David Walker (1797?-1830) was a courageous and visionary Black Abolitionist leader and activist. He put his life on the line by publicly demanding the immediate end of slavery in the early days of the US Empire, and by openly calling upon slaves to revolt against their masters.
David Walker ought to be a household name, as familiar as the other revered heroes of the Black freedom struggle.
This website: (www.davidwalkermemorial.org), published by folks in Walker’s home town of Boston, has detailed information about David Walker and his work. We encourage you to visit it.
The Chilean arts collective Chile Woke issued this moving statement on the connections between the Jimi Hendrix 50th Anniversary celebration in Jimi Hendrix Park, the return of the African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center to it’s own rightful building adjacent to that Park, and the peoples’ democratic uprising that has been taking place in Chile since October 18, 2019.
This in itself is an achievement of the peoples uprising against police terror, and would never have happened during the times of business as usual. Unfortunately, this belated acknowledgement of our existence comes at us in the form a hit piece riddled with inaccuracies, some of which are clearly outright intentional lies.
Thirdly, NAAM claims to have included “an Africatown representative” in an online program on June 30th, “in hopes of collaboration”. NAAM then claims that “a leader from Africatown commandeered the discussion by inappropriate and disparaging comments out of turn”. We are fairly certain NAAM would never refer in print to any leader of any of the many organizations which constitute the Chinatown International District so obtusely as “a Chinatown representative” or “a leader from Chinatown”. Only Black people are expected to take such belittlement for attempting to assert geographic place-name sovereignty within Seattle in 2020. More importantly, however, NAAM links this claim to a 94 minute video in the apparent hope that their readers will not have time to view it and will simply take their word about what they allege it to show. The AAHM&CC strongly encourages all observers to watch that video in full, because it does not support the NAAM’s false allegations about what happened in that online forum. In fact, it disproves them.
Fourthly, NAAM claims that, on that same day, their executive director and board chair approached our most active founder and other assembled AAHM&CC personnel in an attempt to collaborate, and that “it was made clear that there was no interest” (on our founder’s part) “to collaborate”. This is not true. On the contrary, our founder and the other AAHM&CC personnel present made it very clear that we desire actual tangible discussions/negotiations with NAAM leaders who are actually empowered to make policy decisions. To that end, we specifically requested that they bring their extremely prominent and powerful board member Mimi Gardner Gates (stepmom of Bill Gates) to their next meeting with us. NAAM made no response to this request from us until AFTER publishing their August 17th blog post. Furthermore, the NAAM officer’s June 30th conversation with our founder was clearly disingenuous on their part. Their executive director and board chair were primarily present on June 30th to speak to Seattle Fire Department personnel and lobby them to declare Omari mentally unfit for freedom. The NAAM had called these Fire Department personnel to the premises that day, alleging to them that our founder was “mentally diseased” and needed to be “removed to a mental facility for his own good”—another false pretext to avoid dealing with the fact that the AAHM&CC is the true and rightful property owner. They only begrudgingly and briefly engaged our senior founder in conversation immediately after failing to convince the Seattle Fire Department’s “wellness check team” to institutionalize him against his will. (Summoning the cops thrice since Juneteenth had already failed to bring about Urban League/NAAM’s desired outcome of our 74-year-old founder’s arrest and a repeat of AHM&CC’s forced removal.)
Fifthly, NAAM falsely claims that, on that same occasion, their director was “threatened” by our founder (by being “told that she would ‘end up like Edwin Pratt’”). The falseness of this sensational accusation is revealed by their own admission that our founder said “I’m warning you.” The truth, of course, is that none of us wish any bodily harm on any leader of the NAAM, and that is exactly what our founder explicitly communicated upon that occasion. Our elder is acutely aware of the volatile position that NAAM and Urban League officers are placing themselves in by choosing to continue to call the police and fire department in their attempts to have the AAHM&CC once again illegally ejected from our own property under false pretenses. This behavior by the NAAM inflames the situation, and puts everyone in danger, including the NAAM/Urban League officers; and such inflammatory situations have historically led to tragedies in Seattle before, as our elder accurately and compassionately pointed out. Our elder was not a threatening predator in this situation; he was the bird on the Rhino’s back, alerting the near-sighted herbivore of the potential danger.
