After our April presentation on redistricting, The Board met to look at the choices and decided that our long history with the Central District should be the primary decision-making factor. Our relationship with the Central District goes back to the time the Leschi Community Council was formed and has continued over the years. This is the letter we sent to the Commission:
To: Redistricting Commission
REDISTRICTING SEATTLE’S DISTRICT 3
Redistricting map Draft 1 has the least drastic effect on the Leschi community which has a long history with the Central District. The Leschi community Council was formed in 1958 by black activist, Powell Barnett, who sought to improve the schools and address redlining. Leschi neighbors started a branch of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) here, a group that actively worked on exposing the real estate redlining practices and to end discrimination in hiring practices.(“Seattle in Black and White” by Bettylou Valentine, Joan Singler, Jean C. Durning, Martha (Maid) J. Adams)
Leschi has historical ties to another Central District black activist, Florasina Ware. She worked tirelessly to improve the programs at local schools, brought Meals on Wheels to the seniors in the area and organized a group of citizens to head to the other Washington for the Poor People’s Campaign. In 1982, the Seattle Parks Department dedicated a small neighborhood park in her name. This park at 28th and Jackson fell into disrepair and the Leschi Community under the guidance of our Parks Chair, John Barber, raised half a million dollars to completely renovate this park, adding safe playground equipment and a half basketball court.
Leschi has worked with other communities in the Central District to bring jazz back to Jackson St. Our monthly community programs have often celebrated some aspect of the Central District history and current projects. We have had Paul de Barros talk about his book “Jackson Street After Hours” and more recently, Wyking Garret talking about the plans for Africatown at 23rd and Union to celebrate the heritage of the black influence on the Central District.
Our monthly publication, Leschi News, is now in its 39th year. Our Art Critic frequently reviews the local artists at WaNa Nari and has covered the James Washington Jr. house and its artist in residence program. The Leschi News was the first to sound the alarm about black sculptor, James Washington, Jr’s Fountain of Triumph and its fate once the Bangasser property at 23rd and Union was sold to a developer. The arts group at the James Washington Jr. house took up the challenge and oversaw the move and renovation of the fountain which is now installed at the southwest corner of 24th and Union.
Moving Leschi to another district would be divisive; we cherish our links to the Central District and have supported programs such as the Seattle Music Partners which gave young students a chance to learn an instrument and compete for spots in Middle School music programs. The Leschi Community Council has long supported programs at Leschi School, an integrated elementary school that serves many Central District youngsters as well as Leschi’s own children.
A current Board member, Lawrence Pitre, is a talented artist who was born in the Leschi/Central Area and has a series of paintings, called “We Are One” which celebrates the history and diversity of the Central District. Lawrence is also the President of the Central Area Chamber of Commerce whose mission is to guide, inspire and enhance the economic, cultural, educational, and recreational opportunities within the Central Area for its businesses and community members including the Leschi Area.
We ask you to consider the history of the communities in the Central District when making this decision. Establishing new relationships is always difficult and slow. We hope to continue and strengthen our ties to the Central District.
Leschi Community Council Board
We urge Leschi residents to look at the Draft maps and respond to the Commission with your comments and your preference. If you no longer have the April Leschi News, you can access it on our website. Access the website by Googling Leschi News or Leschi Community Council; both will work. You will see choices at the top; select Our Council and the drop-down menu will give you the option of choosing archives. Or better yet, sometimes Google gives you an Archives option. Study the article on redistricting; this column has comments on what the maps actually do. Send your comments to: Redistricting Commission, 600 4th Avenue, 4th Floor, Seattle, WA , 98104 if you are mailing a letter or send an email to Elsa.Batres-Boni@seattle.gov.