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.
The African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center has always stood at the forefront of the Anti-Apartheid Repair-ations Now Movement.
On May 18, 2021, in solidarity with the Palestinian call for a General Strike following Israel’s recent escalations in its ongoing 73+ year Nakba or Catastrophe against the Palestinan people and its renewed bombing of Gaza, which has created 212 new martyrs and counting, we are truly honored to partner and hold space with our Palestinian comrades in Falastiniyat, who led an incredibly moving and powerful vigil, grieving the dead and fighting for the living.
Recognizing that we are on Duwamish and Coast Salish territory, we affirm our stance against settler colonialism, apartheid and the racist settler colonial practice of Zionism. The African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center declares in solidarity with the Palestinian people and indigenous peoples everywhere that the African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center is an Apartheid Free Zone.
Our struggle for self-determination and for repair-ations, including the struggle for Black ownership and Black cultural institutions on Coast Salish lands in so-called Seattle, is inextricably linked to the Palestinian struggle and the struggles of indigenous peoples and comrades resisting colonization and imperialism everywhere.
Falastiniyat member Ranna spoke beautifully about these connections in her opening to the vigil and commemoration of the African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center as an Apartheid Free Zone:
“We acknowledge that we are on Coast Salish lands in an area that has been colonized, occupied and renamed the Greater Seattle Area. We acknowledge the experiences of genocide, of forced relocation, ethnic cleansing, and land theft of indigenous peoples and sacred lands so that we can build our awareness of how settler colonialism and colonization still exists today.
We honor the ways of knowing and the ways of being of indigenous peoples and tribal nations, who are still here and thriving. We also want to thank Baba Omari and elders for holding down the occupation here for the African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center. We just want to say that we honor your ongoing struggle and we are with you in the struggle.”
Museum founder and elder Omari Tahir also speaks to the connections between the struggles for a Free Palestine, decolonization on Turtle Island and Repair-ations to indigenous and black communities: “It’s always the same. It’s the oppressor vs the oppressed, which is the colonizer vs the colonized. The colonizer sets up an apartheid regime to control the people they are colonizing. The oppressor tries to keep us fighting among the oppressed so they can keep controlling land and resources. Our struggles are the same. We are both fighting against settler colonialism and apartheid. We cannot let them divide us.”
Just last weekend, on May 8, the King County Sheriffs and the Urban League colluded to steal all of the artwork, exhibits, structures and belongings of the African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, which has been operating as an open air museum since last Juneteenth despite holding a signed purchase and sale agreement. Like in Sheikh Jarrah, the settler colonial courts dominating Turtle Island hold no remedy for indigenous and colonized peoples. We hold faith in public tribunals, in the movement to boycott, divest and sanction and in the power of the people.
Solidarity with Palestine! End Settler Colonialism! Boycott Israel! Repair-ations Now!
The attackers destroyed our traveling exhibit tent (and all four of its display cases), our medical/library tent (with both its first aid equipment and books), both of our staff tents and also the tent which had served as the beloved gallery for our co-founding Artist-In-Residence, Earl Debnam (stealing or destroying his paintings, prints, brushes, paints, canvasses, easels, art table and other supplies). They have also once again stolen all of the AAHM&CC’s actual physical exhibits, including, for example, the laminated copy of the front cover of January 1986 Northwest Passage, an image of which is at the top of this post.
Then, they proceeded to steal Elder Omari’s camper and remove it to a far-away & hard-to-reach location:
This attack was lead by Captain B.J. Myers of the King County Sheriff’s Office.
Since the attack, we have also heard (from a source close to the Urban League leadership) that the Sheriff’s Office was acting at the particular direction and coordination of this Seattle Urban League Board Of Directors Member George Allen–who is the North America Director of Public Affairs and Communications for the Coca Cola Corporation.
The Urban League published the following press release the same day, boasting about the alleged success of its campaign to “Remove” Omari and the rest of us, and reiterating a few of their many lies we’ve already debunked many times here over the last year.
The only fully true statement within that press release is its over-jubilant boast that their toy King County Judge, of course, signed every statement their expensive law firm told him to sign during the “Zoom” conference they are pretending was a “court hearing”. Omari has already explained in both his active appeal and his federal notice of removal (upon which this website has already reported) many of the glaring reason this “judge” was in error. Furthermore, the active status of both this appeal and removal mean that this May 8th act of state violence would STILL be a breach of due process EVEN if Omari were wrong (which he isn’t).
