by Amanda Ong
This past Saturday, Nov. 13, was the grand opening of Estelita’s Library’s new location in the Central District (CD). The justice-focused community library opened in 2018 in Beacon Hill, but their brand new space in the CD represents an exciting new chapter for the library and the community. This move has been months in the making.
“We own this space now,” said cofounder Edwin Lindo in an interview with the Emerald. “And that’s a powerful place to be in for the community. To not be displaced.” Lindo previously rented the Beacon Hill location with his cofounder and wife, Dr. Estell Williams.
The grand opening saw over 500 people attend throughout the day. Free food was provided by Mumu’s Kitchen and Feed The People Seattle, with music by DJ Vitamin D. The founders, contributors, and attendees alike are hopeful to utilize the new location for new and engaging events. Lindo said that the library’s Beacon Hill location created community space in beautiful and surprising ways: People have organized and started businesses, met and fell in love, and even written Ph.D. theses at Estelita’s Library.
Chef Tarik Abdullah, the founder of Feed The People Seattle, was raised in the CD. He and Edwin met years ago at The Station coffee shop’s original location, where Estelita’s Library later opened when the coffee shop moved into Plaza Roberto Maestas across the street. “It used to just be us around here,” Abdullah told the Emerald. “And it is so important that despite things becoming gentrified, we are still making spaces for us. We need to not just use [these spaces] but continuously use them.”
Lindo and Williams have lived in Seattle for about a decade, but are originally from the Bay Area. They named Estelita’s Library after their 4-year-old daughter, Estella. The two also just had a son, Sandino, three weeks ago. “We realized that we would like a space for our children where they can come and learn about their history, learn about their people, learn about struggle and liberation and theory,” Lindo said. “It is not without our children that we see a future that is free from oppression and marginalization.”
After moving to Seattle, Lindo and Williams wanted to make a concerted effort to be a part of community building rather than gentrification, especially as transplants. Williams says that the effort required them to ask themselves what they could add to the Seattle community knowing that their children would be raised here and how their vision fit in for those who had been here all their lives. And thus, Williams first sparked the idea that would become Estelita’s Library.
Williams and Lindo say their values stem from recognizing the struggles of gentrification from their own communities in Seattle, a trend they feel is encroaching in almost every major metropolitan city. “This area reminded me of where I grew up, as it was being hyper-gentrified,” Lindo said. “And it took a clear resistance of that gentrification to say, ‘No, we’re not going to let that happen. We’re not going to allow you to steal our culture.’ And we’re grateful because the community has embraced us.”
At the grand opening event, the couple awarded Abdullah the inaugural Estelita’s Library People’s Award, calling him a role model of visionary justice. Abdullah runs programs at Feed The People to mentor and teach youth how to cook. During the pandemic, he provided free vegan meals to those in need. “I can’t do this the rest of my life and Edwin can’t do this the rest of his life,” Abdullah said. “So we are responsible to make sure that we set some form of pathway.”
People are welcome to visit Estelita’s Library and choose any book to read for as long as they want. Lindo and Williams hope to build community relationships to the point that they can operate on a system of trust: If someone wants to borrow a book, they can take it and the library will trust them to return it.
“It won’t happen on the first day, but we want to make sure that folks realize that there’s an opportunity to build enough trust to take books out and return them,” Lindo said.
You can also buy books from the library through Bookshop.org or donate books to the library. In the past, Estelita’s has offered a variety of events including poetry readings, book readings, organizing meetings, art events, even events teaching the lessons of the Black Panthers, which they share through Facebook and Instagram. Lindo said that the space is intended for community use — whatever events the community wants to create, he welcomes them. “But liberation doesn’t come alone from the space,” he added. “It comes from the people who are learning within the space.”
Lindo’s and Williams’ words have resonated with their community. Attendee Jazmen Moore said of the library, “Communities on the south side of Seattle have experienced a lot of gentrification. But this space is being intentionally built to bring together Black and Brown and Indigenous folks to gather and share space with one another in a lot of beautiful ways.”
Attendee Carwina Weng, who works at Seattle University and recently moved to the CD, emphasized the value of the library for the community in light of the gentrification in the Central District. “CD is changing so much, having moved into the neighborhood itself, it’s such a diverse area,” Weng said. “So [the library] feels like reclaiming, remembering, and reminding everyone this community is very diverse.”
Williams cites her understanding of the South Seattle community’s resilience as a huge inspiration in the library’s founding. Seeing the growing Africatown community and Filipino restaurants coming back signify to her that long-standing Communities of Color are fighting to be present and claim their space. “I think that these communities, no matter what, have been so resilient in maintaining their identity, fighting for it, and finding ways to preserve it, even in light of the big money that exists here,” Williams said.
The community framework of Estelita’s Library and commitment to the next generation reflect a kind of beautiful, hopeful, radical love that even most activists can only dream of.
“This is our service. And the service is again the beloved community that Dr. King has talked about, the ‘by all means necessary’ that Malcolm talks about, and the radical and visionary justice that Octavia Butler talks about,” Lindo said. “But we don’t get to know those things unless we have the books to learn about them. And I say it all the time that the secrets are in those pages that many folks have tried to hide from us. And now we have access [to them] anytime and whenever we want.”
Visit Estelita’s Library at their new location at 241 Martin Luther King Jr. Way South.
Amanda Ong (she/her) is a Chinese American writer from California. She is currently a master’s candidate at the University of Washington Museology program and graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with degrees in creative writing and ethnicity and race studies.
📸 Featured Image: Over 500 people attended the grand opening of Estelita’s Library’s new Central District location on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. (Photo: Susan Fried)
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