Sixthly, NAAM is intentionally disingenuous in claiming “We have not called the police on the occupiers”. Three times between June 19th and June 30th, the SPD showed up (in increasing numbers on each occasion), and told us they had been “called by the owners of the property” who had alleged to them that we were “trespassing” on it. On each occasion, one of our senior founders was obliged to show them the AAHM&CC’s signed and valid purchase and sale agreement proving that WE ARE the owners of the property, and to ask the police what documentation of alleged ownership they had received from the people who had accused us of trespassing on our own land. On each occasion, it was revealed that the cops had simply assumed the callers to be the owners based on their verbal claim, without asking them for any documentation whatsoever, and attempted to act upon that faulty assumption until confronted with the truth by the people.
Whether the callers were officers of NAAM or Urban League is an irrelevant hair-splitting distinction, given the closeness with which those two organizations coordinate and the undisputed fact that the UL was the central actor in the NAAM’s creation.
Eighthly, NAAM is now so brazen as to actually claim they did NOT host the July 13th press conference that called for at least 2000 more SPD officers! As anyone can clearly see here, that is a complete bald face lie!
The Urban League’s website, for its part, now spins a narrative with an even more vast and glaring gap in the timeline, jumping all the way from 1985 to 2002!
The Urban League not only repeats the corporate media line reducing the thirteen year occupation to “eight year”, but also still fails to even acknowledge the existence of the AAHM&CC, preferring instead to refer to our founders as merely “a group of local protestors”. This is to deny their productive agency as the builders of the real museum. It then skips ahead 17 years to allege that “By 2002, the building remained unused and unoccupied”, in effect claiming that the property had somehow magically become a land without a people for a bourgeoisie who wanted more land! Now how did that happen exactly?
The National Urban League’s second largest reported source of income is government grants and contracts, and its largest income source is large private donations, making it one of the oldest global political examples of what’s now called an “NGO”.
It has also received major recent donations from Kellog and Johnson&Johnson. A number of these companies are represented on its national board of directors by tokenized middle-managers of color, but all of these companies are owned and controlled by rich white people.
Locally, the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle similarly boasts that its two primary “Presenting Sponsors” are Microsoft and T Mobile. If further boasts of being “partnered” by Amazon, AT&T, Google, JP Morgan, Vulcan and a diamond dealing jewelry company named Ben Bridge. It further boasts that its “Supporting Sponsors” include US Bank, Coca Cola, Costco Wholesale, Eli Lilly & Company, Kaiser Permanente and Uber; and that its “Gold Sponsors” include Starbucks, G3 & Associates, Port of Seattle, New Seasons Market, Goodwill Industries, Pepsico, Alaska Airlines, Fred Hutch, Perkins Coie, The Byers Group LLC and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Many of the above are similarly represented on its Board of Directors.
While the Urban League claims to be a Black organization, the middle managers who constitute its leadership are not—in any way, shape or form—a national bourgeoisie of any Black economy. Rather, they are a collection of comprador tokens who’ve been allowed into the lower ranks of the Amerikan bourgeoise (the one whose founding document divides Turtle Island’s population into “citizens”, “Indians” and “three fifths of all other persons”). For this reason, while the Urban League can dole out some philanthropic crumbs to the poor, it is only capable of advancing the political interest of that Amerikan (aka “white”) ruling class. Were it to cease doing so, that class would immediately set up a different channel through which to disburse those philanthropic crumbs. The Urban League’s need to serve as a political transmitter of white capital’s agenda into the Black community is also the reason why it is frequently at the center of corruption scandals, such as the infamous Seattle Public Schools’ Regional Small Business Development Program fiasco of 2011.
Whenever a small group of rich folks negotiates with a large uprising of poor folks, several dynamics are always the case:
The poor folks are negotiating because we want to, while the rich folks are negotiating because they have to, and only after they’ve exhausted every ploy to try to avoid having to negotiate.
