These videos are a part of a project I am calling ‘An Elegant Utility’. It is an evolving body work about the legacy and future Africans Americans in Seattle’s Central District, their historic community in the city. The project focuses on my maternal family’s story of migration and community building over six generations; from Arkansas to Seattle. It connects a century of racial discrimination in America, from violent oppression in the south to economic discrimination in the north, using personal stories to illustrate a legacy of resistance and community building. This collection of videos taps into the emotional and spiritual implications of resisting displacement and African American assess what community means post gentrification.
I recognize the displacement of Seattle’s African American community as a microcosm for changes facing black communities across the nation. The similarity of these experiences points to larger social, political and economic forces at work. Collectively the works attempt to grapple with larger questions about these forces shape how our society evolves and imagines how we might being to shift the paradigm.
‘An Elegant Utility’ is a work in progress. Many of these videos were created as video installations in multi=disciplinary museum exhibitions. I consider them as a kind of digital notebook, a way of sculpting my ideas in media as I refine my approach to this expansive, multi-generational story.
A Central Vision
An Elegant Utility: Building Across Generations
This Is Who We Are
A lifelong resident of Seattle’s Central District—a neighborhood undergoing rapid redevelopment—I acknowledge that my home is built on the ancestral land of the Duwamish. As I resist gentrification by fighting to retain his place in the neighborhood, I am conceding my participation in a cycle of displacement. This video is an invocation of purpose and intent regarding the spiritual relationships and responsibilities I am facing in this experience.
An Elegant Utility Family Storytellers
A Tale of Two Ledgers
In this video I am using the convention of oral history storytelling to delve into my personal experience of acquiring and keeping our family’s first home in Seattle Washington. In my story I want to shed light on two forms of discriminatory lending practices-redlining and predatory mortgage lending-and the ways they shaped community over five generations.
The Ember of A Watery Dream
The Ember of A Watery Dream is a film created as an accompaniment for a live storytelling performance at Ampersand 2020. It is a continuation of my exploration into the historical narratives of this project, this time framing the emergence of Wa Na Wari, in a kind of mythical origin story based on actual history. Wa Na Wari is the center for Black art, social connection, community stories and organizing the I co-founded in one of our family homes in an effort to prevent its imminent sale. This piece extends the on-going boday of work by exploring the interiority of my grandfather Frank Green, one of our family patriarchs, as a foundational element of the extended family’s existential experience of community. You can learn more about Wa Na Wari at wanawari.org.