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

What We Built

Photo by Inye Wokoma

Photo by Inye Wokoma

Phyllis Yasutake

Phyllis Yasutake grew up in Madrona and raised her six children in the same house (pictured here).

Well for me it's depressing because I see all the things that my parents and my friends' parents and people worked to build, and people of color aren't be served. We built the East Madison YMCA. They don't have any programs. I mean they had huge day camps, all kinds of stuff going on there for youth. None of that.

They're serving a different population, and then you go to Randolph Carter center. Randolph Carter was an active, involved man, active and involved in the Y and NAACP and First AME Church, and the community in general, and the Randolph Carter center, well it serves a lot of people, but it's not the same.

Or you go to Edwin T Pratt art studio, you'd never know that the Pratt Art Studio was named after a man who built and bought that building that the Urban League has, had. And all of these people who gave their time and their life to leave a legacy for my generation and the generations after me, they're all gone, and it bothers me.

You go down to Medgar Evers pool, Uncle Walter when he was Superintendent of Parks and Recreation, he had to fight for that pool all the time. He got Model Cities money, built that pool, and then people were always trying to close it, and he fought for it, fought for it, fought for it. And Medgar Evers, kids think that's one word, they don't even know who Medgar Evers is. They don't know who Edwin T Pratt is. They don't know who Randolph Carter is.

They don't know the history of this neighborhood, and that the things they see now that they can't participate in were actually things that we built. Langston Hughes, which is now going to disappear and become something different than what it is, Uncle Walter bought that for Black Arts West theater, but Black Arts West in the time it took him to buy the building, retrofit it, get it up to use, they had closed. They moved from 34th and Union to downtown Seattle somewhere on Olive or something, and they just weren't pulling the crowds in down there, that they had pulled in when they were in the neighborhood.