Photo of hundreds of people dancing the Electric Slide on a city street in Seattle.

Africatown Community Land Trust Celebrates Black Wall Streets and Malcolm X

by Ronnie Estoque

Africatown Community Land Trust (ACLT) will be hosting its Malcolm X Day Celebration this Saturday, May 21, at Jimi Hendrix Park, ending a week of celebrations held in his honor. On May 30, it will also be hosting “Honoring Our Black Wall Streets,” which will take place at 23rd to 25th Street and Jackson Street in the Central District.

“We really wanted to just uplift some of those vendors and small businesses, not only [those] that were historically burned down in Tulsa, but also some of the ones that have been gentrified, and moved out here in the Central District,” Antonesha Jackson, event coordinator for the ACLT, said regarding the May 30 event. “Especially during COVID, a lot of businesses weren’t getting the resources that they needed.”

In 2021, the Emerald reported on the first Honoring Our Black Wall Streets event in Seattle, which commemorated the centennial anniversary of the Tulsa massacre in Oklahoma. In May of 1921, a white mob in Tulsa attacked the predominantly Black neighborhood of Greenwood, which was known as “Black Wall Street.” The Tulsa massacre claimed the lives of around 300 Black people living in the community, with many of their businesses and homes burned to the ground in the riot. 

“We’re back on Jackson and closing off that street, trying to get as many vendors down that street as we possibly can from 23rd to 25th [streets],” Jackson said regarding the May 30 event. “We’re activating a lot of DJs this year, so we’ll have café seating down at the bottom [of] 25th, and I’m activating a lot of food vendors and food trucks.”

South End artist and activist Rell Be Free will be headlining the event alongside a variety of local poets, DJs, artists, and musicians. Local Black businesses and vendors have also been invited to hold community space during the event. Jackson is excited to see how the community can come together throughout all the events planned for the summer. 

“I’m just really happy to continue to make things bigger and better and even grab some torches and pass the torches to the youth. So, we really want to activate this this year,” Jackson said.

During the past week, the ACLT began Malcolm X Week with film screenings of Malcolm X by Spike Lee on May 19, followed by a May 20 screening of One Night in Miami by Regina King alongside Wa Na Wari, Sankofa Theater, Seattle’s Human Services Department, and Black Dot. This is the first time that a week of programming has been planned for honoring Malcolm X, with a big focus on sharing his principles and teachings with community members. 

“That movie is really just about the activation of a community and bringing music and, you know, different things to the community,” Jackson said. “[The] Malcolm X event is really about just revitalizing his principles within the community … and how they could pertain to our community these days.”

The Malcolm X Day Celebration on Saturday, held from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., will focus on uplifting local Black artists, poets, choreographers, and creatives by providing a community space at Jimi Hendrix Park. More events will also be organized by the ACLT alongside other Black organizations in Seattle.

“We’re doing Reunion on Union, that’s something we really want to lift up in the community, especially to honor our elders and community members,” Jackson said regarding the reintroduction of the large family meal event. Held on Union Street, it had been previously paused due to COVID-19. “And really, that’s just uplifting the historical Black families of the Central District and the South End who migrated here during the Great Migration and established businesses, established homes, established their families in the Central District and might not live there anymore due to gentrification.”

Those interested in volunteering, becoming a vendor, or performing as an artist can do so by visiting the ACLT website. There are also paid opportunities being offered to assist with organizing the ACLT events coming up this summer.

Ronnie Estoque is a South Seattle-based freelance photographer and videographer. You can keep up with his work by checking out his website.

📸 Featured Image: Hundreds of people danced the Electric Slide for 20 minutes during “Honoring Our Black Wall Streets,” an event held on 23rd Avenue South and South Jackson Street on May 31, the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre. (Photo: Susan Fried)

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