Photo depicting Stephanie Morales and Jody Thongoulay popping champagne and cutting a ribbon at their businesses' reopening party.

Celebrating Black Culture in the Central District: Loving Room and Made Space Team Up for Multidisciplinary Block Party Books Bites n’ Beats

by Jas Keimig

Nestled near one another on 20th and Union, events venue Made Space and salon Loving Room opened during the pandemic and have quickly become generative, Black-centered, and creative safe spaces in the neighborhood. And from July 29 to 30, the two businesses are collaborating to throw Books Bites n’ Beats, a neighborhood block party celebrating the Black diaspora in the Central District with food, music, dance, films, and books.

“The block party is an opportunity for us to name and claim the Central District as our historic and current Black cultural hub, our center, and our home,” said Kristina Clark, curator and founder of Loving Room. “It’s an opportunity for people who are still here to make our presence known, and for folks who have been displaced or are no longer in the neighborhood because of gentrification to have that experience of homecoming.”

Made Space owner and founder Stephanie Morales opened the spot two and a half years ago under the name The Liink Project, but rebranded to Made Space back in January to focus more on events that cater to Black Seattleites. In the months since, Made Space has become home to dozens of events that uplift the Black community — everything from yoga series to queer-centered meet-ups to 420-friendly open mics and writing workshops.

“[Made Space] is about intentionality, which is why our tagline is ‘making time, space, art, and connections.’ It’s a place where people can make those things,” said Morales. “It’s about being creative, taking time for self-care, creating a space for other people to share their work and knowledge, and focus on Black creatives and entrepreneurs.”

And through a narrow hallway in the back, Made Space is connected to the Loving Room just around the building’s corner. Loving Room founder and curator Kristina Clark opened the library-reading-room-bookstore in August of last year. Despite growing up in Ballard, Clark attended Garfield High School as a teen, later going on to teach at the school, so the Central District always meant a lot to her. After another place fell through during the early part of the pandemic, Clark found the 20th and Union spot to set up shop.

“We have this huge Black arts and cultural renaissance that’s happening right now and I really wanted to be part of that energy. At the same time, folks are still being massively displaced, and I think it’s so vital and so crucial for us to really carve out these spaces that are for and by us,” said Clark.

Loving Room is a cozy space replete with beaded curtains, book-stuffed shelves, comfortable chairs, and chill music playing throughout the high-ceilinged shop. Consisting largely of books written by Black authors or about the Black experience, the books are a blend of books for purchase and books from Clark’s library by classic writers like Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and James Baldwin, as well as contemporary writers like Marlon James, Brit Bennett, and Yaa Gyasi.

Photo depicting Shambrekia Wise reading to a group of children at Loving Room.
Shambrekia Wise, author of a Black children’s book series called “Sightseeing with Sandy,” reading to a group of children at Loving Room in July. (Photo: Kristina Clark)

For Books Bites n’ Beats, Made Space and Loving Room are cordoning off part of 20th Avenue to set up space for a stage, food, music, vendors, film screenings, and dancing. DJs Lace Cadence and Hershe will be setting the mood for the two-day event with Afrobeats singer Izzy Baba Melo and neo-soul singer Jayza Duhon bringing the house down with their songs. Vendors include O.P.’s Meals on Wheels, Key’s Catering, and Cree8tions, and the shops plan to do a children’s book giveaway.

The full schedule of events for Books Bites n’ Beats is available on Made Space’s website and Instagram.

Jas Keimig is a writer and critic based in Seattle. They previously worked on staff at The Stranger, covering visual art, film, music, and stickers. Their work has also appeared in Crosscut, South Seattle Emerald, i-D, Netflix, and The Ticket. They also co-write Unstreamable for Scarecrow Video, a column and screening series highlighting films you can’t find on streaming services. They won a game show once.

📸 Featured Image: Made Space (previously The Liink Project) reopened under their new name earlier this year and is set to host a block party this weekend with neighbor Loving Room. Pictured: Stephanie Morales (with scissors) and Jody Thongoulay of Bourgeois Lashes at the reopening party. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Morales.)