SEATTLE — The tech industry brings thousands of transplants to Western Washington.
It can be difficult to find community in a new city.
Anthony Kerr and Mohammed Adeeyo took a unique approach to find community after moving to Seattle in 2013.
“I thought Seattle’s an incredible city with a lot of vibrancy. It was difficult to find the young black professional community and some of the things that I would do when I was in D.C., or I was visiting L.A. or New York City just weren’t quite as visible or didn’t happen as often here,” Kerr said.
KING 5's 'Cultivating Culture' series to highlight Black culture in western Washington
“Unlike Atlanta, finding black culture in Washington has to become a conscious and deliberate decision, otherwise finding community was difficult,” Adeeyo said.
Kerr is a Senior Marketing Manager at Microsoft. Adeeyo is an Engineering Manager at Boeing, together they created The Collective. The organization hosts a range of events including hikes, spin classes, poetry shows, brunches, day parties and more. Their goal is to foster experiences for a diverse group of movers, shakers, explorers, thinkers, and doers.
The idea came from a group chat they called "Young Black Professionals of Seattle" It was formed one weekend when the duo was out with friends, and they couldn’t figure out what to do after dinner and didn’t know anyone to ask what was happening in the city.
“Initially, we had about 20 people in there,” Kerr said. “Over time, it grew to like 50 people, then 500 people, then 1000 people. At that point, I changed the name to The Collective because the purpose evolved. Initially, it was this group of young professionals in a similar situation in Seattle. Over time, it became a place where people could create real friendships. People found business partners. People found connections to get new jobs. People found people they wanted to date. It really this became like a means to get what you needed out of the city through this community, community of people.”
More Cultivating Culture: What's it like being Black in the Pacific Northwest? A panel discusses
The group became too big to pop up at random spots across Western Washington. Now, The Collective events sell out within hours of being posted.
“I think that’s a testament to the energy people have to create community and want that kind of circle,” Kerr said. “So whether it's a poetry show, a happy hour, brunch, or to go on a hike, there's always more than enough energy for people who want to participate to just be around cool people who are willing and open to be their friend or just help them navigate the city.”
“The response to The Collective has morphed over the years, but the consistent theme in all of them has been visibility,” Adeeyo said. “Regardless of what events we’re doing, folks are happy to see others who look like them. It brings a sense of psychological safety to know that in our spaces race is one thing you won’t have to worry about.”
The events are usually around $20 to keep things affordable.
“I didn't imagine it being a business that would like to replace my income," Kerr said. "We charge enough to not lose money and pay everybody that's involved. We don't want people to break the bank to come to our events. With that being said, we're always open to partners who can share in this mission and want to help sponsor some of these activities that we can make it more accessible to more people.”
In the next 5-10 years, the group hopes to expand and find corporate partners in the city. Kerr plans to partner with organizations with similar missions in Portland and Vancouver to try and connect the Pacific Northwest.