by Beverly Aarons
Crumbling brick buildings litter a once thriving business district. Two-story homes blackened with soot sit boarded up and abandoned. Children find pipes and needles in sandboxes. Twenty students share five books in a freezing classroom … no heat. No food tonight, just too expensive. No new shoes — wear your older sibling’s pair and line the holes with newsprint. This is America: Late ‘70s and ‘80s. To be clear, this is America’s urban ghettos: Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, and yes, even Seattle. One generation earlier, much of Black America fled the vicious Jim Crow south seeking safety and opportunity in the north only to find itself pinned into economic wastelands with no capital and little opportunity for growth. And it is within this context that hip hop was born. During my interview with Daudi Abe, a Seattle Central College professor and the author of Emerald Street: A History of Hip Hop in Seattle, he shared his thoughts on hip hop and its political and cultural impact.
Abe, who was born and raised in Seattle, teaches a class on the history of hip hop at Seattle Central College. Most of his students are in their late teens and early 20s, and they have a hard time understanding the context from which hip hop was born, he said. But context is key to understanding why hip hop survived and thrived while other music genres such as disco faded into history.
Continue reading Seattle Author Daudi Abe Explores Hip Hop’s Political Roots and Seattle Rappers’ Cultural Influence
by Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud
On one street mural, a radiant yellow circle frames a feminine figure who holds her right palm outwards and left arm downwards. Adorned in a cedar hat, turquoise necklace, and multi-colored ribbon belt, the figure stands in front of outstretched butterfly wings rippling with red, orange, yellow, and purple colors. Most distinctive is the figure’s face, smeared with a jarring red handprint. Beyond this, the words “PROTECT INDIGENOUS WOMXN” anchor the mural’s mostly purple background.
Continue reading Black and Center: Archiving Indigenous and Black Futures
by Vivian Hua 華婷婷
(This article first ran in REDEFINE Magazine and appears under a co-publishing agreement.)
Speak to Renton-based visual artist barry johnson for any substantial amount of time, and one quickly understands why his latest catchphrase, “anything is anything,” has become an overarching mantra. As johnson explains, “Because I’m a self-taught artist, [the phrase] gives me freedom …”
“anything is anything” was the title of johnson’s first solo art show at Tacoma’s Alma Mater in August 2019, and is now the title of his weekly podcast on “the origins of myths, idioms, stories, and nonsense.” Both offer tiny glimpses into johnson’s varied interests and atraditional way of moving through traditional art spaces, which has led to an art practice that includes numerous mediums, from painting and architecture to performance and film — all with a focus on Black communities.
Continue reading barry johnson Artist Interview: “anything is anything” Can Become Structural Change
by Beverly Aarons
Featuring five artists, a multitude of disciplines, and one goal to explore geographic, political, and aesthetic space for Black presence and citizenship in the United States, Abstractions of Black Citizenship: African American Art from St. Louis is a virtual exhibition currently running through Sunday, August 2, 2020. Presented by Seattle University’s Hedreen Gallery, Abstractions of Black Citizenship features painting, photography, mixed media, works on paper, sculpture, and video artwork that explores the possibilities for being, belonging and togetherness for Black people in the United States.
Continue reading Abstractions of Black Citizenship Online Exhibit Comes to Seattle
by Vivian Hua 華婷婷
Two years ago, amid shifting trends towards standardized, “one-size-fits-all” approaches to testing and curriculum development, parents, students, and staff at Orca K-8 School brainstormed and launched a program called South End Stories. A dynamic and multi-faceted experience, South End Stories (SES) works within Seattle Public Schools to create safe spaces for students to share their own stories through film, dance, writing and performance.
Continue reading South End Stories Helps Youth of Color Build Storytelling Skills
by Beverly Aarons
What happens when physical distancing, gallery closures, and solitude leave an artist alone in his studio for weeks during one of the world’s most frightening pandemics? In the case of visual artist Juan Alonso-Rodríguez you get introspection, reflection, wisdom born from a deep well of life experience, and a brand new body of colorful and lively work. If you didn’t watch the news and somehow ended up in social media “jail,” peeking through the door of his studio you wouldn’t know there was a pandemic. You would find a solitary man intensely focused on his craft — prepping canvases, applying paint, and contemplating the work at hand. You would also find the tools of a visual artist’s trade filling tables and shelves, finished work expertly hung on walls, and the buzz of Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood just beyond the windows. When I spoke with Juan about his experience during this COVID-19 crisis, he was calm and even upbeat as he mentioned being more focused on making this time one of creativity and not just anxiety and fear.
Continue reading Visual Artist Juan Alonso-Rodríguez Finds Wellspring of Creativity in Pandemic Chaos
by Gus Marshall
South Seattle-based interdisciplinary visual artist Carol Rashawwna Williams explores the often-overlooked intersection of racial injustice and climate change. Her somber, monolithic prints slowly sway from the ceiling of Seattle University’s Hedreen Gallery, evoking a grave feeling of interconnected grief and pain. Williams’ current exhibit, “For the Record”, showing through Oct. 11, examines the stark similarities and disparities of two seemingly different issues: global warming and the lasting impacts of slavery.
Williams also serves as the Co-Executive Director of Community Arts Create (CAC), a nonprofit. CAC works to combat gentrification and the displacement of communities of color in the Hillman City area by building and strengthening relationships through community art programs and neighborhood engagement. The South Seattle Emerald spoke with Williams about her upcoming annual fundraiser for Community Arts Create, which will take place on Oct. 25 at the Hillman City Collaboratory.
Continue reading Local artist draws connection between race and climate change
(This article was originally published in Real Change and has been reprinted with permission)
by Lisa Edge
When Osa Elaiho enters his studio in the early morning hours of the day, he begins with a routine before making a brush stroke on the canvas. First, he starts with a prayer. Next up is music to set the tone. His taste ranges from composer Antonio Vivaldi to Burna Boy, an Afro Fusion singer and songwriter who has two songs on the new “Lion King” soundtrack. Each chord fuels his ingenuity. His passion for music is as strong as his love for creativity.
Continue reading Framed in Harmony: Osa Elaiho mixes Faith, Family and Culture into Columbia City Gallery Exhibit
by Georgia S. McDade
photos by Susan Fried
Do you remember Jordan’s Drug Store? Have you heard of Bluma’s Deli? Accent on Travel? Liberty Bank? Kirk’s Laundry? Black Arts West? Joy Unlimited? Thompson’s Point of View, Black and Tan, Miss Helen’s Diner? Tiki’s Tavern,? Mardi Gras? Red Apple? The list could be longer, but if you recognize these names, you know they are businesses gone from Seattle’s Central District or CD. Though reasons for their disappearances differ, the word “gentrification” enters conversations often. New buildings, several stories high, often in bright colors, dot the neighborhood. By the time this is printed, a few more landmarks may be gone or going. This is today’s CD.
Continue reading Central Area Home Reimagined as Haven for Black Art, Historic Preservation
by Becs Richards
Simone Pin Productions is much more than a dance company; they are dreaming of a new world. They are in the work of visioning for a more inclusive, sexy, editorial, and equitable creative space. Their upcoming performance, Queens, is a technical burlesque-based showcase of POC dancers, singers, and entrepreneurs premiering at Northwest Film Forum June 20.
Continue reading Simone Pin Productions Celebrates Diversity, Talent, and Thought-Provoking Artistry in ‘Queens’