Innovation center opens in Seattle to train Black students for tech and film careers

The William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation is named after a trailblazing Black businessman whose land helped establish the Central District for Black families over 50 years ago.

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An innovation hub was launched in a historically Black neighborhood of Seattle that aims to boost the number of Black students in art, business ownership and technology, The Seattle Times reports. 

The William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation, located in Seattle’s Central District neighborhood, officially opened on Friday, Sept. 16, at the historic Fire Station 6, on the corner of E. Yesler Way and 23rd Avenue, Geek Wire reports.

The William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation, which opened last week in the Central District neighborhood in Seattle, Washington, aims to build up the number of Black students in art, film, business ownership and technology. (Photo: AdobeStock)

The former firehouse has not been in use for nearly a decade and was once home to the city’s first Black firefighters. The center is named after the trailblazing Black businessman whose land helped establish the Central District as an area for Black families more than 50 years ago.

The Africatown Community Land Trust spearheaded the creation of the center following a wave of anti-racism protests in 2020. The city provided ACLT with a 99-year no-cost lease for the fire station and $1 million to renovate the space. The Seattle Times reported in June 2020 that 75 percent of Central District residents were Black more than a half-century ago. Today, Black people make up 10 percent of the residents. 

Due to high real estate prices and income inequality, ACLT invests in properties in Seattle with the goal of fostering and bolstering a thriving Black community. 

The William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation appears to be a response to the city’s tech boom that Black workers have found challenging to penetrate. Starting this fall, the center will offer students of color workshops in computer science and filmmaking, as well as entrepreneurial programs.

K. Wyking Garrett, the CEO and president of ACLT, said the nonprofit organization’s fundraising efforts for the center have been supported, so far, by Seattle University, the University of Washington Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, Fuji Film, KeyBank and more, per The Seattle Times report.

“We’re solving for a Jim Crow apartheid state of socioeconomics. To help make Seattle an equitable city that includes more of us and is not continuing to become increasingly exclusive,” Garrett told the publication.

“I want young Black creatives who look like me, who come from similar backgrounds, to not feel like they have to leave Seattle in order for them to be creative,”  said TraeAnna Holiday, who is involved in the center’s filmmaking programs. 

Under the terms of the lease, some of the programming must focus on solutions for small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, per The Times, within 10 years, Africatown must expand “the Community Center programs and functions to a level comparable to other community centers.”

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