by Ellis Simani
As an influx of new capital, infrastructure, and suburban transplants continue to change the faces of several neighborhoods throughout South and Central Seattle, a new generation of artists, activists, and community leaders took center stage on Beacon Hill—giving voice to the experiences of many from Seattle’s inner-city neighborhoods.
This past weekend, the Station’s sixth annual Block Party brought several new artists in front of a crowd much larger than any in years past. Community members of all ages, genders, and colors, packed their raincoats and joined Station coffeehouse owner Luis Rodriguez for the free, all-ages event that has come to mark the beginning of the summer in the town.
Many of the performers were familiar faces within Seattle’s hip-hop scene. Stasia Mehschel, who up until recently performed in the nationally known duo TheeSatisfaction, took the stage after the group announced their breakup last month. She was joined by R&B singer JusMoni—performing as Saffroniaa—who beautifully harmonized to the dreamy tempo of Stasia’s production. Other favorites from the afternoon included Donormaal, Otieno Terry, and local hip-hop royalty Draze, who left the entire crowd silent as he recited bars from “Irony on 23rd,” which questions the presence of Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop in the CD, while also calling on community members to align social values with their purchase preferences.
The highlight of the entire event for many, was when a young group from the Northwest Tap Connection, an urban dance studio for youth in Rainier Beach, took complete control of both the stage and the crowd during a half-hour performance. The group, clad in all black clothing, was led, and at one point accompanied by, hip-hop instructor and performer Shakiah Danielson. Hearts were moved as the students, likely anywhere from ages 10-16, tapped in unison to a powerful song demanding listeners to say the names of black women and men killed by the guns of police officers.
Though many of the artists on the Block Party lineup introduced Beacon Hill to their work for the first time, it wasn’t difficult to notice long-time residents and Beacon Hill veterans Gabriel Teodros and Geo Quibuyen watching from the sidelines; giving space for a new generation of talent on the hill that’s been home to many loved figures in Seattle hip-hop for years.
Last year, Geo, and now LA-based producer Sabzi, gave the crowd a taste of the Blue Scholars classics that many have grown to love; songs that that feel like watching the sunset from the viewpoint, eating a meal at Inay’s, or hooping on the courts that used to be outside El Centro de la Raza. The Blue Scholars rarely perform or release music these days, and Geo watched the stage from the side, energy focused not on the crowd, but on preparing a few favorite dishes from he and his wife’s family pop-up restaurants Food and Sh*t and Hood Famous Bakeshop.
Gabriel Teodros, co-organizer of the event, couldn’t completely leave the stage behind. Though he has seemed to take a brief hiatus from working on music to focus on his creative writing, he briefly joined the talented youth of the Northwest Tap Connection, spitting verses in tune to the kids’ whips and nae-naes. This was only for one song though, and he watched the rest of the day’s performances from the back of the stage with a clear sense of pride and joy in his eyes. Perhaps he was also gaining inspiration for the work he’ll be doing while at the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop this summer.
There was certainly a lot to smile about this past Saturday. Ethiopian restaurant Hidmo came back, the Filipino dessert Halo-halo was served, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray was called out, and, and intersectional communities of black and brown individuals were given space and agency to speak their truths to an audience of new and old South End residents. In between downpours of rain and gray skies—amidst so much change occurring on Beacon Hill—the youthful energy of the block party performers gave hope for a new horizon. With the continued leadership of an older generation of Beacon Hill activists that begin to move beyond expressing their art solely through music, there is more hope than ever for those who will continue to grace the stages of the Station Block Party in years to come—even as the coffee shop moves locations and the neighborhood searches for light to guide it through a future that remains foggy.
The Sixth Annual Beacon Hill Block Party Photo Album by Alex Garland: