Seattle needs spaces where Black people can share their art and stories, map their childhood, reunite with old friends, and make art, all while holding space in a neighborhood that has tried to push them out. Seattle’s Central Area has gone from 80% Black in the 1970s to 14% today. When Seattle’s “Black community” was centralized, spending time together was effortless. This created an environment where cultural, artistic, social, economic and political innovation could thrive. Community building was a necessity and thus a way of life. We are creating that experience again, on a smaller scale.
We have transformed a Black-owned rental home into an active Black art space, and we host a range of art and media activities and programs including:
- An oral history studio for gathering and archiving community stories facilitated by Shelf Life Community Story Project and Ijo Arts Media Group
- Media stations throughout the home where the public can hear and see community stories in video, audio, and photographic formats
- Monthly art exhibitions
- Artist talks and live performances
- Workshops and parties
- Regularly scheduled projections in the front picture window of the home, viewable from the street
- A digital media station where the public can scan family photos and documents for their personal archives
The home was first purchased by Frank and Goldyne Green in 1951. From the early 1960s to 2013, it was occupied continuously by members of the extended Green Family, siblings, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and adopted family. In 2016, Inye Wokoma became the estate guardian and immediately embarked on two tasks, stabilizing his grandmother’s finances, to prevent the sale of her last home in the Central District, and mapping out possibilities for keeping the home in the family for perpetuity. Wa Na Wari is the first step towards securing that long term vision.
Our decision to site Wa Na Wari in a home is intentional. Out of financial need, the home has typically been rented as close to market rate as possible. This has put the home out of range for most black tenants, adding to the social and cultural process of gentrification. Until Now. Wa Na Nari will support a community elder while holding space for Black artists and storytellers in the neighborhood.