Burien Celebrates Black History in February and Beyond

While the City of Burien is committed to honoring the contributions of Black Americans year-round, here is a snapshot of how the City and its partners are currently turning those words into action, and how you can participate as well.

To address the lack of representation of Black historical figures in education, historian and author Dr. Carter G. Woodson (known as the “Father of Black History”) created Negro History Week in the 1920s, which eventually expanded into “Black History Month” five decades later.

Since then, our nation’s oldest organized celebration of history has grown into a time for all of us to reflect, celebrate, and honor the contributions of Black Americans and people of African descent in the United States.

While the City of Burien is committed to honoring those contributions year-round, here is a snapshot of how the City and its partners are currently turning those words into action, and how you can participate as well.

City of Burien Black History Month proclamation.

Burien City Council Issues Black History Month Proclamation

On February 1, Burien City Council issued a proclamation naming February 2021 “Black History Month” in the city and asking all community members to celebrate the history and contributions of Black Americans to the Burien community. The proclamation highlighted “the scientific, technological, economic, political, and cultural innovations by Black Americans and African Americans” that have been “essential to the progress of our nation”, and noted, “…we will continue to honor these accomplishments every month and every day in the city of Burien, Washington.”

The proclamation, read by Deputy Mayor Krystal Marx, was accepted by Gaylloyd Sissòn, a Burien Arts Commissioner and co-chair of African-American Writers’ Alliance, “a diverse and dynamic collective of Seattle-area writers of African descent.”

Gaylloyd Sissòn, bottom right, accepts Black History Month proclamation by Burien City Council at February 1, 2021 council meeting.

“I accept this proclamation… Burien means a lot to me,” Mr. Sissòn said. Reading from a postcard he bought from the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., “we said ‘Black Lives Matter’, we never said ‘only Black Lives Matter’ … in truth, we know that all lives matter. We’ve supported your lives throughout history, now we need your help … for Black lives are in danger.”

Mr. Sissòn invites everyone to check out poetry from the African-American Writers’ Alliance featured in the windows of Merrill Gardens. Viewers can scan QR Codes with their smartphone camera to hear the poems read out loud by each author.

Here is one of Mr. Sissòn’s poems featured in the exhibit, titled “Controlling the Dams”:

Gaylloyd Sissòn reads from his original poem titled “Controlling the Dams”.

Highlighting the Black Lives Matter Movement with Public Art

Black Lives Matter in American History Exhibit

Highline Heritage Museum has announced a community exhibit titled “Black Lives Matter in American History” that will be displayed in 11 exterior gallery windows in Downtown Burien including the Highline Heritage Museum, Merrill Gardens Senior Living, and Maverick Apartments from February 5 until April 30. According to the museum, the exhibit “features work by our local artists, community members, and students alongside stories of courage from Black History. Together, they reflect national and local perspectives on American history and the Black experience.”

Highline Heritage Museum photo of volunteers preparing the Black Lives Matter in American History exhibit for installation in Burien storefronts.

The exhibit is sponsored by the City of Burien, Merrill Gardens, The Maverick, Miller Creek Associates, and Alaska Airlines. Participants include the African-American Writers’ Alliance, Highline High School, Choice Back Student Union, Evergreen High School, Minor Matters, Lawtiwa Barbersalon, and Classic Eats in addition to local artists and community members. The University of Washington Museology Program provided research assistance for the project.

Burien Honors Black Lives Matter Movement Public Art Project

At the request of Burien City Council for a project that “honors the Black Lives Matter movement,” a recommendation by the Burien Arts Commission was made to and approved by the council at their December 7, 2020 public meeting. The project, made possible by the Burien Art in Public Places Fund, is currently seeking applications from artists until March 12 to create a temporary (at least one year) or permanent visual art installation. The City is requesting submissions from artists. Black, Indigenous, people of color artists from Burien or elsewhere in south King County are encouraged to apply.

Storefront of Kevin’s Best Fades Barbershop in Burien’s Boulevard Park neighborhood.

Showcasing and Supporting Burien’s Black-Owned Businesses

The City of Burien’s Economic Development division has been showcasing Black-owned businesses like Kevin’s Best Fades Barbershop, Taxbunny Bookkeeping & Tax ServiceTsehay Beauty Salon, My Closet, Time Tunnel Records, The Burien Fish House, Classic Eats, The Shoppe Seahurst, African Beauty Salon by Hanna, Be Yoga Burien, Designing Divas, and Zam Zam Café on social media and continues to connect business owners to resources such as Washington Small Business Development Center’s recent Black-Owned Business Excellence webinar.

Burien Eat Streets.

In 2020, the City of Burien launched “Burien Eat Streets”, an interactive map revealing which Burien restaurants are open for business. Browse through more than 30 types of cuisine to find your new favorite takeout spot and filter results to find restaurants run by Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) business owners.

Follow the City’s Economic Development team on Facebook and Instagram for the latest news and resources for Burien businesses and customers alike. If you would like to receive the City of Burien’s economic development newsletter packed with business resources, please email economicdevelopment@burienwa.gov.

Continue Celebrating and Learning About Black History

“Our responsibility as citizens is to address the inequalities and injustices that linger, and we must secure our birthright freedoms for all people … let us reflect on the sacrifices and contributions made by generations of African Americans, and let us resolve to continue our march toward a day when every person knows the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

From U.S. President Barack Obama’s Presidential Proclamation of February 2016 as National African American History Month (January 29, 2016)
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