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Thousands march for Black ‘equity and ownership’ over Central District properties at Seattle’s Juneteenth Freedom March

Friday, thousands marched across the Central District and marked a celebratory Juneteenth commemoration event at Jimi Hendrix Park with further calls for reducing spending on police and renewed investment in the Black community and social programs that address inequity.

Activists and community groups say energy from the massive crowds and the strength of the Black Lives Matter movement in Seattle must be sustained in the face of the early morning deadly tragedy on the edge of the Capitol Hill protest zone camp.

“We know that most violence occurs between people who know each other, such as family members, romantic partners, and neighbors, and that policing and criminalization are ineffective at preventing or addressing it,” a statement from Decriminalize Seattle, a coalition of groups involved with CHOP and working to increase social spending and cut the city’s police budget, on Saturday morning’s gun violence at CHOP reads. “We also know that racism and sexism are the causes of enormous violence, and that police violence is a part of that, not a solution. Whatever the cause of last night’s shooting, real solutions do not look like continuing to fund and support the police.”


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“If we want to stop violence, we need to resource people and communities in a way this City has never committed to doing,” the group said in their statement released Saturday afternoon. “We need people housed, we need people fed, we need healthcare for all, we need childcare for all, and we need real investments in the programs and communities that are developing to replace police responses to violence.”

Earlier at, Friday’s march in the Central District, Africatown’s Cashayla Rodgers told CHS about increased hope for real change in Seattle.

“This event is really to center the demands of King County Equity Now Coalition,” she said. “We are taking the energy of the community, of the world right now, and putting that into action.”

Rodgers helped organize the King County Equity Now Coalition event along with other Africatown Youth Ambassadors. King County Equity Now is made up of “Black-led community-based” organizations like Africatown, and the coalition has issued a series of demands including setting up a $500 million “anti-gentrification, land acquisition fund,” and transitioning 23rd and Yesler’s former fire station into an enterprise center, which CHS reported the city recently agreed to do.

“We’re marching in the streets for lives that have been stolen and we can’t bring those lives back, but what we can do is claim these streets and build things that honor those lives by saving lives,” Africatown Community Land Trust President & CEO K. Wyking Garrett said.

After gathering at 22nd and Madison, Garrett led protestors south through the Central District, making stops along the way to mark the history and gentrification of properties where 23rd intersects including Union and Jackson.

“In every area we’ve been denied equity and ownership — we want equity and ownership,” Garrett told the marchers.

Once at the park, a lengthy lineup of activists and artists took the stage, sharing words of inspiration, spoken word pieces, dance and music. Seattle-based musician Parisalexa sang the Black National Anthem, jazz musician Owuar Arunga performed a song on the trumpet, and class of 2020 graduates from all grades were recognized on-stage. Activist and lawyer Nikkita Oliver and Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant both spoke.

“Wyking walked us through the Central District, putting his arm to the importance of telling holistic stories, honest stories, stories that are actually rooted in truth because the way that we frame a story is going to frame the way that we move forward,” Oliver told the crowd.

On the other end of the park, there were free food stations and Black-owned vendors selling a range of items, from patterned masks and jewelry to Black Lives Matter t-shirts.

“I think it’s great that we have Black businesses here and they’re being supported, and I’m really impressed that we got all nationalities here, all standing up for Black Lives Matter,” Dr. Robin Jones, selling bracelets and clothing on behalf of Seattle-Mombasa Sister City Association, said.

Organizers called to turn the day’s celebrations into action by directing protestors to sign a petition against a Shelter Holdings development plan at the former Keiro Rehabilitation and Care Center’s location on 16th and Yesler.

Throughout the day, many speakers honored the late DeCharlene Williams, a community leader and founder of 22nd and Madison’s Central Area Chamber of Commerce and Decharlene’s Beauty Salon. Williams, who grew up in Texas, was known for bringing Juneteenth celebrations to Seattle, her daughter Rita Greene of the NCAAP said.

“Her spirit is here today, she would be so happy,” Greene told the crowd.

 

 


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