A symbol of the Central District’s black history — and present — was formalized Saturday morning as SDOT replicated in a $7,500 paint job what the community did with spray cans and inspiration this summer.
Saturday, Mayor Ed Murray was on hand along with residents and members of RBG The CD to unveil a new community crosswalk in the Pan-African red, green, and black colors crossing MLK at Powell Barnett Park.
Angel Mitchell, whom in his brief address before the ceremonial first crossing Murray was first to thank for her work to make the community crosswalk happen, said the colors of the crosswalk are part of remembering the neighborhood’s past as the community works toward the future.
“The crosswalks symbolize the history of the Central District,” she said.
“Unfortunately right now, there is a losing battle against gentrification, at this point. So, I feel like people should know the history of the Central District, and that’s what these crosswalks are aiming to do.”
The crossing first received an unauthorized paint job over the summer — “Red is for the blood that has been shed by the people. Black is the people. And the green is the land,” as one person in attendance Saturday put it — in a rogue effort around the Central District that echoed the $73,000 rainbow paint job Pike/Pine crosswalks received last June. Embracing the spirit — if not the aerosol methods — of the Powell Barnett crossing, the city has created a new community crosswalks program that “will allow unique crosswalks to be approved and installed through an established process, ensuring that they are safe, reflective of community values and can be maintained.”
Saturday, Murray said the Powell Barnett and RGBTheCD crosswalk would be the first of more across the city as Seattle continues “experimenting with crosswalks to help identify neighborhoods.” One of the locations lined up for an enhanced crosswalk, by the way, is at Melrose and Pike.
Murray also thanked 701 Coffee for being part of the ceremony. Facing increasing protest and criticism, the mayor and his Office of Economic Development moved forward last week with a $650,000 “business stabilization” fund to help 701 and other small businesses along 23rd Ave stay open during a lengthy SDOT construction project a few blocks away from Saturday’s ceremony.
But bigger issues were on the mayor’s mind Saturday.
“I also think it’s important that we’re doing this crosswalk today in the Central District given the very, very difficult time we’re living through in this country and in this city as we deal with issues of racism,” Murray said before joining the crowd to cross MLK.