Celebrate Black Arts, History, and Culture in Seattle
A 2024 guide on how to support and learn about the city’s Black community
SEATTLE – Seattle’s Black community is a key part of the city’s authentic culture and historic roots, a population that should be honored and celebrated year-round. Yet as February marks Black History Month, it’s a great time to bring attention and support to this community, highlighting the significant contributions and narratives of those based here. Local Black culture, art, food, music, business, industry, and beyond are found throughout the destination and offer a lot for both visitors and locals to explore.
From early pioneers like George Washington Bush to education leader Thelma Dewitty to trailblazing journalists like Horace Cayton and the thousands of African Americans who came for work during World War II, the Puget Sound region has greatly benefited from prominent Black figures and a growing Black population. Today, numerous Seattle neighborhoods are still hot spots for Black-owned businesses and arts and culture organizations—including the Central District, Rainier Valley, Mt. Baker, Columbia City, Hillman City, and White Center.
For those interested in attending events, learning about Black heritage, or supporting Black-owned businesses and restaurants, here are just some of the options to honor Black history, in February and beyond:
Follow Along with the Travels of Marlie and Anthony Love
With a mission to enable travel for all, Seattle-based couple Marlie and Anthony Love launched “Traveling While Black” in 2019, a popular content series that has inspired greater exploration of the region.
“We are thankful for the Seattle Black community and the Seattle community at large for being supportive and accepting of our work,” said Marlie and Anthony Love. “We couldn’t think of any other city where our mission would be this encouraged.”
The series serves as a modern day Greenbook, offering friendly and fun reviews from a Black perspective.
Enjoy a Cozy Beverage at The Station
Leona Moore-Rodriguez is co-owner of The Station, a Black and Latinx-owned community coffee shop located in Beacon Hill. Moore-Rodriguez and her team have created a space that is committed to employing POC and LGBTQIA+ community members. Leona is proud to be the great granddaughter of Marcus and Elsie Harding, who were pioneers of the Kennydale neighborhood in Renton. Today, the family remains a mainstay in the Black community.
“It means everything to be a Black American from Seattle,” said Moore-Rodriguez. “I am a fourth generation Seattlelite and I grew up in the Central District & Columbia City, with Beacon Hill being my home since 1995. Now my sons are here representing the fifth generation of the Harding Legacy.”
Visit WOW Gallery, a Top Cultural Destination in The Pacific Northwest
Veronica Very, founder and visionary of Wonder of Women International and WOW Gallery, is the driving force behind the ‘Dear Sista, I See You’ Healing Art Exhibition at Downtown Seattle’s Pacific Place Mall. As a dynamic speaker, teacher and writer, Very inspires healing from racial and emotional traumas through storytelling and the power of art. Her unwavering commitment to healing justice shines through her partnership with visual artist Hiawatha D., not only her business partner but also the love of her life. Together, they champion the transformative potential of Black Love in fostering improved health and well-being for society and the world.
“As founders, my husband Hiawatha and I are proud Seattle natives who are blown away to see WOW Gallery evolve into an award-winning cultural destination attracting people from diverse backgrounds worldwide,” said Very. “Visitors find themselves exclaiming, “WOW!” repeatedly as they explore our exhibits. Our ongoing “Dear Sista, I See You” exhibition boasts Black history inspiration and education throughout the year.”
WOW Gallery is open Friday-Saturday, 1:00 – 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Explore More Events and Rotating Exhibitions
- The Northwest African American Museum (NAAM), located in the historic Colman School building in the Central District, is a great place to visit year-round. This museum is grounded in a mission to “use heritage to heal,” aiming to preserve the connection of people of African descent to their home in the Pacific Northwest.
- Starting in February, Henry Art Gallery will have an exhibit of the work from talented Black artist Hank Willis Thomas titled “LOVERULES”. The exhibit features some of the conceptual artist’s most iconic and well-known artworks across a range of media, investigating diverse themes. There will be an official public opening event on Friday, February 23, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
- During the entire month of February, Rainier Avenue Radio is converting the Columbia City Theater into the “Call to Conscience Black History Museum”, featuring installations, exhibits, artifacts, interactive activities, and virtual experiences celebrating the achievements of Seattle’s Black and African American community. More than 15 exhibits will explore various facets of Black history, providing context for where things are today and a deeper understanding of the issues still left to face. The pop-up museum will be open Tuesdays – Sundays, 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
- Now through February 13, the Bainbridge Island Musuem of Art is featuring the “Black & Boujee” exhibition, highlighting the intersection of Black culture and luxury. It aims to challenge the prevailing Eurocentric notions of luxury and showcase how Black artists, designers, and creators have reimagined what it means to live luxuriously.
- Starting February 3, the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) will have an exhibit entitled “100 Years of Junior League of Seattle: Explore the Northwest Art Project“, featuring Black artists such as Jacob Lawrence and Barbara Earl Thomas. MOHAI is included in Seattle Museum Month, which offers Downtown Seattle hotel guests half-price admission to museums across the region throughout the month of February. Additionally, the MOHAI Resource Center in Georgetown is home to the Jacqueline E.A. Lawson Resource Center. This exhibit is open to the public (by appointment) and has many fascinating photos and artifacts showcasing the culture and history of Black people in the Puget Sound region.
