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


What if neighborhood stories could change the way we think about community; what it means to have it, and what it means to lose it? The Shelf Life Podcast brings you ten episodes of stories from Seattle’s Central District. Hear from the people who built the neighborhood that shaped this city. Their stories are funny, heartbreaking, and really relevant to what is happening in our city today. Find the podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud Podcast produced by Jill Freidberg, Mayowa Aina, and Domonique Meeks. Original score by Bubba Jones. Funded by King County 4Culture. 

Episode One: Music and Arts

When most people think of Seattle and music, a few big names come to mind: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Quincy Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Kenny G, maybe Sir Mix-A-Lot and likely Macklemore. But have you ever heard of Cold, Bold, and Together? What about Family Affair? While Seattle may be known for grunge and rock, the Central District also colored the city’s musical landscape with funk, soul, and jazz.  The CD was also home to a lot of artists, and many of them acted as community leaders, creating programs and opportunities for Central District youth to become artists too. It was a creative and inspiring place for painters, actors, dancers, and many other kinds of artists.  On Episode One of the Shelf Life Podcast, we hear about all things music, theater, and art that came out of the Central District.

Episode Two: Entrepreneurship

On today’s episode of the Shelf Life Podcast, we hear stories about entrepreneurship and small businesses in the Central District. We'll learn how residents built a thriving neighborhood economy that supported local, POC-owned businesses. What challenges did they have to overcome, and what does it mean to lose those businesses?  We dedicate this week's episode to DeCharlene Williams, a Central District community leader who passed away on Sunday, May 20th.

Episode Three: Migration and Arrival

This week's episode is about Migration and Arrival. Many of the people we interview describe the Central District as the neighborhood where all the people of color lived. This is where African Americans, Filipinos, Japanese, and others raised their families and made a living. But in this episode, we ask - where did people live before they came to Seattle, why did they come here, and did this city even welcome them? One common thread in everyone’s stories is that people often came here to leave injustice behind, whether they were moving their families out of the Jim Crow South, starting over after Japanese Internment, or putting their lives back together after WWII. Today, those same families, that worked so hard to get here and worked so hard to build a community, are being displaced. Which is why it’s so important for us to learn all we can about how and why people came to the CD and what they experienced when they arrived.

Episode Four: Food

This week's episode of the Shelf Life podcast is all about FOOD in the Central District. Through community stories, we'll explore the ways that food has brought neighbors together. Whether we're hearing stories about family gatherings, first jobs, the Promenade Red Apple, or the Black Panther breakfast program - food is the common denominator. Through food, the neighborhood forged community, built an economy, and resisted discrimination. Catch the new episode this Thursday, June 7th, and bring a snack, because these stories will make you hungry!

Episode Five: Housing

This week's episode of the Shelf Life podcast is all about housing. Through community stories, we'll explore where Central District residents could and couldn’t live, how they organized to fight housing discrimination, and how decades of segregation laid the groundwork for the displacement impacting Central District residents today.

Episode Six: Education

This week's episode of the Shelf Life podcast is all about education! Black student unions, school boycotts, the well-intentioned failure of bussing, freedom schools, and racist teachers. Hear stories from parents who had to march into the principal's office every week; stories from the kids who got bussed across town and the ones who didn't; stories from the students who sat in, walked out, and stood up for Black Student Unions in their high schools and universities. Hear stories from Stephanie Johnson-Toliver, Steve Sneed, Vivian Phillips, Zola Mumford, Mark Cook, and others!

Episode Seven: Childhood

This week's episode of the Shelf Life podcast is about childhood and growing up in the Central District. Community storytellers describe a neighborhood where everyone knew everyone and children felt safe to explore; a neighborhood where adults made sure kids had structure and support. What was it about the Central District that fostered that sense of community and safety? How have changes in the neighborhood impacted the way kids experience childhood? Hear stories from Aretha Basu, Gregory Scott, Phyllis Beatty-Yasutake, Mark Cook, Gary Hammon, JJ Jackson, and others.

Episode Eight: Work

This week’s episode is all about work. What job opportunities were available to Central District residents, and how did the community organize to fight job discrimination? Hear stories from Mike Tagawa, Vivian Phillips, Michael Fox, Stephanie Johnson-Toliver, Inye Wokoma, and others. 

Episode Nine: Community Media

This week's episode of the Shelf Life podcast is all about Community Media in the Central District! For decades, black newspapers, radio, and even TV, held the community together. Learn about KYAC The Soul of the Northwest, and hear excerpts from KRAB's last night on the air. Ever heard of AGGIN News? Now's your chance! Hear stories from Don Dudley, Vivian Phillips, Robert Stephens, Leon Carter, Frank P. Barrow, and others!

Episode Ten: Resistance

This week we release the tenth and final episode of the Shelf Life podcast! We wrap up the podcast with stories about Resistance and Community Leadership. Learn about the Panthers, The Congress of Racial Equality, Tyree Scott and the United Construction Workers Association, Mothers for Police Accountability, and Dr Martin Luther King’s visit to Seattle. Hear stories about the community organizations that brought people together and the acts of civil disobedience that defined the Central District for decades. While this episode barely scratches the surface, we hope listeners will come away curious to learn more about the community leaders and social movements that shaped this city. Hear stories from the late Dr Reverend Samuel B McKinney and his daughter Rhoda, from Mike Tagawa, Harriet G Walden, Michael Fox, Hayward Evans, and others!