The rich folks don’t want to directly negotiate in person. They would rather send hired emissaries who are themselves poor instead of rich, who preferably look like the people they’re being sent to interface with and who—most importantly—are not actually empowered to make any negotiating decision but only to report back information to their employers. The poor people want and need to negotiate directly with an actual decision maker of the rich folk’s side. Otherwise, the “negotiations” are a mere charade while the rich folks buy time to crush the uprising and escape having to negotiate at all.
If the rich folks are finally forced to truly negotiate, they want to do it with the smallest possible group of decision makers among the poor folks whom they can possibly corner, and, if possible, decide whom exactly that small group of poor folks will be. The rich will open side channels to poor folks they think can be compromised, and will try to elevate those folks into the position to close the negotiations with them. It is in the poor folks interest for the negotiation to be conducted as publicly as possible, in front of as many poor witnesses as possible, and by as large and unified a negotiating team as the poor folks can possibly organize.
Whenever the Urban League’s actual shot callers finally decide to recognize the existence of the AAHM&CC, we are more than willing to engage them in relevant conversation. For the above stated reasons, we will of course insist that this be done publicly in front of a mass assembly of the people. We think that Jimi Hendrix Park would be an excellent location for such a function, and that one potential appropriate date would be the 191st anniversary of the 1829 completion of David Walker’s Appeal (September 28th).
Free The Land!
-The African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center
NOTE: At approximately the same time as the NAAM published its August 17th Post, the Urban League delivered a letter to our registered agent by private courier. The Urban League’s letter was addressed as if to one individual privately, but was written as if to be shown to a broader audience. It contained similar lies and misinformation to that being published by the NAAM. We delivered our formal response to that letter (to both UL and NAAM) on August 26th. Because this correspondence is about matters that impact everybody, we are publicly posting both sides of the letter exchange right here.
Response to Recent Attacks by NAAM and the Urban League
DUWAMISH TERRITORY, “SEATTLE, WA.” The African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center is the original campaign to divest from the Seattle Police Department and invest in the Black community. Today, like a quarter of a century ago, it is under attack by the Urban League and the Northwest African American Museum, whose first director was FBI agent Carver Gayton, and who just 10 days ago held a press conference calling for 2,000 more police officers.
Since Juneteenth, elder Omari Tahir who is the founder of the African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center (AAHM&CC) along with a growing number of community members, including original AAHM&CC artist-in-residence Earl Debnam, have been asserting the AAHM&CC’s property rights by hosting an outdoor museum with exhibits and programming from 10am-8pm, that is guarded at night by 74-year-old Baba Omari and museum volunteers.
This past week, we heard that an Urban League board member called a number of Black community leaders in an attempt to generate support for the violent and unnecessary act of calling the police to suppress the peaceful protest. Yesterday, the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) circulated a mass email full of false claims calling activists “disrespectful” and “violent” in a clear attempt to set the stage for our violent eviction at the hands of the police or the feds who are currently in town. It would not be the first time.
At its’ heart, and since its inception in 1981, the AAHM&CC has been about divesting from the police and investing in community. For three years, elders Omari Tahir, Earl Debnam, Patrick Haggerty and others, occupied the site of a proposed police precinct at 23rd and Yesler and successfully blocked the placement of a precinct within the historically Black Central District. The activists countered the city’s intention to invest in policing with the proposal to instead invest in a cultural institution dedicated to uplifting and empowering the Black community, especially the youth. In 1985, the community declared the abandoned Colman School building as the African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, marking the start of the longest occupation of a public building in US history.
At the time, the AAHM&CC’s occupation was nominally supported by the establishment. Norm Rice, the former Mayor, sponsored a committee that included Omari and Earl and committed to creating a world-class museum and cultural center at Old Colman School. The building was sold to the AAHM&CC in 1998; however, not long after they were evicted by a Seattle Police SWAT team. The building was then illegally sold five years later to people with downtown money, who did not fight for or share the vision of the original museum’s founders, and who worked closely with the city and the feds in order to uphold the city’s violent institutions. NAAM’s recent press conference calling for 2,000 more police officersshows that this relationship has not changed.
