Documenting life in the midst of change in Seattle's Central District

KING 5's Lili Tan reports.

Next to Promenade Red Apple Market on S. Jackson in Seattle is a modern mixed-use apartment building.

“Oh, there’s this monkey or elephant in the room about gentrification that we all kind of know is happening. None of us really feel we have a full grasp on it – is it a good thing, a bad thing?” Central District resident Jeff Lindstrom said during an audio recording session at Shelf Life.

Shelf Life, created by documentarian Jill Freidberg, is an audio project aimed at capturing the stories and lives of those who have lived in the historically black Central District. 

“It's not just a nostalgic preservation project. Let's use these stories to understand what's at stake. What it took to build this neighborhood, and what we lose when we are ignorant to that history,” Freidberg said.

Freidberg and a group of fellow filmmakers and storytellers, such as Domonique Meeks, interview Central District residents for at least one to two hours, posts excerpts online, and will release their full stories via radio and podcast this summer.

“How does it feel to walk around the CD these days?” Freidberg asked Lindstrom.

“It’s sad. Yeah, it sucks,” Lindstrom responded, explaining corner stores he frequented as a kid are gone now because “an influx of new folks kind of started to snowball.”

On the walls of the Shelf Life offices are photos of Central District Life.

“Black Panthers, community clinics, education in the neighborhood, mini transit because there wasn’t adequate public transportation. What people built here made Seattle what it is,” Freidberg said.

The Central District “has a unique history, and that’s why people feel the way they do about the community being dismantled,” Freidberg said.

She and Meeks work out of a storefront next door to the Promenade Red Apple Market, the inspiration for the project. 

“I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen someone come up short at the cash register and either the checker covers for them or someone else in line,” Freidberg said. “It really feels more like a community center than a grocery store, and hearing about it getting torn down was really the last straw.”

The market is expected to be demolished in 2018. Freidberg says the purpose of Shelf Life isn’t focused on saving the mainstay. 

“Use those stories and history as a way to influence policy and eventually make sure people stay put,” she said, “so communities don’t continue to get dismantled and displaced, like what’s happening now.”

For more information, visit Shelf Life.

© 2017 KING-TV


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