This post series is drawn from a July 2022 report documenting the condition of AAHM&CC artworks recovered and documented on April 10, 2022 at Public Storage on MLK.
On March 6, 2022, workers hired by the Urban League dismantled the African American Heritage Museum and Cultural Center (AAHM&CC) installations in the courtyard of the Colman School building at 2300 South Massachusetts Street. They cut into the modular shed housing the art studio and art storage. Many artworks in the shed were relocated to a locker at a Public Storage facility on Martin Luther King Jr Way S at I-5. Some artworks were not brought to shed and are lost.
Our volunteers examined the artworks upon recovery. They recorded written condition notes, and performed photo documentation using smartphone cameras.
Storage conditions upon recovery
Art shed artworks and other objects were jammed together in a small storage locker. Small paintings, objects and works on paper were scattered in black plastic bags or clear plastic. Moisture was present in some bags, which promoted mold growth. Stacked crates with hoses on top were tipped onto large paintings on canvas, causing distortion and other damage.
1 – Storage of paintings on discovery
2 – Ongoing mechanical damage to paintings
Damage to 2021 painting by artist in residence Earl Debnam
3 – Earl Debnam in his AAHM&CC studio, June 2021
Many paintings by artist in residence Earl Debnam were damaged during their seizure and storage. Volunteers inventoried and documented Debnam’s works created during the 2020-2022 AAHM&CC occupation, allowing comparison with their current condition. This is the condition of one of these paintings after its recovery.
4 – 2021 painting by Earl Debnam before damage
5 – Damaged painting with several scratches to paint layers circled
This oil painting was stored in direct contact with heavy objects and hoses during storage. The paint surface is now disrupted by long scratches. The canvas now has significant planar distortion, which can be seen more easily on the unpainted reverse side of the canvas. There is also mold damage on the reverse. The planar distortion may reverse on its own as the canvas rests, however the other condition issues require conservation treatment.
5 – Reverse side of painting before damage
6 – Reverse side of damaged painting with several areas of planar distortion circled
Thank you to all of the community members who came out to support Earl on Monday. Thanks to community support, no conditions were placed on Earl ahead of trial.
The judge even acknowledged that “there’s clearly more to this case” then was found in the police report, an acknowledgment that is being interpreted as recognition that Earl’s arrest was clearly political.
He’s still charged with 1st degree criminal trespass even though he didn’t go inside the building, damage the premises in any way, or harm anyone. That’s right, he’s charged with 1st degree criminal trespass simply for sitting in his wheelchair and painting outside of the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) building where he’s celebrated for his role, alongside fellow elder Omari Tahir and others, in winning the Colman School building for the community.
The NAAM Scam’s own website names Earl as a community hero, …
… while they have him arrested for painting outside of the building they celebrate him for helping to win. Earl, Omari and others lived inside the Colman School for years without water or electricity as its very first artist-in-residence — from 1985 until 1998 when the activists were raided and dispossessed by an SPD SWAT team — enduring so much so that the building might become a world renowned African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, complete with an instrument library and programming to develop the talent and skills of young community artists and keep youth off of the streets.
NAAM Scam and the Urban League colluded with the Gates Family, Norm Rice, the City of Seattle and the FBI to steal the Colman School from the activists whose vision, dedication and sacrifice over the course of 13 years won them a signed purchase and sale agreement with the Seattle School Board for the property. The Seattle School Board publicly accepted their down payment for the building at a public meeting documented by the Seattle Times, only to later return it.
The first director of the NAAM Scam is a proud FBI agent Carver Gayton (whose son is the policy advisor for King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay). Bill Gates’ mother Mimi Gates and former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice are both founding and current board members of NAAM.
Elders Earl and Baba Omari, supported by a younger generation of revolutionary black activists and their native, brown and white accomplices, began reoccupying the premises outside of the Colman School on Juneteenth 2020 in the wake of the George Floyd Uprising. It is long overdue that the City and the Urban League correct past injustices and pass the building on debt-free with a programming budget to the new generation of grassroots black activists and their accomplices who are the rightful inheritors of our courageous elders’ legacy of revolution and resistance to create a real African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center for today’s youth.