The AAHM&CC’s outdoor museum is drawing attention to how the Urban League colluded with the FBI, the family of Bill Gates, and corrupt officials within the Seattle School District to steal Colman School from the AAHM&CC, who are the rightful owners of the property according to a signed purchase and sale agreement with Seattle School District, a publicly received $50,000 down payment, and filings made by the AAHM&CC to the WA Secretary of State — all of which predate the Urban League’s documents. The AAHM&CC proves that they had the resources to actualize their vision, exhibiting their receipt of an approved loan for the full purchase amount stated in the agreement, in addition to the federal block grant money that was secured by the AAHM&CC, but ended up being co-opted by the Urban League.
NAAM and the Urban League have responded to the AAHM&CC’s outdoor museum asserting their property rights with a range of violence from calling police multiple times, to outright slander of the predominantly young BIPOC community members supporting our elder’s reoccupation of Old Colman School. We now respond point by point to their false claims:
They have claimed that we are trespassers, “obstructing entry into the building for museum staff and contractors to do ‘vital work.’” Firstly, we are land defenders, healers, and community members, not violent trespassers. We are organizers creating positive programming, honoring and building upon the legacy of our Elders and the original 13-year occupation on stolen Duwamish Land.
Since June 19th, an alarm company, a rat inspector, the fire department, the police, and NAAM’s own maintenance worker have all freely accessed the building through separate entrances. No one has been denied the opportunity to do vital work, not even NAAM’s maintenance worker who was ordered to board up the windows to the front door, unnecessarily.
We are here with one single demand: “Any and all entities obstructing the African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center’s rightful control over our land and infrastructure are asked to please cease and desist from such obstruction. Former obstructors will be welcomed to participate in our project under the AAHM&CC’s leadership, as long as they are willing to do so. We are here for justice, not revenge.”
We fail to see how this is threatening or menacing. We are deeply rooted in an understanding that no one is free until Black and Indigenous Peoples are free. We are guests here on Duwamish Territory, in Africatown, and take leadership from our Elders. If anything, The Urban League and NAAM have been threatening and menacing to us, not only with ultimatums, but with their own actions.
NAAM has not shown an openness to collaborate. They called the police on us three times before anyone from the organization actually came to engage with us. Against the wishes of Baba Omari and his family, they then called the Fire Department for a wellness check, claiming that he’s mentally unwell (calling him “diseased”) in an attempt to diminish the righteousness of his well documented claims, and to distract from the fact that their first course of action was to call the police and bring violence and harm directly to us.
By doing so, NAAM has “maligned” its own reputation, not us.
We have engaged directly with residents to share the original and persistent vision of a world class African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center and to express care that they transition to safe, comfortable and affordable housing. The truth is that none of the design options considered in the 45-page 1994 Mayoral report ever had any apartments. While we sorely need more low-income housing, it is equally true that we need positive cultural institutions controlled by the grassroots of the Black community. A number of the residents whom we spoke to understand this and have told us that they would rather live somewhere else and see the Colman School building fully actualized into the African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center that it was meant to be.
We have been told that Coast Management, hired by the Urban League and approved by the City, maintains a climate of fear and intimidation. Management regularly leave notes to residents in the elevator threatening eviction and referencing tenants who have been evicted. In contrast, a resident has asserted to us: “You humanize the building. You bring humanity and light”.
In their letter, NAAM claims that “Residents, families, and children of low-income housing and the broader community around the Colman School building, including some visitors to the parks adjacent to the Colman School building such as the Jimi Hendrix Park and Sam Smith Park, are distressed and frightened of the trespassers’ disruption and damage”.
We are deeply disturbed by this lie. Since Juneteenth, Baba Omari, Earl Debnam and museum volunteers have brought new life to the building and its surrounding areas. From picking up garbage every morning, to providing water and food to visitors of our area, and to supporting those in need. We are hosting art exhibits and have open studio time. We have been collaborating with many organizations to bring family friendly positive programming, including working with Black Star Farmers to create garden beds that bring literal life, food and nourishment, to the community right in front of the museum where the land is sadly filled with nothing but gravel. Community organizations have partnered with us in solidarity for healing justice, Filipinx liberation, anti-imperialism, and education about anti-Blackness. Families, community elders, and Black youth have filled the space with art, teach-ins, cook outs, rallies calling for defunding the police, and conversations about the history and their vision for the future of their community.
