Remembering Pastor Samuel McKinney (1926-2018)


Samuel McKinney, civil rights pioneer, community leader and longest serving pastor of Seattle’s Mount Zion Baptist Church passed away April 7th at the age of 91.

We remember McKinney and his tireless activism to make Seattle a more equitable home for all.

As pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church the congregation tripled under his leadership and he established numerous programs and projects transforming the community.

McKinney, one of the founding members of Byrd Barr Place, formally Central Area Motivation Program (C.A.M.P.), collaborated with other community leaders to also found Liberty Bank, the first black-owned bank West of the Mississippi, he was an original member of the Seattle Human Rights Commission, which successfully passed the legislation of the city’s first fair-housing act. He founded and served as president and CEO of the Seattle Opportunity Industrialization Center and was the first black president of the Church Council of Greater Seattle.

“While Seattle has made undeniable progress during his life, in death Dr. McKinney will serve as a constant reminder that securing gains on human rights and civil rights, and when confronting issues of race and social justice, requires constant vigilance, not complacency.”
– Seattle Council President Bruce A. Harrell

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Dear neighbors, allies, friends, and family,

We write to you today with hearts full and hopes high—a sentiment that may feel out of place in a time when our national conversation is filled with the rhetoric of prejudice and racism. In the last year we’ve witnessed ongoing police brutality against Black and Brown men and women. We’ve watched white supremacists walk the streets of Charlottesville, spewing hate. We’ve seen families and communities fractured by painful immigration policies.

And yet, we remain optimistic.

In the midst of strife, we’ve also witnessed survival and strength, kindness and generosity, love and grace. Women marched; people stood with immigrants and refugees against inhumane bans; communities came together to rebuild after disaster, time and time again.

In the face of adversity, we look forward with faith.

Byrd Barr Place was founded as the Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP) in 1964, during the peak of the civil rights movement. For more than 50 years we have been a force for positive change and a pillar of Seattle’s Black community, and in that time we have gone from CAMP to Centerstone, and now from Centerstone we are opening our next chapter and unveiling our new name: Byrd Barr Place. Yet the heart of our work remains the same. We believe in the idea of helping neighbors help themselves—that if families have access to basic human needs and the tools to succeed, they are stronger. And strong people make for strong communities

We are continuing our fight to create a more equitable world for all people, no matter race or zip code.

Throughout our history, we have seen the resiliency and courage of Seattle’s Black community. Teachers boycotted to demand de-segregation. Students hosted sit-ins. The Black Panthers seeded a movement for Black power. Anti-poverty programs came and went. Gang and drug wars and rising prison rates destroyed families. We lived it with you. And we, like you, rose from those experiences with a conviction to end inequity and build opportunities within the Central Area and throughout King County.

Today, our community is impacted by rapid gentrification and displacement. Families who have called the Central Area home for decades find themselves unable to pay sky-rocketing property taxes, effectively pushing them out of Seattle. A lack of affordable housing options forces low-income families further from education and employment opportunities. Immigrant and refugee communities are left to navigate an adopted city without access to culturally-relevant resources. All these things exacerbate an already expansive racial wealth gap.

And these are the very issues Byrd Barr Place is committed to addressing, every day, by providing Seattle residents with rental assistance, energy assistance, personal finance education, and healthy food through our food bank. We’re also working in partnership with Africatown, Black Community Impact Alliance, and Capitol Hill Housing to construct the Liberty Bank Building, which broke ground last year and will provide affordable housing in the Central Area. And we’re gathering data to influence policy and shed light on issues critical to creating opportunity and prosperity within the Black community.

This newest chapter of our history is an opportunity for us to re-root ourselves in community. Our new name honors Roberta Byrd Barr, a leader, educator and journalist, who once wrote for Trumpet, CAMP’s newspaper. Roberta woke up Seattle to the realities of poverty and the experiences of people of color through her moderated news program Face to Face.

When we first heard Roberta’s story, we were moved. We had to tell others. When we shared it with our friends and families, people often asked, “Wait, who’s Roberta Byrd Barr?” And then we told them how Roberta led marches to demand de-segregation in schools; that she helped save the Douglass-Truth Library; that she was the first Black woman to run a Seattle high school.

And they were moved, too. They understood immediately that this woman embodied everything we value and she committed her life to providing the next generation a better, more equitable future.

With our new name, we will deepen our commitment to the values that have always defined us—values of compassion, resilience, and equity. We will continue to offer support with basic human needs, so everyone has a strong foundation to break the cycle of poverty.

We hope you will join us on this journey. Only when we stand together against intolerance and injustice can we realize a more equitable world, for this generation and every generation that follows.