Come support Earl and the African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center at Earl’s next hearing on Oct 19, 10:30 am, Seattle Superior Court, Courtroom 1002
On the afternoon of June 3rd, 2022, 74-year-old black elder and renowned artist Earl Debnam was arrested while painting outside of the building where he served as artist-in-residence of the African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center from 1985-1998 in the longest occupation of a public building in US History.
The City Attorney is pressing charges against our elder for 1st degree criminal trespass!
He has a hearing scheduled in Seattle Municipal Court
September 19, 2022 at 9am
You can support by writing to the City Attorney, posting on social media, sending words of encouragement to Earl, and showing up to his hearing on Monday September 19th.
More About the Arrest:
Documents from the arrest indicate thatNAAM is contracting with apartheid mercenaries!
A worker with Allied Security identified themself as patrolling the “Northwest African American Museum” in a 911 call when they called the police to remove Earl from the premises.
From the police report:
“W/CH works for Allied Security and was conducting her rounds and checking on the African Museum. She walked over to the fenced area securing the main entrance and saw the entry gate unlocked and opened. It appeared that someone had removed a padlock that had been in place the night prior. She observed a male sitting in a wheelchair at the main doorway. She contacted him and he identified him self as Debman, Earl C. 12/23/1947. She advised him that he was not allowed to be on the property and that he needed to leave. S/Debman refused and stated that he had rights to the property and would not leave. W/CH could not convince him to leave and called 911.
“Officers were aware that S/ Debman was a member of a Omari Garretts s activist group which has ongoing court issues with the African Museum / Urban League Village. There is a valid and served King County Motion for Summary Judgement and Issuing Writ Restitution (order # 21-2-04082-5). The order prohibits members of the activist group from coming within 2000 ft of the property.
“Officers contacted S/ Debnam, Earl C. 12/23/1947 who was sitting at the front entrance. He presented a large laminated letter listing Omari Garrett, along with his name and others. The letter claimed that he had right to the property.”
The actual speeches of Malcolm X (May 19, 1921 – February 21, 1965) are significantly different than the imaginary movie script speeches Denzel Washington spoke into Spike Lee’s camera for the 1992 entertainment film.
It could be said (and are saying it), that the fiction version of Malcolm X begins that movie acting more hostile toward white people than real-life Malcolm ever acted, and ends the movie being more conciliatory toward them than real-life Malcolm ever was.
The AAHM&CC urges you to listen to these essential speeches, so you can compare and contrast the real and the fiction versions for yourself, drawing your own conclusions.
The garden had been planted over the last several months through civil initiative by the people of Historic Africatown’s Central Area, especially @BlackStarFarmers. It was planted on the land which was once the parking lot of the Coleman Elementary School, which many generations of African American families attended over the latter half of the Twentieth Century.
Many such new community gardens have been established throughout the city over the past year and a half, in the course of the struggle by all peoples to preserve health, nutrition, mental wellness, meaning, and connection to the soil while surviving the Covid Pandemic.
The reason, of course, that this particular garden was demolished today is because it was Black.
The garden was established in solidarity with the African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, Baba Omari Tahir, Baba Earl Debnam, and the spirits of the late Michael Greenwood and ISAIAH EDWARDS.
The Parks Department kept the parking lot parcel, converted it into a dog-walking park, and named it “Jimi Hendrix”. This arrangement was very popular among affluent white settlers to the Central Area until last summer’s empire-wide popular democratic uprising against lynchings, when significant crowds of actual Black people began to, in fact, regularly use Jimi Hendrix Park and frequently assemble in it.
This, of course, caused some of the white settlers to complain about so many Black people still being alive and visible in broad daylight — a full two decades into the Twenty-First Century.
So, the Parks department promptly tried to appease those settlers by turning off Jimi Hendrix Park’s electricity supply (which forces all African American events in the park to bring our own generators and fossil fuel to power them, since the clean hydroelectric power is apparently for whites only).
When called about this, the City openly boasted that they had turned off the power in response to “un-permitted events”, and also that they would “not issue any event permits”. This is, of course, directly parallel to the Israeli apartheid policy of refusing to issue home-building permits to Palestinian families, and then arbitrarily demolishing Palestinian homes for “not having a permit”.
Here is a short video of the aftermath of the garden’s desolation today.
