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Posts tagged ‘Northwest African American Museum’

Seattle: living elements of the city’s black history

Oh Seattle: how is your black history defined?

With the city’s proximity to Vancouver, my time in or any understanding of Seattle was incomplete without an examination of the city’s non-white communities. I had questions about the black community and in particular why the city remains racially segregated. People of color, including black people, were once forbidden from buying houses in specific neighbourhoods because of their skin colour. The Central District (CD) thrived as a black community in the 2nd-half of the 20th-century, but now, citizens struggle with gentrification, displacement, and economic racism. There’s much more I need to ask and learn, but for now, I describe below a selection of landmarks highlighting contributions by and the historical impact of the black community to city and nation.


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NHL Black Hockey History Tour, black hockey, black hockey history, Jimi Hendrix Park, Northwest African American Museum, Seattle, Washington, USA, fotoeins.com

Black hockey history, NHL mobile museum in Seattle (2018)

When a city receives an expansion team, that immediately drives anticipation for a new pro sports presence and interest for an expected intraregional rivalry. It’s a perfect time for the professional sports league to come into town and speak to the city’s audience.

The new NHL Seattle Kraken ice hockey team will begin play in the 2021-2022 season, and regional bragging rights will begin immediately with an immediate regional rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks, not unlike the decades-old soccer rivalry between the Seattle Sounders and the Vancouver Whitecaps (which I first witnessed in the 1970s in the old original NASL).

But the following questions remain timely: For whom is ice hockey? What is the relationship between the sport and people of colour? What is the history of black people in professional hockey? I hope the following sheds a little bit of light on black hockey history.


NHL Black Hockey History Mobile Museum

In early 2020, a travelling museum exhibition highlighted how black Canadians, black Americans, and their respective communities have made important contributions to the winter sport of ice hockey at both amateur and professional levels.⁣ Presented in conjunction with the American Legacy Network, the NHL Black Hockey History mobile museum made its way throughout North America, stopping in 14 cities: Washington, DC; Detroit, MI; St. Louis, MO; Pittsburgh, PA; Ottawa, ON; Toronto, ON; Newark, NJ; Nashville, TN; Anaheim, CA; Los Angeles, CA; San Jose, CA; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; and Tempe, AZ.

In a continuation of activities associated with Black History Month, Kim Davis, NHL executive vice president, wrote about what Black History Month meant to her, and what players of colour past and present have meant to the game of hockey (28 Feb 2020).

The mobile museum dropped anchor for its 4-day visit in Seattle in early March, with the first stop at Jimi Hendrix Park next to the city’s Northwest African American Museum.


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“Iconic Black Women”, by Seattle artist Hiawatha D

(Best you view these images NOT on a tiny mobile screen, but from your desktop or laptop. You can either view the scrolling gallery above, or move down into the post for the same images with important informative captions.)

As part of an ongoing journey to learn more about Seattle’s black community and their ongoing story, I visited the city’s Northwest African American Museum (NAAMNW) in March 2020. The museum’s permanent collection casts a spotlight on black migration within the United States, and the contributions by blacks to the nation and to the American Pacific Northwest. Also timely was the simultaneous visit of the NHL’s Black Hockey History mobile museum as part of their 14-city tour throughout North America.

I was especially moved by the museum’s special exhibition “Iconic Black Women: Ain’t I A Woman“, by Hiawatha D, an artist based in Seattle. His work and paintings highlight his story as a black man and black artist in America. His series of paintings “Iconic Black Women” shines a positive light on black women throughout past and contemporary American history: the important places they’ve occupied, and the important contributions they’ve made to human rights, music, literature, and sport. On sight of the paintings, the context, clothing, and body language may be immediately familiar. But many of the people painted don’t have faces, which allows viewers, especially young women, to see themselves in these figures, sparking and strengthening a connection between viewer and iconic black women.

I would love to see another name added to this list of iconic black women: Viola Desmond.


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