This Community Leader Is Building an Africatown to Fight Gentrification in Seattle's Central District

This Community Leader Is Building an Africatown to Fight Gentrification in Seattle’s Central District

K. Wyking Garrett, Africatown, Seattle Central District, Black Communities
Community leader, and president and CEO of Africatown Community K. Wyking Garrett. Photo Credit: Mujale Chisebuka

Community leader K. Wyking Garrett is designing programs and initiatives that inspire, mobilize, and activate communities for sustainable social impact. Recognized in 2019 by Seattle Times as one of 13 influential people of the decade, Garrett is a third-generation community builder, social entrepreneur, and current president and CEO of Africatown Community. 

A catalyst for numerous ventures, including the Africatown Seattle community development initiative, Liberty Bank Building, and Umoja Fest, Garrett understands the importance of community and rebuilding sustainable Black communities recently discussed Africatown Community, building sustainable communities amid gentrification, and how to fight the systemic injustices we face. 

Tell me about Africatown Community. What was that aha moment where you said I’ve got to make this happen? 

It has been a progression. We are an asset-based community focused on preserving and developing the historic Black community that’s called the central district neighborhood in Seattle. For almost 140 years the central district has faced displacement and gentrification. We are focused on creating models that drive Black communities through post-gentrification and in other locations to be ahead of gentrification. 

What programs and invitations are executed to drive the social impact you are shooting for?

Within the development sector, our programming is around providing targeted technical assistance to maximize the participation of Black firms and contractors on the projects. Through the affiliate’s initiatives in the Africatown ecosystem, we have an education innovation center to introduce young people to technology innovation and entrepreneurship early in their developmental years. In addition, we support our creatives through partnerships with the city and commercial advertising agencies. 

How can we change the narrative in regard to people of color existing in a certain class and being relegated to that class?

  1. Exposure to the economic impact that we have is critical. Much more exposure to training and institutions focused on capturing the value that we create and circulating dollars within that. 
  2. Access to capital. 

How has the pandemic positively and/or negatively affected your programs, development, and initiatives?

The pandemic disrupted everything which caused people to pause and think about ways to do things. COVID-19 created problems that we could participate in and solve. It exposed the compounding inequities that have always existed, which create a big gap and disparities in healthcare and access to healthcare in our communities. 

What advice do you have for Black people as we continue to face systemic injustices?

This is simple but the execution is harder: We need to organize around a singular pillar and then focus on strategic and actionable solutions.