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.
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.