• The Big O

What is a design meeting and why it is important that you attend them

Africatown Plaza design meeting - June 2019

By - @Omarisal

So let me start off by being very honest with you. Before becoming involved with Africatown, I would see event invites and fliers that said "Design" or "Design Cipher" and when I saw that I would automatically think fashion design or art. It kind of makes sense because Africatown supports a lot of artistic initiatives in our community. That being the case I would dismiss the event invite or flier and keep it pushing, I love art as much as the next guy but not enough to attend meetings about it. What I failed to realize at the time but I am fully aware of now is that what the "Design" meetings are all about is literally designing physical space for our community in the City of Seattle and beyond.

Communities all over Seattle and the City of Seattle as an entity are constantly engaged in designing what their future neighborhoods will look like. So the concept of attending design meetings is very common and expected of community stakeholders. In most cases it is the feedback offered by neighbors that is represented in the final design of buildings, roads, and structures in their specific community.

Africatown Plaza design meetings - June 2019

In the Central District, for decades there has not necessarily been an emphasis on inclusion of the African American legacy community in the design process which is why throughout the Central District we see new buildings that are totally out of place or lack and type of real design aesthetics that match the original vibe and culture of our neighborhood.

The Liberty Bank Building is a great example of the community attending design meetings and saying what they want to see in the building both inside and out. Africatown Plaza as well as the new Midtown developments have also undergone exhaustive design meetings and in some cases redesign of plans to ensure that the community's wishes were incorporated in the final design.

Let's take the conversation from buildings in the Central District and expand this conversation to other communities of sizable Black populations across the Puget Sound. Places like Renton, Kent, Federal Way, Des Moines, Tacoma, Lakewood. In these cities as well as across Seattle, the the future of the communities are being planned and in most cases without us having a seat at the planning table or the planners having our best interest in mind. This is where that old adage "people don't plan to fail, they fail to plan" rings true and when we fail to plan we are excluded from the process.

Africatown Plaza design meeting - June 2019

The City of Seattle has a long term plan it is called Seattle 2035 and to be honest Black people are not really represented in the long term vision of the city, although there have been some moves made to make the plan more inclusive since its original release in 2015, it is clear that we as a community must make a plan of our own.

To that point, this is why the design meeting occurring on Saturday at Washington Hall is so important. It is an opportunity for those who are passionate about our community not only being present but to meet other like minded community members and learn from each other how we can best plan. The team behind the Liberty Bank Building and Africatown Plaza will be present as well as world renowned architect Renee Kemp-Rotan who is a leading expert at designing spaces for Black people will be presenting and as well participating in an information session with those from our community who seek to learn how to plan and design spaces in their own town and cities.

The meeting on Saturday is from 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM at Washington Hall with a community dinner occurring right after from 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM. Everything is free and you can click here to reserve your slot.

  • 11-12 Mixer

  • 12-12:45 KEYNOTE- Renee Kemp-Rotan: Designing Black Spaces

  • 1-1:30 Lunch

  • 1:30-2 Student Presentations

  • 2-2:15 K. Wyking Garrett: Africatown: How we got here

  • 2:15-2:25 Laurie Wilson: Africatown Plaza

  • 2:25-2:45 Saki Mafundikwa: Afrocentric Design

  • 2:45-3 BREAK

  • 3-6 Regional Asset Mapping & Community Planning

  • 6-7:00 Sharing & Reflections

  • 7-9 Community Dinner: Central District Buffet & BBQ

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