by Susan Fried (words and photos)
Hundreds of people gathered in the parking lot of Catfish Corner Express in Skyway on Saturday, Aug. 9 for the Second Annual Afro Bite. Attendees sampled food from an assortment of Black-owned restaurants including the Mac Shack, Elotes Custom Corn, Heaven’s Kitchen, and of course, Seattle’s famous Catfish Corner. In addition to food, several Black-owned businesses also sold apparel, skin products, jewelry, books, and face masks.
Sheila Patton joined with the Melanin Movement Seattle to organize Afro Bite over the last two years. Patton says she wanted to create an event centering the Black community that would someday rival The Bite of Seattle. “I wanted to create a community space, a safe place where the Black community could come together, where we would empower, uplift, and inspire one another.” As a South Side of Chicago transplant, she said she was used to a large community of Black people, along with a sense of togetherness and unity, which she didn’t necessarily find upon first arriving in Seattle. She felt the city was lacking a sense of solidarity and compassion for one another, and she wanted to help create events that were safe places for Black people to “love on one another, grow together, and build a sense of community.”
As one of the few places in South King County not totally devastated by gentrification, Skyway was the perfect location for Afro Bite. Patton said, “Skyway seems to be one of the only Black communities still remaining; it’s one of the few places where the community still seems to be together.” She said that Skyway sometimes is given a bad reputation by people outside the neighborhood, but by living there she has discovered a sense of belonging. “It was a great place to try and change the narrative.” She said Catfish Corner, a longtime Black-owned Seattle restaurant with a location in Skyway, also inspired her to hold the event there.
Despite COVID-19, this year’s Afro Bite drew a sizable crowd and had even more businesses and restaurants participate than last year when it was held in Renton. Catfish Corner’s parking lot was large enough for people to social distance but still enjoy themselves and dance to upbeat R&B and hip-hop music that DJs spun on the day.
Given these unprecedented times and enduring fights for racial justice, it was important for this year’s Afro Bite to be a true celebration, says Patton. “This is a point where we get to celebrate our Blackness, as opposed to we have to stand up for ourselves, or we have to protest, or we have to make our demands, we have to fight for equality. Out here, right now, okay, this is a safe space where we actually get to have fun and just enjoy one another.”
Susan Fried is a Seattle-based photojournalist.