Dozens of protesters gathered in the rain as The Umoja PEACE center faced eviction, and the long-time Central District icon was boarded up by contractors. The center is an institution devoted to empowering Seattle’s black population.
Omari Tahir-Garrett has been a Central District resident for over seventy years, almost the entirety of his life, and has been operating the Peace center for over eight years. His sudden eviction came as a shock to many members of the community.
Throughout his many years, Omari has seen the process of gentrification overtake the Central District.
“In the sixties when [Black people] said ‘Black Power,’ the power structure realized that our power base was our community. So they decided they would fracture our community with gentrification,” Said Tahir-Garrett.
Tahir-Garrett and his family have experienced gentrification before. Less than a week before His own eviction, Black Dot, a business co-founded by Tahir-Garrett’s son, faced an eviction as well.
The displacement of Tahir-Garrett and the Peace center has caused controversy in the community.
The Peace center has had to temporarily move a few blocks to the Midtown Shopping Center
“They attacked the peace center, so we had to move over here. It’s just so ridiculous. You see our kids just shooting at each other and gang banging and stuff. This is why we need a peace center,” Said Tahir-Garrett.
The center remains one of the few symbols of Seattle’s historically black Central District. As Tahir-Garrett explained, it is devoted to empowering Seattle’s black population, particularly youth, through a variety of programs. Tahir-Garrett has dedicated his life to Civil rights Activism, Pan-Africanism and Black Empowerment. He has been socially and politically active in the Central District since the sixties.
“We were fighting in 1969 and 1970 at the black culture center for an African-American academy, an African-American museum and an African-American commissioner,” Said Tahir-Garrett “Eventually all of these came into existence”.
Although the sudden displacement of the Umoja PEACE center came as a surprise to Tahir-Garrett, he has stated that business will continue running as per usual.
Photo by Peter Kubiniec
Sign on Tahir-Garrrett’s former residence tells passerbys about Umojafest Peace Center, Central District youth cultural facility.