An anti-gentrification project in the Central District that issued “gentrification citations” back in September has another project in the Central District—this one on a mural of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way and East Cherry Street.
On Monday, artists Emnet Getahun and Yeni Sleidi, working under the banner #gentrificationcitation, printed out a large-format tweet “from” King: “That feeling when the county named after you is only six percent Black.”
The mural, which first went up in the Central District in the mid-90s, features King in a suit with his head in hand. It’s painted on a building currently occupied by Fat’s Chicken and Waffles—which formerly housed black-owned restaurant Catfish Corner.
The project targets “Seattle’s silent racism and gentrification as a whole,” Sleidl tells us.
The tweet “sums up the expression on MLK’s face if he were alive to see that ‘the county named after you is only six percent black,’ and how white people use his legacy as a tool to patronize [and] silence black people.”
A revisionist history of Dr. King is often invoked when people feel a protest or action is disruptive—for example, when protests shut down freeways, something that King and others in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s did, in fact, do.
King County was initially named for William Rufus de Vane King, a plantation owner who played a role in the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required free northern states to return alleged slaves back to the South.
The County Council renamed King County after Dr. King in 1986, an effort led by Council Members Ron Sims—who would later go on to become County Executive—and Bruce Laing.
2015 census data shows that King County is 6.8 percent black and 68.7 percent white.
The Central District has been a hotbed of gentrification and displacement for quite some time now, but tensions have increased recently—including a confrontation between protestors and Uncle Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg on Saturday.
Uncle Ike’s was a recipient of a “citation” in Sleidi and Getahun’s action last fall.
- Artists handing out 'Gentrification Citations' in Central District [CS]
- Making sure faded mural of Dr. King is bright again [Seattle Times]
- MLK’s radical vision got distorted: Here’s his real legacy on militarism & inequality [Salon]
- MLK Would Never Shut Down a Freeway, and 6 Other Myths About the Civil Rights Movement and Black Lives Matter [The Root]
- King County Council names county after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on February 24, 1986 [HistoryLink]
- A Blow-By-Blow of Saturday’s Anti-Gentrification March [Seattle Weekly]