by DJ Martinez
Last Saturday night, I visited the Hillman City Collaboratory. Upon entry, I found it filled with laughter, sweet and savory smells flowing from the kitchen courtesy of local culinary sensation Chef Tarik Abdullah, and rhythms from across the African Diaspora.
The occasion was La Matriz del Tambor (The Womb of the Drum) Volume 1, hosted by Black & Tan Hall, with featured musicians Latin/Brazilian jazz ensemble Todo Es, and Puerto Rican bomba superstars – Otoqui Reyes y Los Hijos de Agüeybaná.
I heard about the concert through mutual friends from the Seattle Fandango Project. Given our current political climate, I increasingly find myself, hungry for community, rhythm, and healing (okay, and good food.)
The event’s host, Black & Tan Hall – located just across the street from the Collaboratory (5608 Rainier Ave S) – is a community cooperative, reimagining how for-profits function by creating a space that prioritizes equity in its operations.
Founded in 2015 by Abdullah, Rodney Herold, and Benjamin Hunter, the space is intended to be more than a restaurant/dance club, also serving as a venue for artists and activists to gather for idea exchanges, goal planning, and influence the cultivation of local music, poetry, and food.
Creating such a space can be arduous. With delays over the past year stemming from the unique quirks of retrofitting a 100-year-old building, Black & Tan Hall is still organizing and putting on events in various other locations until they open, hence Saturday’s affair.
With its assemblage of South End community members across different stripes, La Matriz del Tambor Vol. 1 seemed to exhibit the essence of what Black & Tan Hall has been striving for.
An event invitation pinpointed just what the host hoped the gathered would experience Saturday night:
“Africa is the womb of the drum, and the drum is the womb of the people — a place of refuge and transformation. Rhythm has sustained the people through the brutalities of colonialism and slavery, and continues to have the power to uplift, unite, and heal.”
According to Vanessa Meraki, Black & Tan Hall partner and event organizer, “Throughout history and continuing to this day, there has been this trend of going into a territory, or someone else’s land, and taking the natural, cultural, and human resources from that place in order to make a profit. On a global level, we call this colonialism or empire, and on a neighborhood level, we call this gentrification.
So the Black & Tan Hall is working to be the opposite force — the one that sees the people, culture, and place as a network of relationships to be cherished and protected, not as commodities to be flipped on an open market. We are hoping to participate in a joy economy where the good things in life — friends, family, lovingly prepared food, soulful art, music, dancing — are the things we invest in. Our programming is diverse, but this is the belief working in everything we do.”
Saturday attracted a wide range of ages from the community, all present to spend time, eat, and dance together.
As I grow older, I’ve come to realize that dancing is the next piece to constructing my own healing. A way for me to ground, center, and feel alive in my own body. I’m grateful for spaces in Seattle like Black & Tan Hall, and to the artists and activists who provide the spaces and the music that not only provide a good time, but collective healing. I’m looking forward to volume 2 of this series.
Keep checking in with Black & Tan Hall for updates on on their progress and for more community events.
Featured image DJ Martinez