About the Book
This anthology is a poly-vocal, visually stunning answer to the question, What are the sounds of community and how they are handed down? A home for Black art and culture in Seattle’s Central District, with this anthology Wa Na Wari makes a home for the essays, poetry, scores, scripts and silences of the Black poets, musicians, artists and scholars assembled by editors Rachel Kessler and Elisheba Johnson to wonder about the time-traveling, place-making power of sound.
- Kamari Bright
- Thione Diop
- Mary Edwards
- Rachael F.
- Aricka Foreman
- Rell Be Free
- Amir George
- Chantal Gibson
- Walis Johnson
- Anaïs Maviel
- Larry Mizell Jr.
- Christina Sharpe
About Wa Na Wari
Wa Na Wari means “Our Home” in Kalabari. Co-founder, Inye Wokoma, is Kalabari through his father’s lineage. The name Wa Na Wari evokes a sense of purpose and intention to remain present in a place we consider home.
Sited in a fifth-generation, Black-owned home, Wa Na Wari is an immersive community art project that reclaims Black cultural space and makes a statement about the importance of Black land ownership in gentrified communities. Our mission is to create space for Black ownership, possibility, and belonging through art, historic preservation, and connection. Referred to as a “container for Black joy,” Wa Na Wari incubates and amplifies Black art and belonging while providing a safe space for organizing and movement building. By renting a house from a vulnerable Black homeowner, and giving that space back to the Black community, Wa Na Wari is an active model for how Black art and culture can combat gentrification and displacement.
The best way for us to fight back is to party. That’s a form of revolution when they tell us we’re not welcome anymore. — Eula Scott Bynoe, lifelong Central Area resident.
In 1951, Frank and his wife Goldyne purchased their second home, 911 24th Ave, in the Central District, Seattle’s historically Black neighborhood. From the early 1960s to 2013, the house was filled with multiple generations of the extended Green family and their friends, echoing with the sounds of Black joy, community organizing, and children at play. Today, the house is the home of Wa Na Wari, a center for Black art and belonging, co-founded on April 5th, 2019, by four artists – Inye Wokoma (Frank and Goldyne Green’s grandson), Elisheba Johnson, Rachel Kessler, and Jill Freidberg.
To understand why Wa Na Wari is so important to Black Seattle, one must understand the history of the Central District, a formerly redlined neighborhood that has experienced multiple waves of gentrification and displacement. Once 80% African-American, today the CD is less than 10% Black. There are fewer and fewer places for people to congregate in the commons; the fabric of Black cultural production in the Central District, from imagination to presentation, is disintegrating.
We are a collective of four artists working collaboratively to create spaces where Central Area residents (current and displaced) can come together and connect to neighborhood stories and art. We’ve hosted projection nights, mapping exercises, parties, spoken word nights, Versus Battle-style DJ events, live music performances, and much more. Two of us are Black artists directly impacted by Seattle’s displacement and affordability crisis. Two of us are white artists interested in using art and stories to challenge white supremacy, especially as it is expressed through gentrification and displacement. Providing a space where Black artists can create and share work, outside of the formal structure of museums and galleries, is a radical act.
About the Editors
Rachel Kessler is a writer, cartoonist, multi-disciplinary collaborator and educator who explores landscape and community. As a mother of young children with limited resources she experimented with boundary-breaking performance art and video, co-founding interactive poetry collaborations Typing Explosion and Vis-à-Vis Society. Her work is deeply rooted in place: she lives and works on Yesler Way, the Seattle street her ancestors immigrated to, worked on, worshipped on and died on. She is working on a community cartography project called “Profanity Hill: A Tour of Yesler Way.” As Artist-In-Residence at public housing project Yesler Terrace, (where her great grandparents lived) she and community members activated a vacant apartment slated for demolition with live music, story-telling, potlucks, dancing, and collective murals. She co-founded the collective Wa Na Wari, a residential reclamation project centering Black art and media in Seattle’s Central District. Currently she is working on a children’s book about abortion and illustrating a poetry guidebook of the Pacific Northwest urban shore.
Elisheba Johnson is a curator, public artist and administrator. Johnson, who has a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts, was the owner of Faire Gallery Café, a multi-use art space that held art exhibitions, music shows, poetry readings and creative gatherings. For six years Johnson worked at the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture on capacity building initiatives and racial equity in public art. Johnson is currently a member of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Network advisory council and has won four Americans for the Arts Public Art Year in Review Awards for her work. She currently co-manages Wa Na Wari, a Black art center in Seattle’s Central Area that uses the arts to build community and resist displacement.
