“Something that always makes me feel like we did something right is when people say, ‘I feel like I’m just eating in your home.’”
by Amanda Ong
“The three pillars of our restaurant are first, our personal identities, and then that identity as it relates to our second pillar, which is culture. Our third pillar is empowerment, which is a really important aspect of what we do,” chef Aaron Verzosa, cofounder of Archipelago, said in an interview with the South Seattle Emerald.
Identity, culture, and empowerment. It’s not what you would expect from a fine dining establishment — most of which might, at a guess, say something about quality, innovation, and service.
Near the corner of South Orcas Street and Rainier Avenue, a pink storefront stands out among all the brick along the block. Inside, the walls are painted a deep magenta with a large wooden bar and leafy green plants sprinkled around the space. Vintage games and tchotchkes are scattered on top of the bar and stuffed onto shelves next to beer bottles as a funky chandelier casts a warm light from the ceiling. The vibe? Cozy AF.
Seattle Restaurant Week (SRW) is the city’s largest biannual dining promotion celebrating our local restaurant industry and diverse culinary communities. Taking place in the spring and fall, SRW typically features over 200 restaurants, pop-ups, food trucks, caterers, and other small food vendors, all with special curated menus, often at varying price points (from $20 all the way up to $65). Menus feature some of their most popular dishes or some best-kept secrets.
I first discovered Hillman City Collaboratory in 2016 while working with housing activists to save a Central District family from displacement — the collaboratory was a space where we could strategize and discuss. The second time I engaged with the space was when I attended a clothing swap in the main mixing room. High-quality clothes were neatly folded into stacks — anyone could grab some pretty decent threads and it didn’t matter if they had money or something to trade. And then there were the films and the talks and the discussions and the various events — social, political, cultural, artistic, and business-related — that I attended at the collaboratory throughout the years.
But as I approached the Hillman City Collaboratory headquarters on April 30, I could see, even from across Rainier Avenue, that the social change incubator that once teemed with life was completely deserted. This was the final day of the community hub — they had to vacate the premises. An older man, who looked to be in his 60s, stood about 30 feet from the entrance. He smoked a cigarette and peered down the empty sidewalk. As I tugged on the collaboratory door, the man took a final draw on his cigarette and approached me. I wanted to know more about the closing of the collaboratory, I explained. He nodded in understanding as if he had been expecting me and we went inside.
A round-up of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!
Seattle Black Spatial Histories Institute Pilot Program — Now Accepting Applications!
Application Deadline: March 31
From the source: Wa Na Wari and the Shelf Life Community Story Project are launching the Seattle Black Spatial Histories Institute, a pilot oral history/community story training program.
In 2021, a six-person cohort will explore the ethics, techniques, best practices, tensions, and dilemmas of oral history. The cohort will then practice their new skills by conducting oral history interviews with local community members around three topics. Upon completion of the Institute, cohort members will receive compensation of $4,000 and a certificate of completion.
The last time the Emerald caught up with Black and Tan Hall (B&TH), the South Seattle performing arts and restaurant space deeply rooted in the history of Rainier Valley, we spoke with co-founder Ben Hunter about their Hall-i-Day Party. During that conversation, Hunter mentioned some of the struggles B&TH had been having with leasing their space.
Representing the 37th district position 2, newly elected Kirsten Harris-Talley built her campaign and platform by organizing with her neighbors. In fact, she ran for office because members of the community asked her to. The first out, Black, queer femme to serve in the Washington State Legislature, Harris-Talley has spent the last 20 years building movements for progressive change. She was a founding board member at SURGE Reproductive Justice, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, and former program director of Progress Alliance of Washington, as well as being involved in grassroots movements like No New Youth Jail. In 2017, she was the second Black woman ever to serve on the Seattle City Council, where she introduced the first version of JumpStart Seattle, a progressive revenue measure that passed this year to help fund COVID-19 recovery.
Now that she’s on her way to Olympia, Harris-Talley pledges to be transparent about policies and decisions that affect people in the 37th district through a future podcast, accountability council, and other tools. Her work is informed by aunties and elders in the community, as well as youth-led activism in the South End, where she has lived with her husband and family in Hillman City since 2004. “I’m going to be organizing with my neighbors. It’s the only way we can win,” she said. “Because I think politics is an organizing game. I don’t think it’s an ideas game — it’s an organizing game.”
Onda Origins Cafe & Roastery has turned their flagship cafe into a general store for local farmers, whose revenues have been hit hard by the closure of Seattle’s farmers markets. Although COVID-19 has shut down all but essential businesses, Onda remains open for take-out beverages and wholesale coffee, initiating partnerships with other local producers to sell their products. The company’s mission of connecting consumers to coffee producers has broadened to include connecting local farmers with the Hillman City community.
Emma’s BBQ has been treating southeast Seattle to the rich and oh-so-satisfying tastes and textures of traditional southern cooking—leaving no expectation unsatisfied—for three years, but the (secret) recipes were created in the actual South by “Momma Emma” Thomas a generation ago and have been passed down to current generations. Some menu items might be a little heart-healthier than they once were, says owner, Tess Thomas. “Through the years we may have tweaked a recipe,” says Tess, but the family gives all the credit to Momma Emma for the flavors of Emma’s BBQ. Continue reading Southern Matriarch’s Legacy of Food, Family, and Generosity Lives at Emma’s BBQ→
Amplifying the Authentic Narratives of South Seattle