Regarding the rest of the of Urban League press release’s inaccurate content, one may simply refer to our public posting of March 29th, 2021 (provided again here) to debunk these particular lies yet one more time:
While we’re not impressed by their press release, we are quite proud of the way our authentic outdoor museum appears in its drone photograph. This photo, taken by our opponents, no less, shows our clean, orderly, efficient and positive use of the space over the past ten months. We invite any and all observers to compare and contrast this photo with the mess that has been left by the armed and uniformed attackers in this same space. They have conveniently sealed off the space in question with a chain link fence, to preserve their aftermath for your due observation.
The object is a laminated letter from “URBAN LEAGUE OF METROPOLITAN SEATTLE” Board Member John F. Williams Esquire, signed by him in the name of “URBAN LEAGUE VILLAGE LLC”, printed on the letterhead of his high corporate DNC lawfirm Perkins Coie, dated March 10th and demanding that we abandon our own property by March 14th–10 days before the ugly object was sticky-taped upon us. (The ugly object also alleges itself to have been mailed to somebody, but it’s unclear to whom.)
Naturally, we corrected the unsightly object’s inaccurate content by posting–alongside of our duly signed and notarized purchase and sale agreement–this notice of our own. As you can see here, not only is ours accurate, but its logo is also far less ugly and much more historically meaningful.
Then, on March 30th, this “URBAN LEAGUE VILLAGE LLC” entity allegedly filed a lawsuit (delivered March 31st by the same Sheriff) against our elder and co-founder Omari Tahir-Garrett and an unspecified but clearly very large number of additional as-yet unnamed defendants, whom their document insultingly, dishonestly and pejoratively refers to as “Other Trespassers”.
We can only presume this false accusation (of being “tresspassers” on our own land) includes all volunteers, guests and event-attendees of our African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center over the past ten months, which places the number of this lawsuit’s “Defendants” well into the thousands.
The LLC’s lawsuit demands that the settler government of King County once again force the AAHM&CC out of our own legally purchased infrastructure and land, as it did before on June 4th, 1998. The lawsuit’s argument relies entirely upon the willingness of King County to violate Article 17 of the Univeral Declaration of Human Rights (the right to own property, either alone or in association with one’s peers) by failing to recognize the right of a predominantly and authentically African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center to purchase and own real property here, and by instead recording only the subsequent alleged and fraudulent transfer of our property to others (more favored by the Euro-settler power structure) by a “seller” whose property it no longer was to sell—because it had already been sold to us!
The lawsuit, like the preceding ugly object, is signed and filed by the same corporate attorney, John F. Williams Esquire, who sits on the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle’s Board Of Directors alongside John Bridge of Ben Bridge Jewelers, merchants in the infamous De Beers diamond trade.
On the very next day, April 1st, 2021, the URBAN LEAGUE VILLAGE LLC’s Chief Financial Officer filed THIS REPORT to the Washington Secretary of State, declaring, under penalty of perjury, that URBAN LEAGUE VILLAGE LLC does not “own any real property such as land or buildings” in Washington.
Of course, we knew it was possible that none of these facts would matter to the settler court of King County, and that its Sheriffs would again illegally and violently shut down our AAHM&CC, as they did 23 years ago. We now know this is EXACTLY what is happening.
On the Friday of April 16th, our co-founder Omari Tahir formally responded to URBAN LEAGUE VILLAGE LLC’s lawsuit on behalf of himself and all accused “Other Tresspassers”, and also filed a proper and very reasonable motion for the court to appoint him a trained assistant to help him read the legal papers of the case, because his vision is extremely impaired by cataracts (a fact which Omari verified by attaching medical evidence). On that same day, he also filed a federal lawsuit against these racketeers, naming and charging them in extensive detail.
On the Monday of April 19th, Omari duly filed the proper and legally binding notice of removal, removing the pending eviction matter from King County to the federal court, which must, according to the letter of the settlers’ own law, deal with the matter before the County Court can legally act on it.
On April 20th, a kangaroo pageant pretense of “a court hearing” was staged via the online auspices of a private corporation known as “Zoom”. The Urban League, the “NAAM” and their respective lawyers were all allowed both visual and audio access to this hearing, while Omari was denied visual access and only allowed to hear. The County court’s judge pretended to be unaware that Omari had removed the case to federal court, allowed the FBI-founded “NAAM” to willfully misrepresent itself as the AAHM&CC (which it is not), and cut Omari off by telling him to stop talking as he was attempting to explain the marked difference between those two organizations.
The judge also claimed that he did not have the authority to deal with Omari’s motion for the appointment of an assistant due to his documented vision problems; but then, instead of observing due process by having the motion dealt with by someone WITH the authority to handle it, the judge proceeded to bulldoze onward as if the motion in question had not been before the court at all (which it was).
