Shelf Life Community Story Project
Humanity. Home. History. Here.
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Learn the History

Photo by Inye Wokoma

Photo by Inye Wokoma

Gary was born and raised on 28th Ave South, in the Central Area. He took up the tenor saxophone while a junior at Garfield High School, played in clubs all over the Central District, and went on to join the first cohort of black jazz students allowed admission to the New England Conservatory, in 1969. He came back to Seattle fifteen years ago to care for his aging mother, who still lives in the home on 28th Ave South, where Gary grew up. He teaches jazz at Ballard High School, and he shops at the Red Apple every day. 

Gary Hammon

When you have a family that has been in the neighborhood, like my parents have been in their house 70 years. In that same little house. I mean that's history. If I was someone that was moving into a neighborhood, I'd want to know all I could about what that was like and and how it's changed, and try and get to know the people and understand what it was like to be there.

I know that African-Americans don't feel the energy that was once there, because it has been destroyed. And it has been said that it's gonna be for the betterment. Well that might be true, but when the playing field is not even - and it's not even when people can't buy homes anymore, when they can't afford to pay rent, when people are out on the street - and the focus is more about raising this new Seattle and continuing to price people totally out of the market. It's no mistake that the people that are here, African Americans that are living here, will not be able to buy back into the area. That's the goal. Where it was written on the books that that was the only place, where we were able to buy, to become home owners. Now it's perishing, it's being taken away again. 

The other part is that it sets up a a a wide gap between being able to sit down with your adversary and talk, about hard things. No one wants to talk about race, no one wants to talk about what poverty is, no one wants to talk about what what kind of strain this puts on a community.