by Mark Van Streefkerk
After over a year of empty stages, live music has officially returned, and Columbia City Beatwalk is one grassroots organizing team that’s making it happen. Now in it’s 27th year, Beatwalk is bringing folks together from all walks of life for free outdoor music and entertainment right in the heart of Columbia City.
Their next Block Party event on Saturday, July 31, is something you don’t want to miss. Partnering for the first time with B.U.I.L.D. 206 — an organization with the vision that Black men are empowered leaders and mentors making positive changes in the lives of Black men and youth — the Block Party will feature games, contests, prizes, and a star-studded lineup of DJs, ending with neo soul and hip hop conscious group Black Stax. The family-friendly event will also include mostly Black and POC vendors with a focus on locally-made wares like oils, jewelry, candles, clothing, and more. The party takes place at “The Patio” on Rainier Avenue South and South Ferdinand Street between Geraldine’s Counter and Lottie’s Lounge.
As with all Beatwalk events, the Block Party is free, and will include internationally-renowned DJs Supreme La Rock, Mr. Nyice Guy, and Beatwalk resident DJ G. Prez, who also doubles as the graphic designer for event posters. The party starts at 2 p.m. with the Dolls & Gents Drill Team and Drumline, then a community Zumba class instructed by LaChelle Singleton and a MixFit set instructed by Terra Gilmore. After that, games and contests will be hosted by B.U.I.L.D 206, while DJs spin old-school R&B, funk, and hip hop. Black Stax, with their eclectic urban sound laced with jazz and 70s-era soul, will take the stage as the main event from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Booking coordinator Tish Gallow has helped organize Beatwalk events for the last seven years. “It’s important for me that I bring the Black community back to this neighborhood since it’s been heavily gentrified,” she said. “I take the time to book DJs and bands that have their own followings that are going to bring that community back to Columbia City. It’s been working really well.”
“Even some of the DJs, band members, and vendors used to live in the neighborhood but were pushed out due to gentrification,” Ms. Gallow noted.
In a typical year, Beatwalk events happen every second Sunday from June through September, with monthly themes developed by Ms. Gallow. June’s theme is American roots music. July is funk, R&B, and hip hop. August is world rhythm and beats, and September is “Anything Goes.” Beatwalk books performers, bands, and entertainment at Columbia City bars and venues like Lottie’s Lounge, Rookies Sports Bar and Grill, Rumba Notes Lounge, The Hummingbird Saloon, The Royal Room, Royal Esquire Club, Island Soul Rum Bar & Soul Shack, Tutta Bella, the Columbia City Ale House, and more, including buskers on the main strip.
This is hardly a typical year, however. Beatwalk is going without a lot of financial support they would normally receive from local businesses — businesses in the reopening stages themselves after over a year of pandemic restrictions and closures. Last year, Ms. Gallow hosted an online fundraiser sponsored by Rookies with some DJs from previous Beatwalk events, raising much-needed funds to help with future events.
“We’ve just been going off the cuff based on how much money we’ve been getting,” said Beatwalk operations manager Kate Bond. Events are “a little more random [and] just out here [on The Patio] and not in all the venues.”
Beatwalk kicked off this year with a Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday celebration in February, featuring music producer and DJ, Vitamin D, and zydeco music. A handful of events followed in April, May, and June, including one of two first-ever Beatwalk events in Hillman City at NW Peaks Brewery, with performances by Arturo Rodriguez & Friends and Sheila Kay & Friends. A Prince birthday tribute party took place on June 5. On June 26, Beatwalk presented their Summer Block Party with DJ G. Prez and R&B band Omega, featuring drummer Conrad Real of Digable Planets. The Summer Block Party was the first Beatwalk event with vendors.
Beatwalk hosted another Block Party with vendors at The Patio on July 13, starting with a community Zumba and MixFit class, a set from Kouyaté Arts — featuring West African music and dance — music producers and DJs Roc Phizzle and Funk Daddy and funk band Kevin Garner and the Soul Jam.
Even without a lot of their usual support, Beatwalk is putting together an impressive number of free entertainment events. “It’s so important and awesome for the neighborhood,” Ms. Gallow said. “It’s so fun, and the neighborhood needs it. Before COVID but now especially.”
After the July 31 Block Party, Beatwalk has at least two events slated so far: a Michael Jackson tribute party on August 28, featuring King of Pop impersonator Maurice “MoJ” Crallie, and another party at a date to be determined in September. Before COVID, there was also a first-ever Holiday Beatwalk that included free cookies, hot chocolate, cider, DJ Topspin, AKA Blendiana Jones, and a Black Santa — festivities that Ms. Gallow said would most likely happen again this year.
For Ms. Gallow, using music and dance is a way to “bring my community back to the neighborhood if only for that day. That’s my goal.”
The July 31 Block Party will be preceded by Jazz Night School’s Jazz About Town, a free performance and fundraiser at The Patio from 9 a.m. to noon.
The Beatwalk steering committee is composed of Tish Gallow, Kate Bond, Jardea Kane, and Myranda Miller. Volunteers from the community provide important support during events. Sponsors include 4Culture, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Georgetown Brewing Company, Jeffery Taylor of State Farm, Rookies Sports Bar and Grill, Island Soul Rum Bar & Soul Shack, King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, Jemil’s Big Easy Catering, The Moose Group Real Estate team, and more. You can contribute to Beatwalk via PayPal.
For vendor information, contact Tish Gallow directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
📸 Featured Image: Ben Hunter performs at Tutta Bella during the 2019 Columbia City Beatwalk. (Photo: Susan Fried)
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