We invite the Urban League and the NAAM to show us exactly what damage has been done, other than to their reputation, which has been completely self-inflicted.
In closing, we reaffirm our commitment to uplifting the legacy and heritage of Black artists and cultural workers decolonizing spaces for Indigenous & Black liberation and healing.
We warmly invite you to visit us this Saturday from 1-9pm during Umojafest Day of Unity, to see for yourselves what has been built here. There will be a march from 23rd and Union to Jimi Hendrix Park. We hope to see you here.
In Unity & Struggle, The African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center
On Monday, July 13th (2020), the organization calling itself “Northwest African American Museum (NAAM)” organized a press conference in Jimi Hendrix Park, calling upon the city of Seattle to hire at least two thousand (2000) more police officers. This would nearly double the size of the Seattle Police Department.
Jimi Hendrix Park is located over the former parking lot of the Central Area’s historic Coleman School Building, rightfully owned by the African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, to whom it was legally sold in 1998. The AAHM&CC was established as a direct alternative to the unpopular City Hall proposal to build a police precinct at 23rd Avenue and Yesler Way where the low income housing known as the Cannon House now stands instead (thanks to the valiant efforts of community organizers like Omari Tahir Garrett and Patrick Haggerty, who risked their lives to stop the installation of that precinct).
Claiming that Seattle has a shortage of police (interval 12:47 in Mr. Redwine’s video), emcee V. Beach then introduced featured speaker Peola “Auntie P” Johnson, who called Seattle’s City Council “mentally disabled” and delivered the press conference’s main demand for at least 2000 additional cops (interval 14:37 in Mr. Redwine’s video).
“If it was left up to me, I would put at least two thousand more on the payroll. We need them”, said Johnson.
The “NAAM”’s position in favor of adding 2000+ officers to SPD stands in stark contrast to the reasonable political responses to the lynching of George Floyd that have been respectively issued by two major authentic Seattle cultural institutions with whom the AAHM&CC shares a parallel epic history—Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center and El Centro De La Raza (neither or which have called for doubling the size of SPD).
On June 10th, Daybreak Star stated: “We stand united with the Black Lives Matters movement in the same way allies stood with our Native American activists who fought for and established a land base here at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center. Initial planning for that campaign happened at the Filipino Community Hall in South Seattle. Black Panthers showed their support by facing military police in solidarity with us. Volunteers from many marginalized communities tended to our wounded, tired, and hungry activists at Resurrection City so that they could return to the protest. We seek to do the same.” ( https://www.unitedindians.org/black-lives-matter/ )
On June 2nd, El Centro De La Raza stated:“El Centro de la Raza condemns the senseless murder of George Floyd – in the strongest possible terms – as we remember Breonna Tayor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, 12-year-old Tamir Rice, and Philando Castile; at a local level, we remember John T. Williams, Che Taylor, Charleena Lyles, and countless others whose names never made headlines but whose lives were also cut short by anti-Black racism and police violence.The waves of uprisings that have ignited across the country is a natural culmination of the anger and pain at the continuous racial terror and violence that police regularly perpetuate in our Black communities. …At the same time, it has been deeply disturbing to witness the frequently violent responses by police toward protestors. Police have violently charged peaceful protestors, driven police vehicles through crowds, shot rubber bullets, sprayed protesters with harmful gases, and punched, kicked, beaten, arrested, and detained people for doing nothing wrong. These assaults on protesters are unacceptable violence. Our communities should be able to protest injustices in our streets without suffering from police violence and militarized responses.El Centro de la Raza is committed to combatting institutional racism and police brutality in all its forms. Despite decades of effort through multi-racial coalitions to address police misconduct, which has yielded some successes, we are challenged to recognize that our communities are still plagued with police brutality, which was evident this past weekend.Twelve thousand(12,000) complaints were filed after this past weekend’s demonstrations with Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability. One complaint included an officer placing his knee on the neck area of two people who had been arrested. All this