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.

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

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.”

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 simone.hamilton@seattlerep.org to register. Visit the Public Works Seattle website for more information.

Byrd Barr Place’s thought leadership in researching trends and data is a growing area of expertise and a strategic way to be accountable to the community’s needs. Our Research and Insights Program focuses on the core issues facing those struggling in our community to identify solutions that positively impact change. The program develops and commissions studies that leverage our capabilities with grassroots-level data gathering and story-telling to broaden awareness on today’s critical issues and trends.

 

Creating an Equitable Future for Black Washingtonians Study

In collaboration with several organizations, Byrd Barr Place recently released a new study: “Creating an Equitable Future for Black Washingtonians”. Racism and inequality remain a looming problem in Washington State. It casts a shadow over the lives of many Blacks, leading to a lack of economic security, poor health, and high levels of stress. This new study seeks to encourage citizens and leaders alike to address these issues head-on, engage in conversations focused on solutions, and develop policies and laws to help Blacks gain equal footing with other races and ethnicities.

The comprehensive report outlines some of the major ways our social, economic, and political systems in Washington State intertwine to create barriers to opportunity that impede progress within the Black community. The coalition releasing this report is composed of Centerstone, the Washington Commission on African American Affairs, and the African American Leadership Forum – Seattle.

 

Here are the 10 most important ways that the study can improve life for Blacks:

  • Enable economic policies to ensure that all families in Washington state can meet their basic needs
  • Increase the share of Black people with access to good jobs
  • Provide adequate access to an education that will allow Blacks to compete for the jobs of today and the future
  • Expand high quality early learning opportunities for Black children and families
  • Provide resources do Black students need to stay in school and excel
  • Improve state policies and programs to better meet the needs of Black youth to keep them out of the criminal justice system
  • Create community-driven strategies to create a more just and equitable political system
  • Develop strategies for Black families to use to remain healthy in challenging environments
  • Promote policies so that everyone in the Black community has adequate access to health insurance and care
  • Identify the most significant barriers to economic opportunity for Black Washingtonians today

This report is the first phase of a longer effort to elevate and amplify the voices of Black Washingtonians in the decision-making processes that influence their everyday lives. The analysis focuses on five key areas of well-being – economic security, education, health, criminal justice, and civic engagement – to highlight conditions in the Black community and contribute to a robust conversation about what an equitable future in Washington State looks like.

 

How You Can Help

Start the conversation by downloading the full report, learning about the issues, and raising your voice in the community. Or download the report by topic section:

Make a donation to help us continue our work

Spread the word by promoting this study within your network (see social media sharing links below).

Share the press release with your community

Together, as citizens and leaders, we can start the conversation.

Good health is essential to quality of life. Living in a safe home, having enough food to eat, stable employment, attending good schools, and living in neighborhoods where people trust one another and feel protected are all essential to a healthy life. Lack of economic and educational opportunities have made it harder for Black people to find stable, living-wage employment that allows families to meet basic needs like housing and food, as well as invest in their own future or that of their children. The mental stress of such instability can reach levels so toxic that it can take a toll on every aspect of child and family health. In Washington State, 60% of Black children are living in families with economic hardship – the most common adverse experience children face — compared to the state average of 39%. The release of a new study, “Creating an Equitable Future for Black Washingtonians”, uncovers this troubling research and much more. The study also identifies multiple solutions for improving opportunities for Blacks in our state. Download the Health excerpt from the study, and learn how you can help us start the conversation to strengthen our state’s economic and civic future by visiting http://www.BlacksWA.org.

What comes to mind when you think of criminal justice? For Blacks, two words arise: Disparity and mistrust. The criminal justice system is responsible for protecting neighborhoods and building trust, but there is perhaps no other institution more devastating to Black children, families, and communities today. If current trends continue, 1 in 3 Black men and 1 in 18 Black women in the U.S. will spend some time in prison, removing a critical mass of workers, parents, brothers, sisters, friends, and voters from the Black community. In Washington State, the 18% share of Black people in prison is four times higher than their share in the state population. The release of a new study, “Creating an Equitable Future for Black Washingtonians”, uncovers this staggering research and much more. The study also identifies multiple solutions for improving opportunities for Blacks in our state. Download the Criminal Justice excerpt from the study, and learn how you can help us start the conversation to strengthen our state’s economic and civic future by visiting http://www.BlacksWA.org.

A lack of teacher diversity. Inadequate funding for K-12. The rising cost of college tuition. How can education be the great equalizer in the face of these obstacles? Black Washingtonians, specifically Black students, are lagging behind and not reaching their full potential. For example, only 45% of Black children are enrolled in preschool compared to 53% of their peers. The release of a new study, “Creating an Equitable Future for Black Washingtonians”, uncovers this alarming research and much more. The study also identifies multiple solutions for improving opportunities for Blacks in our state. Download the Education excerpt from the study, and learn how you can help us start the conversation to strengthen our state’s economic and civic future by visiting http://www.BlacksWA.org.