The 2021 Umoja Fest Day of Unity parade and festival drew hundreds of people to Jimi Hendrix Park on Aug. 7 for a day of celebrating Black entrepreneurship, music, and art. For more than 50 years Seattle’s Black community has held a summer festival. Starting in 1952, it was called the East Madison Mardi Gras, later transforming into the Pacific Northwest Black Community Festival, and in 1997 it became the Umoja Fest African Heritage Festival.
This year’s event featured a Black Unity march from 23rd Avenue and East Union Street to Jimi Hendrix Park; a children’s village; and dozens of music and dance performances by artists like Zach Bruce, April Shantae, Johnny Grant, Kutt ’N’ Up, and Skye Dior. Vendors sold food, beverages, art, household items, and clothing. Local nonprofits such as the Harriet Tubman Center for Health and Freedom, the African Americans Reach and Teach Health Ministry (AARTH), Feed the People, and the A. Philip Randolph Institute had booths to spread the word about their organization’s missions in the community.
Wyking Garrett, the president and CEO of Africatown Community Land Trust, grew up in the Central District and remembers the Black community festivals through the years and how important they were. He spoke to the crowd this year about celebrating Black love: “What I need us to really do is change the vibration; we got to change the frequency we have to tune in and unify with Black love in our community,” he said. “Tupac said Thug Life stood for ‘the hate u give little infants f***s everybody.’ The opposite of that is, if we give the love to our children properly, we got to put our families back together because that’s where it starts. Then we put our communities, which is just a family of families, and then we put the love back in it, that’s what I want to focus on.”
This Tuesday, Aug. 3, residents and neighbors throughout Seattle will participate in National Night Out, an event organized by the Seattle Police Department (SPD), and police departments across the country, to encourage community safety collaboration and communication with law enforcement.
Residents can use the opportunity to meet with neighbors who might collect mail when they’re gone and keep an eye on their home when absent. Law enforcement hopes that these types of connections will also help residents identify, and report, crime trends in their neighborhood.
According to Jennifer Danner, a crime prevention coordinator with SPD, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept this year’s registration to about half of what it was in 2019, when roughly 1,400 parties registered for the event in Seattle. However, the layout of the event will remain largely the same — various neighborhood block parties, barbeques, and social gatherings where residents also have an excuse to combat the Seattle Freeze.
Despite a historic heatwave and serious security concerns, this year’s Taking B(l)ack Pride event continued on with huge success. On one of Seattle’s hottest days ever, hundreds gathered at Jimmy Hendrix Park to celebrate Pride Month, and specifically the contributions of BIPOC people in the LGBTQ rights movement, hence the name Taking B(l)ack Pride.
The event has become a nationally trending topic after disputes around a request for a reparation-based entrance fee system. But nothing could have stopped the second annual Taking B(l)ack Pride event. Black performers showed no sign of heat exhaustion while on stage and continued well after the sun set.
“I felt like I was at Brooklyn again at AfroPunk,” says one performer.
The smoldering heat did not deter Dragon Fest Food Walk attendees from visiting a variety of Asian restaurants on Saturday, June 26, in Chinatown-International District. The event featured Asian cuisine deals ranging from $2 to $8, and lasted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Previous Dragon Fest events have featured restaurants with food stands and merchants lined alongside South King Street, but this year a food walk was deemed more reasonable due to COVID-19 and the heat by the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA), who organized the event. CIDBIA is planning several more food walks throughout the summer in the neighborhood to spur more community support for locally owned restaurants that are rebounding from the devastating economic impacts of the pandemic.
Ann Okwuwolu, the creator of the festival, is a former medical technician who was inspired to start the celebration in 2016 when she recognized the lack of Black representation in New Holly Community events.
“Everything was geared towards other people. And so we didn’t have any visibility,” Okwuwolu said.
This Saturday, June 12, the local cultural hub, Black and Tan Hall (B & T Hall), will be hosting their Hall-i-Day party. Originally created as an event that promotes community businesses and supports local artists during the winter holiday season, B & T Hall is transitioning it to a seasonal event.
About two years ago, Julius Caesar founded “Laugh Rehab,” a monthly live comedy series in Seattle that featured both local and national comedians. After a long one year hiatus due to COVID, Caesar is proud to announce that Laugh Rehab is back and better than ever.
Laugh Rehab is all in the name, Caesar says explaining the show — “It’s rehab. It gives you an opportunity for an hour and a half to unplug from everything in your life and just chill, have a great laugh, meet some of your neighbors, and catch with friends you haven’t seen in a long time.”
Caesar envisions this monthly comedy series as more than just a show. Located at the Rainier Arts Center in Columbia City, it is a community event geared to revitalizing the neighborhood and safely bringing people back together after a year of isolation.
In 2020, we saw people across the country make their voices heard with an urgency America hasn’t witnessed in decades. We marched in cities from coast to coast to express the need for social justice in our country. We advocated for change, pushing for more equity and inclusion.
The core of our chorus in protest after protest, “Black Lives Matter,” is a demand for action — an insistent call to finally tend to the overdue work of elevating Black voices and centering Black experiences.
That call was heeded at the ballot box here in Washington State, with more Black candidates elected than ever before.
Now that we have transitioned into 2021, it is more important than ever to keep building that momentum beyond electoral politics. We must continue to lift our voices and advocate for change throughout our society.
The Emerald rounded up local Juneteenth events so you and yours can easily find ways to participate both in person and virtually in celebrations, marches, live streams, talks, activities for children, and more!
“We’re blacking out CHOP … the viral death of black bodies was the catalyst for this current movement and we need to make sure we remain focused. This means both policy and systemic change to our systems and healing space for black people.
“So that’s exactly what we’re creating. A series of events in which we center black healing and community.
“What we need from our non-black allies are donations of money and supplies and the willingness to support by quietly protecting sacred space for black healing. We need allies on the outskirts who are willing to be a physical barrier of protection and to peacefully deter potential interruptions.” Read full schedule of events in Facebook event details.
Donations of supplies, funds, and volunteer bodies on the ground at the event are requested from the organizers. Read event details for more on this and donate funds here.
Time: 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Where: CHOP — 1635 11th Ave (Cal Anderson Park) Cost: Free to attend