despite the Seattle Police Department (SPD) being under a Federal Consent Decree. …We will continue to work with Black Leaders and other leaders of color to call for concrete policy proposals to address systemic targeting and violence against Black communities. These policy proposals should include de-militarization, budget reductions, and enhanced transparency, particularly around misconduct and community oversight of police functions.More often than not, police budgets comprise a significant proportion of discretionary spending and grow steadily year on year. The scope, militarization, and intensity of law enforcement have rapidly increased. In contrast, police have been mistakenly tasked with addressing social problems within communities of color, such as education, mental health, homelessness, and drug abuse.These dynamics have, in turn, resulted in the criminalization and over-policing of communities of color, often with destructive and deadly consequences and minimal accountability for wrongdoing. As allies, our job is to work with the Black community to demand resources that are invested in Black communities in ways that enhance public safety and enrich our communities rather than simply expand and further militarize police ranks.” (http://www.elcentrodelaraza.org/2020/06/02/el-centro-de-la-razas-public-statement-on-george-floyds-death/)
That is very different from the “NAAM”. Although some individual officials of the “NAAM” have posted testimonials on its website about the personal anguish they’ve felt over George Floyd’s death, the “NAAM”’s organized political response–as an institution–so far is embodied by this press conference, calling for the SPD to double in size. While personal testimony is inherently valuable and political, institutional actions are what define an organization’s policy line.
The “NAAM”’s position is therefore even worse than the deafening silence to date (on the lynching of George Floyd) from the website of Chinatown’s Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience (a silence that must surely have the late Chinatown ID legendary activist Bob Santos turning in his grave). In spite of the silence,Wing Luke Museum is AT LEAST still displaying its excellent online “Here To Stay” exhibit on the struggle for “ownership and place”, which accurately presents the historic words of Ron Lee, son of corner grocers Lloyd and May Lee: “We had the protection of the Black Panthers. Whenever we were robbed, the police couldn’t find the robbers, but the Black Panthers did… And we hid the Black Panthers in the back of the store when the police were looking for them. When the coast was clear we let them out through the alley to their headquarters.” —Ron Lee (https://www.wingluke.org/here-to-stay/)
According to Seattle’s faux-liberal academia, publishing houses and establishment media, The creation of Daybreak Star, El Centro and Wing Luke can largely be credited to a group of multi-ethnic activist celebrities they call “The Gang Of Four”. However, Seattle’s elites are often annoyed if someone dares to ask how this group of “Four”(4) celebrities only succeeded in establishing three (3) major Seattle cultural institutions. They get even more annoyed if you ask them which of the “Four” (4) major ethnic groups represented by this “Gang” is still MISSING its major Seattle cultural institution today.
The uncomfortable truth is this.The celebrity glorified as the alleged African American member of this “Gang Of Four” failed to mobilize any major community protests in response to Mayor Paul Schell’s 1998 SWAT Police raid that shut down the fledgling African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, stole it’s legally purchased Coleman School building at gunpoint, and delivered it as HUD-subsidized loot to the corrupt and racketeer-influenced Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle in order to prevent the emergence of a Black led cultural institution of any comparable capacity to that of Wing Luke, El Centro or Daybreak Star.
The Urban League was founded in 1910 by the wife of the wealthy Boston Railroad Tycoon William Henry Baldwin Jr. From its inception, it has always consisted of white industrial wealth hiring mostly Black staff to carry out the political agenda of their employers under a nominally “non-profit” umbrella. In this sense, it can be considered one of the world’s first “NGOs”. It has always aligned itself with the US State Department and been used as a tool of white supremacy since its early days when it worked with the Woodrow Wilson administration to oppose Marcus Garvey’s UNIA movement and pressure Black workers to support the First World War. It has always repressed Black visionaries who were reclaiming their heritage and organizing for authentic cultural and economic development.
2008-03 March 2008 Video Statement of the AAHM&CC in response to the formal “Opening” of the Urban League Village “NAAM” Scam: (It took a person getting arrested at that time, in order to even get this message out.)