Africatown Center makes international plans, plans kick-off event Saturday

Malakhi Kaine of Africatown Center in Seattle and Demba Hydara stand with two former Seattle Public School Students that moved to The Gambia over the summer. (Photo courtesy Malakhi Kaine.)
Malakhi Kaine of Africatown Center in Seattle and Demba Hydara stand with two former Seattle Public School Students that moved to The Gambia over the summer. (Photo courtesy Malakhi Kaine.)

Several Seattle youth who started attending school in The Gambia became the inspiration behind Africatown Center’s newest initiative.

The Africatown Center for Education and Innovation will hold the Africatown International Creative Arts and Culture Expo this Saturday to kick off fundraising for “Africatown International.”

The new initiative will bring Africatown Center’s technical, vocational and cultural programs for youth to a school in The Gambia via the internet, said volunteer Malakhi Kaine.

Africatown Center will team up with the Imam Malick Islamic School in The Gambia, a boarding school where several former Africatown Center students had recently moved.

“It won’t be just lectures that they watch. It will be an interactive virtual classroom,” with back-and-forth with local instructors, Kaine said.

Africatown Center for Education and Innovation started several years ago to provide culturally responsive tutoring and mentorship. About half of the center’s families are African Americans and half are African immigrants, mostly from West Africa, Kaine said.

The center has focused on giving youth aged sixth grade through college an education in African and African American history and entrepreneurial and vocational skills, and the center also plans to to expand into creative arts, he said.

“Our students are excelling and becoming school leaders” in local high schools, Kaine said. The center’s history and heritage afterschool programs have seen students “go back with a new sense of pride.”

Connection between countries

Kaine went to Africa over the summer and met with several students whose families decided to move them from Seattle to The Gambia.

“Some of them were born here and went to Seattle Public Schools,” he said.

Meeting with the students and with officials in their new school inspired the idea of Africatown International.

“You are so much of a diverse person if you can experience the world from a young age, and being connected to your homeland,” Kaine said. “But they shouldn’t forego the education that they have been getting in Seattle.”

The fundraising event is also a show of resilience, after the center was struck by a vandal in March who left racially motivated graffiti. Seattle police said the damage was done by someone who had visited the center several times. No charges were filed.

Dozens of people in the community responded with repairing the damage, Kaine said. The center continued its youth programming and increased security at the building. Some families had felt threatened by the vandalism.

“Immigrant families and those with limited English, when they see hate, it’s foreign to people, but they know the results,” he said.

But Kaine said he hopes the fundraiser helps reassure those families as well that there is community support for the center and their children will be safe.

“It was an isolated event,” he said.

If you go: Africatown International Creative Arts and Culture Expo

The fundraising expo will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Sept. 17 at Coyote Central , 2300 East Cherry St. The art silent auction features Batik artworks by artist Tijan. Other local artists include Aramis Hamer, Peter Kahura and others. The event will also feature African drumming, acoustic guitar, appetizers and a powerful presentation. Tickets are $15 general admission, or $25 for two tickets.

*This story has been corrected since publication. The person accused in the vandalism was not a volunteer, according to Africatown Center.