I'm Kibibi Monié, daughter of Thomas and Hattie Porter Jr., and I’m an African American who was born in Seattle on October 8, 1948. I was raised in Yesler Terrace, 731 Yesler Way, apartment #250, and I’ve seen many, many changes to the Seattle Central Area, and our city, over the past 69-plus years.
I saw Bailey Gatzert Elementary School’s relocation in 1953 from 12th and Weller to 12th and Yesler. I remember riding up and down Yesler on the cable-car line in the '50s and waiting in line to ride the elephant at the Woodland Park Zoo.
My, my, my, how things have changed. The Central Area, aka the Central District, was recognized as the area where the black community lived. I remember performing at the Black & Tan, 410 Supper Club, Neighborhood House, St. James Cathedral, Mack’s Island, and countless other venues here in Seattle.
But alas, gone are the days. I now long for those times before gentrification dismantled my community; I feel so disjointed and strongly out of place. In a way, it reminds me of the massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Rosewood, Jackson Ward, Parrish Street, Seneca Village, and Greenwood, when what we had built was destroyed. When we were bombed, killed, and left with nothing. Being herded from one place to another is, in my opinion, just a covert and slower death than those mentioned above.
Black Americans have played a vital role in building this nation. Eager to live and prosper as free people, we have established our own towns since colonial times. Many of these communities were destroyed by racial violence from angry white mobs or injustice, while some just died out, with gentrification playing a major role in the history of our lost towns and neighborhoods.
When you treat a people as if they don’t deserve a place that is truly their own, they’re left with a hopelessness that causes (in the long run) illness and death. This rings true for all people.
I believe Seattle is making a huge mistake by displacing so many people in the various ways it is being done.