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 Small businesses have been replaced by expensive condos and commercial spaces, forcing a drastic change to once familiar neighborhoods.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:
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”
Updated: this story has been edited to clarify the location of one of the crosswalks.