Andrea Caupain Sanderson, Byrd Barr Place CEO
Kevin Dawson Jr., Byrd Barr Place Board of Directors, President

The Central District’s historic Black community-led organization, Centerstone of Seattle, today unveiled a new name: Byrd Barr Place, in honor of Seattle civil rights advocate, educator and journalist, Roberta Byrd Barr.

“Roberta served her neighbors, the community and the city in pursuit of a more just, equitable world,” said Andrea Caupain Sanderson, CEO of Byrd Barr Place. “Our new name is an opportunity for us to re-root ourselves in our history and deepen our commitment to the values that defined us from our beginnings in the Civil Rights era.”

Byrd Barr was a community leader, educator and journalist, best known for hosting Face to Face on KING-TV from 1965-1970. Face to Face shared stories of the Black community and of economic and social inequities impacting families around Seattle. Outside of her work as a journalist, Byrd Barr led marches demanding desegregation and taught at freedom schools serving Black residents in the city. In 1973, she became the first woman to head a Seattle public high school when she served as principal of Lincoln High School.

“Roberta gave so much to this city, and yet her story had remained quietly tucked away,” said Kevin Dawson, Jr., board president of Byrd Barr Place. “I knew that Roberta’s name was right for us the moment I shared it with my daughter – a young, Black woman growing up in Seattle today – and she was immediately hooked. She wanted to know more about this woman who wasn’t afraid of fighting for truth and justice, even when it was daunting.”

Byrd Barr Place was originally founded in1964 as CAMP – the Central Area Motivation Program – and was one of the first community-led organizations funded by the Economic Opportunity Act. Soon after, CAMP was at the heart of the Seattle Civil Rights Movement and had launched over 25 community service initiatives, including employment and training programs. That commitment to building a more prosperous Seattle where all residents, regardless of race or zip code, have access to basic human needs remains central to Byrd Barr Place’s mission.

In 1965, the Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP) opened its doors. In 2012, CAMP became Centerstone of Seattle. In 2018, Centerstone is becoming Byrd Barr Place.

Our new name honors Roberta Byrd Barr, a community leader, educator and journalist, who once served as editor of the Trumpet, CAMP’s newspaper. Our new name is an opportunity for us to re-root ourselves and deepen our commitment to the values that defined CAMP, Centerstone, and now, Byrd Barr Place. Roberta was a passionate, fearless advocate, leading marches to demand de-segregation in schools. As a teacher and school administrator, she fought to provide the next generation a better, more equitable future. As a journalist, she woke up Seattle to civil rights issues, elevating the voices of the Black community, the poor and others.

Roberta embodied the values that are the foundation of this organization. We are humbled by her legacy and honored to carry her name forward. While our name may be different, we remain committed to helping people help themselves. We will continue to nurture a more equitable Seattle by providing programs and advocacy that enable people to live healthier, prosperous lives. Together, we will build a stronger, more vibrant city, where all people have access to basic human needs.

Patrice moved to Seattle with her family in the first grade. Living almost her entire life in the neighborhoods of South Seattle, she wanted to be more involved in the community once she started raising a family of her own.  Patrice began volunteering for the Boys and Girls Clubs of King County, eventually leading to full time employment. Twenty-seven years later Patrice is still passionately employed with the Boys and Girls club, currently fulfilling the Nutrition Coordinator position.

The trouble began for Patrice when she received a call from her landlord letting her know they were selling the spacious five bedroom home in Columbia City where she lived with her youngest daughter and 6 year-old grandson. She did not consider what a hardship moving would be in the rapid redevelopment climate of Seattle and suddenly found herself homeless for the first time in her life. It took five months before Patrice was able to find her next home. During this time she wasn’t able to afford storage for all of her home furnishings and had to give most of them away before she was able to get settled again. “I had no bed, no heat, nothing really, I was starting all over, and everything seemed to be happening at once.” Patrice recalled how she felt learning that her new home was heated by oil and she wasn’t able to pay the high up-front costs for a home delivery service to fill the empty tank.

Patrice reached out to the City of Seattle for help and was referred to Byrd Barr Place. She applied but learned that with her full time job she was just above the income eligibility guidelines to qualify for help.  “So I felt very blessed when Haley called to let me know there was another program called Bridge the Gap that could help me during this hard time.” Patrice said, reflecting on the program manager of the Energy Assistance Program, who kept her in mind and coordinated $325 dollars’ worth of oil to be sent to Patrice’s home during this year’s very cold winter. Now, thanks to generous donors, Patrice is able to focus on her family instead of an empty oil drum. She has gotten her daughter a job at the Boys and Girls Club and is exploring funding to support her daughter in furthering education to become a dental assistance.

