The Next Conversation: “Legacies of Racism in Seattle”

Event Date: Tuesday, November 19, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Admission is free. Tell your friends.

Location: Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle

The Summary

This time, we’re looking at a deep history of racism in Seattle and the legacies of that racism that are with us today. Read on for more details. 

The Guests (See below for bios)

Elisheba Johnson, artist, curator, arts administrator

Sharon Maeda, media manager, nonprofit manager, activist

Inye Wokoma, artist, journalist, filmmaker

And we’re working on getting a fourth guest. 

The Story

I’ve been wanting to do a conversation about the legacies of historical racism in the Seattle area. It’s a broad topic; racism has a long and sometimes forgotten history here. And the term “Seattle area” can be expansive, reaching to Bellevue and Tacoma at the least. Each example and each place may deserve a conversation in and of itself. But I’m thinking that as a start, approaching that history from a number of angles may be helpful. 

I can see us going into some or all of the following: the exclusion laws; a long history of redlining and real estate covenants against Blacks, Jews, and Asian Americans; the expulsion of the Chinese from Tacoma in 1885; the Japanese-American incarceration in World War II; and the land grabs, including those against the Duwamish people and other Coast Salish peoples, and later, Japanese-American farmers in Bellevue. And it’s especially important to look at what legacies those histories have today, across the Pacific Northwest, how they have been resisted, and how they’ve played a part in shaping today’s world.

One way to get a sense of a bit of what was done in Seattle is to look at the current free exhibit at Wing Luke Museum, “Excluded, Inside the Lines.” 

Many people know about this history, but I’m often surprised to find out how many do not, especially among otherwise informed White people. It’s a hugely important subject, representing information that remains key to understanding this place, as it stands now and as it grows into the future. Come and listen and talk about it.

Finally, take a look at the end of this message for an announcement of another event I’m putting together.

The Guests in Detail

Elisheba Johnson is curator, public artist, and administrator heavily influenced by the Fluxus movement and the accessibility of art experiences and objects. Johnson, who has a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts, was the owner of Faire Gallery Café, a multi-use art space that held art exhibitions, music shows, poetry readings and creative gatherings. For six years Johnson worked at the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture on capacity building initiatives and racial equity in public art. Johnson is currently a member of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Network advisory council and has won four Americans for the Arts Public Art Year in Review Awards for her work. She currently co-manages Wa Na Wari, a Black art center in Seattle’s Central Area.

Inye Wokoma is a visual artist with a background in journalism and filmmaking. His family has lived in the Central District since the 1940s. His work explores themes of identity, community, history, land, politics and power through the lens of personal and visual narratives. His work is informed by a deep social practice that prioritizes the utility of his art to the collective welfare of his community. Four of his most recent projects, A Central Vision, An Elegant Utility, This Is Who We Are, and Wa Na Wari represent a prismatic exploration of the history, current experience and future of Seattle’s African American Community. In addition to these projects Inye has been working in collaboration with Seattle Public Library and colleague Jill Friedberg to create a catalog of oral histories of Seattleites reflecting on community history and current changes. 

Inye completed a degree in journalism and filmmaking from Clark Atlanta University before establishing Ijo Arts Media Group in Seattle. His work as a photojournalist has appeared in USA Today, ColorsNW, Washington Law and Politics, and Chicago Wilderness, among others. In 2004 and 2006 respectively, he received two awards for editorial photography from the Society of Professional Journalists Western Washington Chapter for coverage of the communities of color in the wake of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. His collaboration with journalist Silja Talvi on Washington State’s three strikes law won a 2004 National Council on Crime and Delinquency PASS Award for criminal justice reportage. These journalism awards were earned while shooting for ColorsNW Magazine under the editorial guidance of Naomi Ishisaka. His film ‘Lost & (Puget) Sound, received a 2012 Telly Award and won best film for youth at the Colorado Environmental Film Festival. In 2017 he participated in the visual arts group show ‘Borderlands’ which went on to receive an Americans for the Arts 2018 Public Art Network Year in Review Award for its collective exploration of national identity, immigration, and belonging.   

Inye continues to live serve his community from his home in Seattle’s Central District where he currently serves as board president for LANGSTON. He was a founding board member and former board president for Got Green and also served on the board of Nature Consortium. 

Sharon Maeda was blessed to have a career that melded work and her commitment to social justice.  Sharon’s career in public, private and nonprofit sector management focused on equity and justice. She was appointed by President Clinton to be Deputy Assistant Secretary of HUD to Secretary Henry Cisneros, owned a Seattle-based management consulting firm – Spectra Communications – and managed nonprofits including Pacifica Radio and the UW Ethnic Cultural Center.  Media justice was also important when she was General Manager of KRAB-FM and Director of Community Involvement at KCTS/9. She moved to New York to work at the global mission agency of the United Methodist Church where she was Dep. General Secretary. She has also worked for one of the largest unions in Washington and founded 21 PROGRESS, to focus on building a 21st Century Movement for Equity and Justice. She also taught in the public schools and at the UW. Since 2017, she has managed KVRU 105.7 FM in SE Seattle and will be retiring later this month.

Sharon served on the advisory board of the Harvard Kennedy School Asian American Policy Review and many government, local arts, education and social justice boards. She currently is a Harborview Medical Center trustee and a board member of the National Association of Community Broadcasters.

And as for that announcement 

On Sunday, December 8, from noon to 6pm at the Northwest Film Forum, we’ll be holding a symposium, a set of lectures and discussions entitled “Futures: trends in science and technology and their implications for art and performance.” We’ll be looking at a variety of technologies and scientific insights, exploring ways in which those can be embraced by artists and performers.

I’ll be sending out a formal announcement next week, so stay tuned.

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