by Helene Schilders
Walk into historic Washington Hall and you can almost hear Jimi Hendrix’s iconic guitar sound. When he was still a teenager, the legendary guitarist performed with his band The Rockin’ Kings in the three-story structure that was built by the Danish Brotherhood Society in 1908.
Because Black performers weren’t welcome in Seattle’s white clubs, Washington Hall became the place where virtually every black artist, such as Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington, showcased their talent. Over time, the hall has been “a cultural home to many communities and art forms,” as its website states.
It’s only fitting that Garfield High School’s Parent Teacher Student Association chose to hold its annual auction at Washington Hall this year. “Not only are Washington Hall and Garfield High School two places in the Central Area with a rich history, there is a correlation between them,” explains PTSA co-chair Barbara Rockey.
She is one of the driving forces behind this year’s inclusive approach of the Purple and White Gala, a concerted effort to reach beyond class and race, and involve the whole community, as guests and contributors.
“Gentrification is making its way through the walls of Garfield and we want to reach back to the past and show what makes the Garfield community so rich, show the legacy these students left in music, sports and other areas,” Rockey says. “We’ve been very intentional in how we can create an opportunity for everyone to come in.”
This vision was brought to life with the help of Garfield Principal Ted Howard, Co-chair Lisa Fitzhugh and a group of parent volunteers, led by Auction Chair Kerstin Harding. A major part of the new approach is the support and outreach of the Golden Graduates, who graduated from Garfield 50 years or more ago, to other Garfield alumni, “with all their gifts and talents.”
A number of alumni who are now businesses owners will assist with entertainment (Jazmyn Scott of The Town Entertainment) and catering (DayoSense Catering and That Brown Girl Cooks!). MC Chukundi Salisbury, a Central District resident who tirelessly works to provide resources to students and families, lends his voice to make the event run smoothly.
The auction committee didn’t have a hard time finding alumni who wanted to contribute. “They were happy to be offered the chance,” Rockey says. “The passion of current and former Garfield students is like no other. They bleed purple and white, and stay true to being a Bulldog, even decades later.”
Like Washington Hall, Garfield High School has produced an abundance of talent over the last decades. Besides Jimi Hendrix, who is in the 1961 Garfield yearbook, jazz singer Ernestine Anderson and record producer Quincy Jones were students at the school. Jones, who lived on 22nd Ave and graduated from Garfield in 1950, raised $120,000 for Garfield and Seattle Central Community College at his 50th-birthday celebration at the Paramount in 1983. To honor one of its most accomplished students, Garfield opened the Quincy Jones Performing Arts Center in 2008, which is now the home of the Garfield Band, Jazz Band, Orchestra, Choir and theater group.
More recently, the high school has been a fertile breeding ground for rap talent. Macklemore (another alumnus who once stood on Washington Hall’s stage), Sam Lachow, Chandler, Lex, Otieno Terry, and female rapper Zalay Sherrell, or JustCallMeZ, all attended or are still attending Garfield.
The Drumline, who performed for President Barack Obama when he visited Seattle in 2016, will showcase its skills at the Purple and White Gala, one of several performances by current students and alumni that evening.
Everyone is welcome to attend the event at beautifully renovated Washington Hall. Advance tickets cost $75 but to make sure people with smaller budgets can also enjoy this evening, there is the option at the door to donate any amount guests can afford. Students will receive a discount to encourage them to attend.
The Purple and White Gala will start with a Happy Hour and a silent auction from 6 until 7 PM, followed by Raise the Paddle, performances and dancing.
“It will be a night to celebrate the beauty of our community,” Rockey says, “past, present and future.”
The Purple and White Gala will take place March 31, 2018, 6-10 pm at Washington Hall, (153 14th Avenue, Seattle)
Purchase tickets: Here