Kathleen was born in 1946 and raised in West Seattle. She has lived around the city but has always loved the West Seattle area where she grew up. Kathleen worked for Boeing, then transitioned to an independent contractor role. After the 2008 recession hit her income dropped by at least 45%. Then she was injured on the job and was unable to continue working. She makes a small income selling items on E-Bay and living off her pension. However, she began to struggle to keep up with her expenses on a fixed income and went into debt.

Kathleen found her way to Byrd Barr Place after a referral from a Seattle City Light (SCL) representative. She receives a monthly senior discount from SCL and was looking for help with her PSE gas bill. After doing some research on the web for help she made an appointment at Byrd Barr Place, but was told she didn’t qualify for our program due to her income level. Fortunately, Byrd Barr Place was still able to help her through a Bridge the Gap grant. Kathleen was beyond thankful!

She mentioned she has always been the one to help others. She has donated to those who were in need in the past and never expected to be in this type of position but it happened so fast. Fearful of getting her heat turned off in freezing conditions she says she was “rejuvenated” and “full of hope” after receiving our help. Kathleen is working on a budget and plans on selling her home to pay back her debt to friends and family, then hopes to transition into senior living or an apartment in the area.

Katherine came to Byrd Barr Place during a desperate time in her life. Born and raised in Seattle, she bought her first home in West Seattle. She has worked in healthcare for over 15 years, then opened up her own social work practice. In recent years, she became a full time caregiver for her mother. After she passed away, Katherine then took over care for her disabled brother and his wife. Kathleen struggles with taking care of two family members while working at her practice. Over time, the emotional and financial responsibilities have taken their toll.

Katherine found Byrd Barr Place after running low on oil without an extra dollar to her name. She initially didn’t quality for our Energy Assistance program as her income exceeded the federal program guidelines, however being self-employed her income fluctuates greatly from month to month and she couldn’t keep up with her bills. That’s where anonymous Bridge the Gap donors were able to help with a $400 grant. Once she found she would receive assistance, she was incredibly grateful.

Katherine said she hadn’t wanted to use oil to heat her home because of her fear of not being able to pay so her home was extremely cold. She remembers her pets cuddling up to her with their cold paws and it really made her depressed. “This grant made a world of difference for everyone in my home, family and pets included.”


This winter season, there are people who are faced with tough choices.  Pay the power bill or buy food? Keep the heat on or pay rent? Families need to keep a roof over their heads and to feed their children, and so there really isn’t a choice at all, and they face their power being shut off as a result.

You can keep a family warm this winter by supporting Byrd Barr Place’s Energy Assistance Program, which helps thousands of people across Seattle heat their homes each year by providing them with necessary assistance. For every donation of $75 or more to Byrd Barr Place’s Bridge the Gap program fund, you will receive this beautiful Warm Haus candle, generously produced by Salt House Mercantile in Seattle.

Just make an online donation and select “Bridge the Gap” at checkout, and a candle will be mailed out to you. You can also purchase the candle from Salt House Mercantile in Seattle. It’s the perfect gift to bring light into someone’s life, and warmth into their home.

Through a formal partnership announced recently, Byrd Barr Place is working together with nonprofit organizers Africatown, Black Community Impact Alliance (BCIA), and Capitol Hill Housing (CHH) on equitable development plans in the Central District. One of our first projects: redeveloping the lot that was once home to Liberty Bank, the first black-owned bank in the Pacific Northwest.

Our goal is to give a voice to Black residents in Seattle throughout the development of the new building. We want to honor the bank’s legacy, and ensure the building’s ownership reflects the Black community. Earlier this year, Mayor Ed Murray announced plans to work with the community nonprofits to honor the bank’s legacy in the Central District. We are excited to see our community unite to ensure this new development reflects the history and future of our great neighborhood, one that is inclusive of all people.

Our progress on honoring the bank’s legacy, and ensuring the building’s ownership reflects the Black community includes:

  • The four organizations will prioritize renting commercial space to black- and minority-owned businesses at affordable rates.
  • The groups committed to hiring minority-owned subcontractors from within the community to work on the new construction.
  • There are plans for numerous art features that will honor the community and history of Liberty Bank.

The new building, which will begin construction in 2017, will include ground-level retail spaces and five floors—about 115 units—dedicated entirely to affordable studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments. Learn more about this project and let us know what you think!

Have a flair for drama? Byrd Barr Place is partnering with the Seattle Rep Theater to launch Public Works Seattle, a unique program that offers free acting classes to the public! We’ll be offering workshops, classes, and performances to join together people in our community through the arts. All people are welcome. This is your chance to shine! We hope you can join us every Monday starting November 7th from 6:00 – 7:30 pm. Drop-ins are welcome or contact to register. Visit the Public Works Seattle website for more information.