King County’s “judge” gave the imperialist neocolonial puppets and their high power lawfirm everything they asked for and more, without even pretending to review the full facts or laws at stake, or pretending to actually hear and consider Omari’s argument beyond ignoring Omari’s voice for a a few minutes before telling Omari to stop speaking, and then issuing the ruling he had clearly already decided he would issue from the first second he saw PERKINS COIE’s letterhead on the case number.
On April 21st, of course, Omari appealed the kangaroo ruling to the settler court which claims to have appellate jurisdiction over King County.
Unlike the Urban League and “NAAM”, Omari Tahir and the AAHM&CC have nothing to hide in this matter. Like Omari himself, we are proud of our co-founding registered agent’s record to date in this court matter, and believe that an authentic sovereign indigenous court would rule in Omari’s favor instead of continuing to violate his human rights.
Therefore, at the request of our registered agent himself, we are posting these court documents (which are already public documents that anyone could find on their own via both paper and online government archives) here on this webpage so that you, gentle reader, can easily access and view them. We will accordingly update this webpage to continue documenting Omari’s legal activities and the racketeers’ extra-legal actions.
Here are the main events which have happened in the settler courts so far:
In spite of the above timely appeal, by Omari, of the kangaroo court’s eviction order, King County has so far ignored the existence of his appeal. Its Sheriffs promptly posted their intent to raid Omari with force and violence without further warning “any time after 11:59 PM on April” 30th.
They then proceeded, eight days later, on May 8th, to conduct a raid just as they had threatened to do, stealing all of Omari’s personal possessions onsite, and completely destroying our AAHM&CC’s outdoor museum operation, which we must now rebuild from scratch yet again.
“King” County is living up to its original name in this matter.
King County, after all, was originally named for the obscure US Vice President William Rufus King, an Alabama slave owner. Even the chief proponent of the 2006 re-marketing effort (to associate the county’s name with a better King) chose to carefully go on record against “dissing” or “denigrating” that still popular slaveholder. Everyone today knows the resulting score of that. Now some (not all) of the County`s transit fare enforcement uses uniforms and vehicles decorated with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s image, , while continuing to disproportionately target Black people. And King County’s African Americans still don’t have any cultural institution on par with Nordic Heritage Museum, Wing Luke, Daybreak Star or El Centro.
Therefore, the AAHM&CC joins our co-founder Omari Tahir in calling for this “URBAN LEAGUE VILLAGE LLC eviction” to be removed from the venue of William Rufus King County’s settler court, and for the matter to instead be resolved in a sovereign tribal court of the Great Salish Sea.
As for you, gentle reader, we call upon you to come the Museum as often as possible and to stay as long as you can. Only the mass mobilization of the people can stop this settler tyranny and reestablish indigenous sovereignty.
Yesterday (October 12th, 2020), at approximately 6 pm, without warning or provocation, two Caucasian goons began hurling projectiles down from the high rooftop of the NAAM/UL-occupied building, into the gravel courtyard where the authentic African American Heritage Museum is conducting our operations.
The first knowledge we had of this attack was the sound of the first projectile hitting the tarpaulin roof of the studio of our co-founding Artist In Residence, Earl Debman, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair. He was very shaken by the surprise attack, describing it as “like the sound of a bomb going off”.
Initially thinking that the projectile had come out of a window, we were then ambushed again –several minutes later—by a second projectile hitting the roof of traveling exhibit tent on the opposite side of the courtyard, this time from an angle that clearly originated from the rooftop.
Turning our attention to the roof, we observed two partially masked but clearly Caucasian individuals crouching behind the roof’s parapet wall, briefly emerging every few minutes to lob another projectile down upon us and our outdoor ground level museum tents. The projectiles turned out to be clods of wet dirt of the sort that is often fills indoor flower pots. These clods were definitely heavy enough to injure a person when thrown from that height.
The attackers kept up their assault for about fifteen minutes, presumably until they ran out of dirt clods to throw. Then they exited the roof back into the building through a trapdoor, to which they obviously had access from the inside, access which they could only have obtained through the auspices of the Urban League.
This is exactly the kind of white supremacist vigilante violence that the Urban League promotes and encourages against Black people and authentically Black-led organizations. This time the projectiles were only heavy, but at least soft. Next time, who knows?
Due to the escalating risk of injury to our volunteers from the increasingly violent vigilantism of the Urban League’s agents, we are calling upon the community to donate helmets, hardhats and shoulder pads to our museum, to increase our volunteers’ chances of surviving future projectile attacks from above.