About the Contributors
Anastacia-Reneé (She/They)is a writer, educator, interdisciplinary artist, TEDx speaker and Podcaster. Renee was chosen by NBC news as part of “Queer artists of color dominate 2021’s must-see LGBTQ art shows” with her solo exhibit, (Don’t be Absurd) Alice in Parts, (The Frye Art Museum.) She is the author of (v.) (Black Ocean), Forget It (Black Radish) and two chapbooks. She was a 2020 Arc Fellow (4Culture) and Jack Straw Curator. Reneé was the recipient of the James W. Ray Distinguished Artist Award for Washington Artists (2018), Seattle’s former Civic Poet (2017-2019), and at Hugo House Poet-in-Residence, (2015-2017). Reneé has received fellowships and residencies from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, VONA, Ragdale, Mineral School, and The New Orleans Writers Residency. Her poems and essays have been anthologized in Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry, Spirited Stone: Lessons from Kubota’s Garden, and Seismic: Seattle City of Literature and her poetry and fiction have appeared in Foglifter, Auburn Avenue, Hobart, Catapult, Alta, Torch, and elsewhere.
Kamari Bright is an emerging creative, with poetry featured in NILVX: A Book of Magic, the 2018 Jack Straw Writers Anthology, Moss, and Bellwether Arts Week. Her videopoems have screened at 8th International Video Poetry Festival, Seattle Black Film Festival, Tacoma Film Festival and the Film & Videopoetry Symposium. A 2018 Jack Straw Writers Fellow, Bright is working on a manuscript connecting the influence of Christian folklore on present-day misogyny and a videopoem connecting personal trauma and land stewardship/pollution.
Jerrell “Rell Be Free” Davis is a musician, community organizer, and Underground Educator from South Seattle. An overall creative artist, Rell shines from the perspective as someone who moves through a number of different worlds yet maintains who they are. In many forms, Rell illustrates the journey of self-discovery, real life in the South End, and much more with originality, high energy and a poetic touch.
Thione Diop, percussionist from Senegal, is recognized for his powerfully expressive djembe performances. He is descended from an ancestral line of Griot drummers and is a master of the djembe (goat skin hand drum), sabar (goat skin drum played with stick and hand), tama (“talking drum”, small lizard skin drum played with curved stick and hand), and djun djun (large cow skin drums of 3 different sizes played with sticks). He fuses traditional rhythms with jazz and collaborates with many musicians from a wide range of musical backgrounds. His music appears in four studio albums and several films. He tours internationally, teaches at University of Washington, and produces the annual Spirit of West Africa Festival in Seattle. Currently, he plays with Orchestra Baobab in Dakar.
Mary Edwards a composer and interdisciplinary artist who uses sound as an environmental or architectural element with the objective to enhance the listener’s spatial and sensory experience, often through cinematic scoring techniques. Themes of temporality, impermanence, nostalgia, Mid-Century Modernism and the natural world are interspersed throughout her recordings, time-based installations, sound sculptures and writings. Her catalogue includes Natural Anthem; Endeavour: A Space Trilogy for the NASA Expedition of Dr. Mae C. Jemison; The Wa(l)king Pattern; The Sweet Curve; Gospel Number Eight: Tributary; When the Ocean Meets the Sky and Everyday Until Tomorrow, an homage to the Saarinen-designed TWA Terminal 4 at JFK Airport and the opulence of early air travel. Her projects have been commissioned and/or curated by The Provincetown Museum, The Grimshaw-Gudewicz Gallery, Indivisible Gallery, 429 Architectural Spaces and The William T. Davis Conservancy. Her essays can be found in Invert/Extant (U.K.), and The Mentor that Matters series.
Rachael F. is a playwright and performance artist living in Los Angeles, California. Rachael has performed with experimental theater wunderkinds Saint Genet (formerly Implied Violence), featured as a guest and collaboator with Miko Kuro’s Midnight Tea and her grant-awarded plays have been produced in Seattle and New York City. Rachael F. is also one half of the sensual disco space funk duo, Pink Lotion.
Aricka Foreman is an American poet and interdisciplinary writer from Detroit, MI. Author of the chapbook Dream with a Glass Chamber, and the collection Salt Body Shimmer (YesYes Books), she has earned fellowships from Cave Canem, Callaloo, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She serves on the Board of Directors for The Offing, works as a publicist at Haymarket Books, and spends her time in Chicago, IL, engaging poetry with photography & video.
Amir George is an award-winning filmmaker based in Chicago. George is a film programmer at True/False Film Fest and cofounder of the touring film series, Black Radical Imagination. As an artist, George creates spiritual stories, juxtaposing sound and image into an experience of non-linear perception. George’s films have screened at institutions and film festivals nationally and internationally, including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The Institute for Contemporary Arts London, Anthology Film Archives, the Royal College of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Trinidad and Tobago International Film Festival, and BlackStar Film Festival, among others.
