Make an Urban Impact
Nestled between Pioneer Square, First Hill, the Central District and the International District is a small neighborhood undergoing significant change—the Yesler Terrace. The community of Yesler Terrace dates back to 1941 and is the first racially mixed public housing area in the U.S. The diversity of the neighborhood had the common denominator of largely low-income families of color who were immigrants and refugees from East Africa and Southeast Asia as well as African American and Latino families. For years, this location has had faithful church ministries coming alongside the community from downtown, and notably from Japanese Baptist Church, (a strong congregation that has roots in the neighborhood pre- Japanese internment). Now in more recent years, the neighborhood is undergoing rapid change which threatens the resilient vibrancy of the community, and creates a relational void between new residents and longer-tenured neighbors.
A new ministry seeking to walk in step with Yesler residents and create avenues for relationship with newcomers is Urban Impact through Seattle’s First Mosaic Church. Known for their stellar work in the Rainier Valley, Urban Impact is establishing a new hub of ministry in the Yesler Community consonant with the principles of CCDA, (the Christian Community Development Association, founded by John Perkins). Pastors Jeff and Ellen Schulz of Seattle’s First Mosaic Church with Bill Douthit of Urban Impact are prayerfully moving forward with an effort to reach youth and families through mentoring and monthly Community Nights at the Yesler Community Center on the corner of Yesler and Broadway.
The importance of starting with listening and table fellowship on Yesler should not be taken for granted, given the displacement many families are feeling who love their neighborhood and desire connection and permanence. Like many families of color in the Central District, many Yesler families still return to the neighborhood though they currently reside in South King County. Yesler and the Central District represent almost an ancestral home for neighbors who came to the U.S. due to civil war, the Vietnam War, post-internment, and the second Great Migration of African Americans during World War II. Hence, the importance of gathering youth and families for a monthly meal, and/or tutoring is the work of empowerment and community building that Urban Impact wants to facilitate.
Remarking on the importance of Community Nights and mentoring on the Terrace, Bill Douthit recalls a conversation he had with a couple youth at the Yesler Community Center, where one of the youth said that the Community Nights were happening in order to “help them”. Alternatively, Bill retorted by saying, “We are here to know you, to have a relationship with you and to listen.” Rather than beginning this ministry as a way to “help” this resilient community, Bill and Seattle’s First Mosaic Church want to emphasize listening, presence and consistency—which are so important for this shifting community.
Please remember to pray for Urban Impact and Seattle’s First Mosaic Church, as this is a new ministry that hopes to have a reciprocal connection to the neighborhood whereby they can be a blessing to Yesler Terrace and vice a versa. Pray for the mentoring and tutoring happening at Bailey Gatzert, (by both SFMC and Japanese Baptist), and for the Community Nights that happen every 3rd Friday evening of the month. Volunteers, and potluck participants are always welcome at Community Night, and their next gathering is this Friday, February 17th, 4:30pm to 6:30pm. If you would like more information regarding the Yesler Terrace Urban Impact Hub, please reach out to Bill Douthit at firstname.lastname@example.org.