“Everything, With a Hint of Almost”

By - SJ Percer

(SJ Percer, is a Seattle native, who after serving a more than 20 year sentence in prison, has released as a productive member of society and community contributor as a Youth Facilitator for Credible Messengers  and Progress Pushers at Green Hill School, an Adult Re-Entry advocate with Numbers 2 Names, and is President of the Inside Out Toastmasters Club.)

A good friend of mine asked me the other day, “What has changed in The Central District (CD) since you’ve been released?"

Now to understand my opinion, you have to know that I was incarcerated from 1995 to 2016.  I Emphatically responded, “Everything with a hint of almost."

Sure the streets  of the CD are basically still the same but the people that walk them are profoundly different.  As I drive past multi-family dwellings where just  one house used to be, I see people walking poodles, jogging and plugged in to their listening devices - seemingly, not even paying attention to their surroundings and not understanding the rich history in the place that they now call home - The Central District, The CD...  Africatown.  I barely see people that look like me. 

The community and the faces in it have definitely changed.  Big mama doesn’t live on the corner house anymore... she lives in Kent now.  'Scott and Mike' have replaced 'Jermaine and Shavonne'.  The cultural camaraderie of a community that is proud of its own geographic and historic identity is now pushed into certain sections of the King County Diaspora, and “pride” has taken on a whole new meaning.  Gentrification is a real thing.  It decimates communities, displaces connections and erases history in a systematic way.  Almost.

As we continued our conversation we somehow stumbled upon the topic of, "why?"  Why did my grandma sell her house on 23rd and Republican, but Earl's is still on 23rd and Union?  Why did some people move while others still live in their houses?  Simply put,  the  way of thinking in the community has changed just like the priorities of its past resident's.  I get it, personal wealth gained is more beneficial to an individual's needs than preserving history and community.  We all have to do what we think is best.  It’s ironic to have to admit that you might be a pivotal part of the very same problem that you complain about in reference to how “they” broke  up the spirited history of the Central District ...Almost.

Lastly, I continually say “...almost” because I truly believe that the “community” is still here.  You can hear it in the voices of the generations of families and people that proudly proclaim they are from the CD.  It shows its metaphorical face by those who unwaveringly show their face in the Black-owned businesses that are still around today.  I say “...almost”, because the passion and resilience is now also centered in the organizations that strive to preserve the traditions, morals and cultural ethics of the community.  It's “...almost” because no matter how spread out people are we still have not lost contact with each other, it just takes a little more effort now.  Come to think about it, maybe the community hasn’t changed - just the definition of “community” has?  Stay making that effort y’all.