Chantal Gibson is a poet-artist-educator from Vancouver working in the overlap between literary and visual art.From history books to kitschy souvenir spoons, she uses everyday objects to confront colonialism head on. Unpacking hegemonic mechanisms persistent across the Canadian cultural landscape, her altered texts imagine BIPOC voices in the spaces and silences left by cultural and institutional erasure. Her debut book of poetry, How She Read (Caitlin Press, 2019) explores the representation of Black women in Canadian history, art, literature. It won the 2020 Pat Lowther Memorial Award and was shortlisted for the prestigious 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize. She teaches in the School of Interactive Arts & Technology at Simon Fraser University.
Walis Johnson is a Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist/researcher whose work documents the experience and poetics of the urban landscape through oral history, artist walking practices, film, and installation. She is particularly interested in the intersection of documentary film and performance. Her Red Line Archive Project has been presented in New York City and internationally. She holds an MFA from Hunter College in Integrative Media and Advanced Documentary Film and has taught at Parsons School of Design
JusMoni aka Moni Tep is a singer and songwriter whose body of work to-date includes five self-produced albums, performances across the United States and Canada, and collaborations with the best and brightest emerging talent of the contemporary R&B music scene. She is as steeped in R&B, with its roots in the Black church as she is in the traditional music and practices of her motherland Cambodia. Her songs relate narratives of motherhood, spiritual transformation, the blood’s memory, and family tradition. She aligns herself with Black Constellation which consists of a unified cross-disciplinary guild of Soothsayers, Makers, Empaths, and Channels. JusMoni lives and works in Seattle, WA.
Anaïs Maviel’s work as a vocalist, percussionist, composer and community facilitator focuses on the function of music as essential to settling common grounds, addressing Relation, and creating utopian future. Involved at the crossroads of mediums, Anaïs has been an in-demand creative force for artists such as William Parker, Daria Faïn, Shelley Hirsh, César Alvarez, Steffani Jemison – to give a sense of an eclectic company. Anaïs is dedicated to substantial creations from solo to large ensembles, music direction of cross-disciplinary works, and to expanding the power of music as a healing & transformative act. Anaïs performs and teaches extensively in New York, throughout the Americas and Europe. Both solo albums hOULe & in the garden, out on Gold Bolus Recordings, received international acclaim. Lastly, Anaïs Maviel is developing her composition language, especially thanks to the support of the 2019 Van Lier Fellowship, 2020 American Composers Forum Create commission with The Rhythm Method String Quartet and 2021-2022 Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship.
Larry Mizell Jr. was born in Los Angeles in 1978, and was packed off to Seattle at the very end of ‘91. He grew up surrounded by music, gifted with words, and is grateful for that and everything else. He made music in a few different configurations with friends, performing regularly on Seattle stages for years. He wrote, among other things, a weekly hiphop/culture column called My Philosophy for Seattle rag The Stranger from 2004-2016. He currently sits in meetings, plays music and tells stories at KEXP, where he is Afternoon DJ/host and Director of Editorial. He is a part of the multidisciplinary arts collective/hilarious family unit known as the Black Constellation.
Okanomodé [uh-kahn-uh-mah-day] is an expressionist, composer, shape-shifting siren, & performance artist born & raised in The Emerald City of Seattle, occupied Duwamish territory. Okanomodé served as both lyricist & featured vocalist of the critically acclaimed experimental pop opera ‘Now I’m Fine’ by Ahamefule J. Oluo — and is currently featured as co-vocalist & co-lyricist in Ahamefule J. Oluo’s newest work ‘Susan’, which premiered at On the Boards in Seattle, and at Under the Radar Festival at The Public Theater in New York City. They are also featured in the critically acclaimed indie film, “Thin Skin,” directed by Charles Mudede.
Christina Sharpe is a writer, Professor, and Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities at York University. She is the author of: In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (Duke University Press, 2016)—named by The Guardian and The Walrus as one of the best books of 2016 and a nonfiction finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award—and Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects (Duke University Press, 2010). Her third book, Ordinary Notes, will be published in 2022 (Knopf/FSG/Daunt). She is also working on a monograph called Black. Still. Life. She has recently published essays in Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures, Alison Saar Of Aether and Earthe, Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America, Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, and in Jennifer Packer: The Eye Is Not Satisfied With Seeing.
About Our Land Acknowledgment
In support of truth-telling and reconciliation, and with the belief that a book can be a liberated and liberatory space that travels through time and across borders, the authors of the 3rd Thing books share their pages with an Indigenous writer. In 2021, that writer is poet Summer J. Hart. Her words conjure the quiet rapture and violence of our connections to place and to one another across and between the borders of time, death, waking, and creature-ness. The 3rd Thing will publish Summer’s book-length collection in 2023.
About Our Books as Objects
All 3rd Thing books are thoughtfully designed for people who love books…to read them, to smell them, to write in their wide margins, to tuck things in their pages. They feature recycled cover stock and French folds for holding your place. All the 2021 books are the same, perfect squares – 8″ x 8″…not too tall and not too small – so they fit neatly together on your shelf or in a stack on your coffee table…because they are so beautiful, you will want to look at them all the time.