The AAHM&CC finds it significant that former DOJ Weed & Seed Director (now Mayor) Jenny Durkan’s demolition of this Black community garden occurred just 22 days after the principled resignation of Professor Cornel West from Harvard University — an institution which had refused to grant tenure to Dr. West because he consistently points out the similarities between the apartheid suffered by Palestinians and apartheid suffered by Black people.
We will be pleasantly surprised if the “NAAM” makes any statement in solidarity with Palestine against Israeli apartheid.
We believe the reason they will not do so is that their sponsor, the Urban League, is openly in political alliance with multiple pro-apartheid organizations, including, notably, the “ADL“.
The Urban League’s lawsuit to evict AAHM&CC Co-Founder Omari Tahir (and “all other tresspassers”) from his own property at the Coleman building is being litigated by the giant global lawfirm PerkinsCoie, which has both a seat on the Urban League Of Metropolitan Seattle’s Board and a page on its own website devoted specifically to its Israeli clientele.
Furthermore, the Urban League Of Metropolitan Seattle’s Board also includes a senior leader of the Ben Bridge Jewelers Company, which openly brags on its website about doing business with both Israel and the infamous DeBeers blood diamond cartel — who are probably more famously associated with classical “apartheid” in Africa than any other family on Earth.
AS OF SATURDAY, JUNE 19TH, 2021, BABA OMARI TAHIR’S RE-OCCUPATION TO LIBERATE THE AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE MUSEUM’S BUILDING FROM IMPERIALISM’S NEO-COLONIAL APARTHEID HAS BEEN ONGOING FOR A FULL YEAR!
IN SOLIDARITY WITH AAHM&CC, BABA OMARI, BABA EARL DEBNAM, AND THE SPIRIT OF THE LATE MICHAEL GREENWOOD AND ISAIAH EDWARDS, THE PEOPLE OF HISTORIC AFRICATOWN HAVE RECLAIMED THE FULL EASTERN COURTYARD OF THE AAHM&CC PROPERTY, FROM THE MAIN BUILDING’S FRONT DOOR TO THE EAST BOUNDARY OF JIMI HENDRIX PARK (WHICH WAS ONCE COLEMAN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL’S PARKING LOT)!
THE CELEBRATION OF THIS MAGNIFICENT JUNETEENTH ANNIVERSARY WAS, ONCE AGAIN A TREMENDOUS SUCCESS!
PHOTO ESSAY: ‘Honoring Our Black Wall Streets’ Commemorates Tulsa Massacre
by Ronnie Estoque and Susan Fried
Almost 200 Black-owned businesses participated in “Honoring Our Black Wall Streets” on Memorial Day, in the Central District, to honor Black Wall Street on the 100th anniversary of its tragic destruction. The memorial event was organized by King County Equity Now, Black Dot, and Africatown community organizers and celebrated the resilience of the local Black business community.
In May of 1921, a white mob in Tulsa, Oklahoma attacked the predominantly Black neighborhood of Greenwood, which was known as “Black Wall Street.” The Tulsa Massacre claimed the lives of around 300 Black people living in the community, with many of their businesses and homes burnt to the ground in the riot. Activism in recent years has shed more light on this horrendous event, and those in the Black community in Seattle are continuing to honor the legacy of Black Wall Street through continuing their demands of anti-gentrification measures and reinvestment into historically Black neighborhoods.
In addition to all kinds of businesses including clothing, book, jewelry and food vendors, numerous artists were also represented on Monday. The event was kicked off by the singing of the Black National Anthem and an honoring of Black people who have passed away. The day also included live performances and a community “Electric Slide” for over 20 minutes. Although the day acknowledged a terrible moment in American history, the people gathered paid tribute to the Black community of Tulsa, Oklahoma by supporting Seattle’s many Black-owned businesses and artists.
Ronnie Estoque is a Seattle-based storyteller and aspiring documentarian. He is driven to uplift marginalized voices in the South Seattle community through his writing, photography, and videography. You can keep up with his work by following his Twitter and Instagram.
Susan Fried is a 40-year veteran photographer. In addition to weddings, portraits, and commercial work she did early in her career, she has been the Skanner Newspaper’s Seattle photographer for nearly 25 years. Her images have appeared in a variety of publications including the University of Washington Daily, the Seattle Globalist, Crosscut, and more. She’s been an Emerald contributor since 2015. Follow her on Instagram @fried.susan.