Who gave Central District crosswalks a Pan-African makeover?

United Hood Movement — an organization of former and current gang members — says they're among those who painted Crosswalks in the Central District red, black and green this weekend. (Photo by Alex Stonehill)
United Hood Movement — an organization of former and current gang members — says they’re among those who painted Crosswalks in the Central District red, black and green this weekend. (Photo by Alex Stonehill)

It’s no secret that Seattle has been undergoing fast paced gentrification in the past few years. Small businesses have been replaced by expensive condos and commercial spaces, forcing a drastic change to once familiar neighborhoods. Many people have been forced to relocate due to increasing rents, especially in the Central District.

The United Hood Movement, a community organization of former and current gang members based out of the CD wanted the African American legacy of their neighborhood to be recognized. So last weekend they painted the crosswalks red, black, and green — the colors of the Pan-African Flag. It was the same weekend as the UmjoaFest Parade, that winds its way from 23rd and Union to Judkins Park each summer.

The organization painted four crosswalks, two at MLK and Cherry (site of the old Catfish Corner restaurant, which has now moved down south), another on MLK, one block south of Cherry street, in front of Powell Barnett Park, and the last on Jackson Street between the Walgreens and Red Apple. All three locations are important landmarks, and the painted crosswalks are plainly visible to the thousands driving or walking through each day.

The Pan-African flag, also referred to as the Afro-American flag and Black Liberation Flag, was created on August 13, 1920 by the members of Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) in response to a 1900 “coon song” called “Every Race has a Flag but the Coon.” For a short time in 1971, Newark, New Jersey, permitted the Pan-Africa flag to hang alongside the U.S. flag in public schools, but was eventually banned, claiming that no ethnic flag was allowed to hang next the United States flag.

According to its founders at UNIA, the color red in the flag stands for the blood that unites all people of African ancestry, black for the people, and green for the rich land of Africa. Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican political leader and black nationalist, also introduced the colors as red being the “sympathy for the reds in the world, green for their sympathy for the Irish in their fight for freedom, and black for the Negros.”

The United Hood Movement issued this statement via their Facebook page on Sunday:

“On behalf of United Hood Movement It was our pleasure to be one of the group’s to help paint the sidewalks ‪#‎RBG for the Umojafest Parade.”

No word as to whether SDOT plans to repaint the crosswalks white, but the United Hood Movement facebook post continued with what seemed to be a reference to the money the city spent to paint rainbow crosswalks in Capitol Hill for Pride this year.

“We didn’t get $100,000 to do it. We just knew it would give people a sense ownership back to our community since gentrification has changed it so rapidly, and dramatically it’s hard to recognize the place we call… Home”

Update: The city will work with the community on a permanent crosswalk design.

Updated: this story has been edited to clarify the location of one of the crosswalks.

3 Comments

  1. If painting crosswalks to reflect the pride and culture of a particular neighborhood is having the positive effect that is being claimed in areas such as Capital Hill, then it seems like a good investment. So long as it is not creating more traffic safety problems, I say SDOT should customize them all!!!

  2. I support the idea behind this, but wish there were a more constructive approach than painting over needed reflective paint near schools and parks. Perhaps a Neighborhood Park & Street Fund grant for a permanent application of these ideas?

    1. I can’t believe you would say that sir, I hope you say the same thing about the rainbow strips in capital Hill

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