- The Onyx Fine Arts Collective is the oldest and largest African-descent collective of artists in the Pacific Northwest. Their mission is to educate, inspire, cultivate, and showcase the artwork of artists of African descent from our Pacific Northwest communities. On February 5, the nonprofit will host the First Annual Clarence Acox Gala – A Legacy Fund Raiser at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley. Proceeds from this event will supplement the funding of the Local Student Music programs endorsed by Clarence Acox, including JazzEd, Garfield Jazz Foundation, and the Jazz Scholars.
- Town Hall Seattle will have various talks throughout the month for people to enjoy. These include:
- The Soul of Seattle returns February 10 with an evening of black-owned food, wine, and delicious curations. Created as a fundraiser to help foster relationships and empower the community, the event sheds light on the diverse food and Black-owned businesses within Seattle, raising funds to support vendors as well as a local non-profit that supports youth of color.
- BE Great, a Black Excellence Cultural Festival comes to Occidental Square February 16-17. This free two-day event, presented by the Downtown Seattle Association and Metropolitan Improvement District, will bring together Black culture, arts, music, food and more. Enjoy soulful performances from local musicians, shop the pop-up night market, and explore Black creativity and community.
- From February 24 to March 9, Seattle Opera presents the West Coast Premiere of “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X” by Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Davis. This groundbreaking opera explores the life of Malcolm X through a series of biographical vignettes set to a score combining modernism, minimalism, and jazz, and is the first opera written by a Black composer to run on Seattle Opera’s main stage.
Seattle has a wide array of Black-owned places to explore, including:
Plan Ahead for Upcoming Festivals and Performances
Events that uplift Black history and culture take place long past February; look out for these events later in the year:
- ACT Contemporary Theatre presents “STEW”, a hilarious, haunting drama coming to the stage March 15-30. An exploration of family secrets, hope, and loss among three generations of black women, this intimate play showcases humor and heartbreak in equal measure.
- Seattle Rep presents “Fat Ham”, April 12 – May 12. This modern retelling of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” brings a queer black protagonist into the thick of an uproarious new comedy about seeking love and liberation.
- The Seattle Black Film Festival returns April 25-28, presenting a celebration of remarkable cinematic achievements and thought-provoking storytelling.
- Umoja Fest is a long-running celebration held in early August honoring African heritage. With a focus on unity and community spirit, festival activities include a parade, musical performances, cultural events, and more.
- The Festival Sundiata is an annual Black Arts festival slated for August 23–25 at the Seattle Center. This family-friendly event is all about celebrating the arts, educating attendees through music, spoken word performances, food vendors, exhibitions, and more.
This list is by no means comprehensive. Visit Seattle gladly welcomes additional ideas for consideration. Please send submissions to [email protected].
A Selection of videos from VISITSEATTLE.tv:
- Internet personality Phil the Culture searches for some of Seattle’s best food and drink, from cocktails at Communion to breve cappuccinos at Espresso Vivace.
- Seattle’s hip hop group Shabazz Palaces worked with their longtime friend Chef Tarik Abdullah to create a soulful meal inspired by their roots.
- Seattle natives David Bowman (Dave B) and Kai Wright (Sango) explain how they carved out their niche in Seattle rap when they created an ode to Seattle, “Melodies from Heaven II”.
- The owner of popular food truck “Where Ya At Matt”, Matthew Lewis, introduces Seattle’s food cart scene to LA chef and Seattle newcomer Daniel Shemtob.
- Seattle-based stage actor Nicholas Japaul Bernard shares the cross-section of Black and LGBTQIA+ communities with his friend.
- The Story Behind Black History Month and why it’s celebrated in February (NPR)
- Learn more about African Americans in the Modern Northwest (Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest)
- Black Business Directory: Find a Black-owned business to support by searching Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle’s directory of more than 90 local businesses.
- The Intentionalist: Explore Black-owned businesses by neighborhood through The Intentionalist’s guide.
- Wa Na Wari: Wa Na Wari is an immersive community art project that reclaims Black cultural space and makes a statement about the importance of Black land ownership in gentrified communities.
- LANGSTON: A Black arts and culture hub in Seattle, LANGSTON guides generative programs and community partnerships centering Black art, artists, and audiences, honoring the ongoing legacy of Seattle’s Black Central Area.
- Visit Seattle’s African American Cultural Heritage Guide: Learn about the history of African American heritage in Washington with this interesting guide.
- The Clean Greens Living Show: Tune in to Rainier Avenue Radio Tuesdays at 12:30 p.m. PST to hear from Brione Scott and Christina Chambers from Clean Greens Farm and Market, a small nonprofit run out of Seattle’s Central District, to discuss issues relating food justice.
- Consider supporting community-led media through local outlets including The Seattle Medium, The Facts, South Seattle Emerald, Converge Media, ZTWINS Radio (KRIZ 1420AM and KYIZ 1620AM), and Rainier Avenue Radio.
For more information about Black History Month in Seattle, go to visitseattle.org.
About Visit Seattle:
Visit Seattle has served as the official destination marketing organization (DMO) for Seattle and King County for more than 50 years. A 501(c)(6) organization, Visit Seattle enhances the economic prosperity of the region through global destination branding along with competitive programs and campaigns in leisure travel marketing, convention sales and overseas tourism development. Go to visitseattle.org.