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In 2016, the Red Apple grocery store — a beloved neighborhood hub in the Central District — closed its doors.
As its shelves emptied, local documentarian and Central District resident Jill Friedberg set out to collect stories from the community about the market and the neighborhood quickly changing around it. She used an empty Subway storefront as a storytelling booth to piece together an oral history of the Central District as it’s been rapidly gentrified. She called the project Shelf Life. And you can hear its voices in a brand new podcast.
We caught up with Jill to learn more about the Shelf Life podcast and how she and longtime neighbors have seen their community change. FYI: We trimmed this interview so it’s shorter and clearer.
Why was it important to you to tell the stories of longtime Central District residents?
I started having conversations with other Central District artists probably about four or five years ago. … For me, those were motivated partially by being a white homeowner in the Central District and having access to the conversations that other white residents, especially new residents, were having. Like, “There was nothing here” or “Gentrification is making the neighborhood better.”
Those narratives fuel behaviors that make it really hard for the people that built the neighborhood to be safe and feel safe and thrive where they built their lives, their families, and their community.
What’s a favorite story of yours from the podcast so far?
The funniest story is in Episode 1 where [Central District resident] Isiah Anderson tells the story of the time Ms. Cleo, the famous TV psychic, pretended to be someone else and produced a play at Langston Hughes [Performing Arts Institute], then split with all the money and changed her identity to Ms. Cleo. [It’s a pretty wild story you can read more about here].
I think one of the most important stories is in the “Entrepreneurship” episode, Episode 2, where [community leader] DeCharlene Williams talks about how hard it was for her to buy commercial property and open her salon in the CD. She [died recently], so the story is especially relevant.
You’ve pursued this project because you deeply care about the effects of gentrification in the Central District, which went from being 70 percent black in the ’70s to 20 percent black today. What does the issue boil down to for you?
To say like white people should never move into the Central District or that nothing should change fails to recognize the layers of complexity and nuance around gentrification. Lots of people move into historically redlined neighborhoods because it is the only place that they can afford. But it’s the processes that follow that that are problematic.
Until people can embrace that complexity and be willing to have conversations about it and examine their own behavior, it will just continue to be this really polarized conversation.
What’s the most fascinating thing you learned about the CD from this project?
A lot of people have heard about how amazing the music scene was in the Central District — and not just jazz. There were major soul, funk, and R&B bands and a crapload of venues, like every intersection had one or two live music venues.
Check out the three posted episodes of the Shelf Life podcast: “Music and Arts,” “Entrepreneurship,” and “Migration and Arrival.” Want to learn more about how gentrification has changed Seattle? Check out this piece on the history of “redlining,” a practice that kept black Seattleites from buying homes in all but a couple parts of Seattle, and the maps in this story showing how we’re working to undo its impacts.
Want a really big tree? One hundred redwoods are coming to Seattle and don’t have anywhere to take root — yet. They’re getting trucked to Seattleite Philip Stielstra all the way from the Archangel Tree Archive in Michigan. Each “cutting” comes in a 30-gallon pot, and Philip, who has a serious thing for protecting awesome trees, wasn’t going to let a little thing like not having a forest to plant them get in the way of a good, green Northwest welcome. “I don’t feel saddled with them, I feel honored to be finding a place for these trees that people can watch grow up, and learn from,” he told Lynda Mapes at the Times. Got space for a ginormous tree? Philip’s your guy. 🌳 (The Seattle Times)
Shake Shack is going where? When we think quick and delicious hamburgers, we do not think fine dining. And yet, the first place we locals will get to taste Shake Shack on our turf will be in the parking lot of Canlis. That’s arguably the most established fancy-night-out restaurant in the city. It also just so happens to be the place where Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti once worked as a general manager, which would explain the otherwise random pairing. Want to be there when it happens? Mark your calendars for the Shake Shack “pop-up” at Canlis on June 23. (Seattle Met)
Cleaned out. A man named Calvin Hawk saw his minivan towed from Sixth Avenue South last week. And just like that, he’d lost his home. Calvin was one of the 3,300 people who live in their cars or vans around our county — a number that’s jumped 46 percent in just the last year. His Chevy Astro minivan was in a lot where a few other people were living in their own vehicles. Then the city posted a notice saying all those vehicles needed to move after they cleaned the garbage that had piled up there. Calvin’s neighbors in the lot helped each other drive out, but his van was too run down for the move. Seattle has just one lot where a few people can park without getting towed. Considering how many people are a four-wheeled home away from the streets, city officials are scrambling to figure out what’s next. (The Seattle Times)
All the oysters. Hey seafoodies, did you know Seattle is home to the largest shellfish farm in the country? It’s called Taylor Shellfish Farms and a fifth generation of Taylors is steering the ship. Their Seattle shop is just one of 11 local oyster hot spots in this handy list → (Eater Seattle)
👋 TODAY: Get tips on how to draw more clients to your small business at the next Impact Hub Lunch + Learn (Pioneer Square)
💃 Friday, June 15: Watch amazing Northwest dancers do their thing at Pacific Northwest Ballet’s NEXT STEP: OUTSIDE/IN performance and party (Queen Anne)
Want to partner on your event with us? Here’s how.
🗣 Hear #MeToo stories told in poems, or share your own (Downtown)
💡 Celebrate LGBTQ elders and all the adversity they’ve overcome (Capitol Hill)
🎟 Catch a show of the all-women Macbeth play — through June 24 (Downtown)
💡 Learn how to bring in new clients for your small biz at this Evergrey partner event (Pioneer Square)
🎶 Relax to some jazz with swimming salmon (Ballard)
🎈 Check out a power tool drag race (Georgetown)
🏞 See some pretty blooms at the Sorticulture Garden Arts Festival (Everett)
🎟 Dance to support queer arts for Pride Month (Capitol Hill)
🏞 Take your pup for a run with fellow dog-lovers (Seward Park)
🎈 Walk (or run) it out at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon (Downtown)
🎟 Watch badass dancers take the stage — through June 23 (Capitol Hill)
🎮 Show off your gaming skills at the Northwest Pinball & Arcade Show (Tacoma)
Going to one of these? Take us with you! Email a pic to [email protected] or tag #theevergrey on Instagram. See more upcoming events on our events page, and add your own events with an Evergrey membership.
Don’t forget to tag #theevergrey in your pics. ‘Cause then we get to see super cool stuff, like this insanely beautiful latte gelatin cake at Blue Star Coffee (how’d they do that?) and reader Gregory Heller’s kiddo stealing the show at last weekend’s brassy Honk! Fest.
Have a good one, all. — The Evergrey