Shelf Life Community Story Project
Amplifying community voices, learning from neighborhood stories, and interrupting narratives of erasure in Seattle's Central District.

Community, Culture, and Care

Aretha Basu

Photo by Jill Freidberg

Photo by Jill Freidberg

My dad, when he moved here, this was the only place he could afford. And he, I remember him telling me this, he moved into the apartments he moved into, because he wanted me to learn Spanish. And so I grew up speaking Spanish, cause all my friends were Mexican. So for my dad it was really important that I be versed in the culture that was around us, and that we could afford a place, and that we were close to my auntie's house.

Growing up here, most of my friends in the apartments, most of the people live in the apartments, were all Latinx folks. And I was the only Indian kid. And so I was really immersed in what it meant to be part of that community in our community. We used to have block parties now and then, so we would hang piñatas from the very top floor of the apartment building and all the kids, all the rug rats would come and bust these piñatas open, and the whole block would be covered in candy litter. We used to have bautizos or quinceñaras, or we'd have barbecues every weekend. I remember waking up on the weekends, and it was always very lively, and there was always music playing from inside people's houses, or in their cars. The CD used to feel very cozy and very homely. Our little block between Jackson and between Yesler, it was like its own little world. We used to joke about how this is where ALL the brown folks were, and as kids we didn't really know why, but we knew this is where we're all at. You felt safe and you felt comfortable. People wouldn't even lock their doors.

The moms would leave their doors open, we'd be running in and out, if you're hungry you'd just go to someone's house and be like, "Yo, can I get some food?" All the moms used to feed all the kids. But it was really funny, cause my dad would try to cook, and he was not a good cook. And he would make dishes for all the different moms, because they took care of me, and none of the moms liked the food. Everyone was too embarrassed to tell him, so everyone had Tupperware with dad's food and just didn't know what to do with it. 

He really appreciated our community, even though he didn't speak a lick of Spanish, and Bengali was his first language and his English was very broken. But he always felt very loved and accepted by the people that lived in the apartments around us, and he used to always talk about how, how vibrant felt walking down the street felt for him. He was like, "Even though I'm not India, I feel like when I walk here I'm still able to have some sense of home. I may not understand a lot of the culture here, but I the people here, I trust them. I know if anything were to happen to me, they would step in and take care of you." And they did. The day my dad died, the whole apartments were all in my house, taking care of me and helping me talk to police and firefighters. He loved living here.