We did it! Community bought a full block in the Central District!

After nearly two years of advocacy, an entire block in the Central District has officially been protected from market rate, predatory development and instead transferred to Black community ownership!

Africatown Community Land Trust (“ACLT”) officially closed on the $14M property on 16th and Yesler last week!

We repeat.

An entire block in the Central District has been protected from market rate development and instead will go to Black community ownership towards Bennu Community Homes.

In the coming months, we’ll continue to unpack and amplify this remarkable story. But for those just tuning in, here are a few reasons why this $14M land acquisition is such a massive success for the City of Seattle and Washington State:

1. Staving off gentrification.

The Central District (CD) is the historic home to Washington’s oldest and largest Black neighborhood. Centuries of racist covenants and anti-Black racial hostility drastically narrowed places where the Black community could call home. In spite of such hostile and adverse circumstances, Blacks in Washington created vibrant Black communities in the spaces afforded.

While the CD used to be 73% Black, today its Black population is under 18%. Chronic underfunding, predatory development, damaging public work projects (e.g., the i-90 lid), and other land use decisions have led to the dislocation, displacement, and disintegration of the Black community there. Black people in the CD have been impacted by a myriad of structural and institutional anti-Black racist policies e.g., weed and seed, over-policing, discriminatory practices leading to racial segregation, and economic exclusion. All of this has led to vast disparities in education quality, employment, environmental safety, affordable housing, community safety, health, wealth and more.

So, while this property acquisition doesn’t fix this gigantic issue, it does help slow the trend. Not only does this transfer stop the development of a full block of market rate apartments (which would only further hasten the whitening of the CD) but it also transfers ownership of that full block to the Black community!

2. Immediate relief for 125 neighbors experiencing homelessness.

ACLT Community Homes will be a 24/7, enhanced shelter home that will offer culturally responsive, trauma-informed care and wraparound services including health, education, employment, and housing navigation resources. As we approach the coldest months of the year, 125 beds for our unhoused neighbors' will be available this month!

3. The first Black-owned, Black-led unhoused service provider of scale in Washington State.

There are currently no Black-led unhoused service providers of scale in Washington State, even though Black people are significantly overrepresented in the unhoused population. Black people make up 13% of Seattle’s overall population but nearly 40% of the population experience homelessness.

What’s the result? An industry dominated by large white-led nonprofits with little to no accountability to the Black community with neither the cultural competency or vision to service a majority non-white population.

Bennu Community Homes breaks this disturbing model by empowering Black community and Black-led organizations to serve our people directly. The purchase affords the opportunity to prototype holistic, culturally-competent care. ACLT and its other Black partners add necessary to voices to the industry towards changing the system for the better, for all of us.

4. Cross-community partnership.

Partnered with the City of Seattle, Africatown facilitated multiple community engagement sessions to ensure participation from important community stakeholders. Without the involvement of the Japanese and Pan Asian community, Indigenous Duwamish community representatives, neighbors, renters, homeowners, and local service providers, this would not have been possible. Huge thanks and congratulations to the community on this incredible milestone!

We were the leading advocacy organization on this project. With countless community members, we helped mobilize tens of thousands of people and nearly 50,000 actions demanding equitable development of this block.

Together, we demonstrated the power of community voice. We can move away from the current Jim Crow apartheid state toward a new normal rooted in equity.

This is what Black organizing does.
This is why Black organizing matters.
It truly takes a village.

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