interested in joining this “AfricaTown Center” Movement?
Attend upcoming workshops at:
Malcolm X Day
Sunday, May 19th Noon – 6pm
or Contact the Umoja PEACE Center
located at: 1107 24th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122