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Thriving With Grace, Beauty and Joy: a Conversation with Kristina Clark

Kristina Clark has had a dream: to create a space for Black youth and adults to gather, to read, and to heal from centuries of ancestral trauma.


This year Clark finally realized her dream when she opened a new store and community center called Loving Room: diaspora books and salon in Seattle's Central District neighborhood. Business has been slow in these uncertain economic times, but Clark says she feels a responsibility to her patrons to keep the Loving Room alive.


"Once you speak it, that's accountability, whether it's self accountability, ancestral accountability, or community accountability."

Vivian and Marcie talked with Kristina about how she transformed her long-held dream into a reality, and why she's so committed to keeping her Loving Room alive.



Kristina Clark, Owner and Founder of Loving Room

 

ABOUT THIS EPISODE'S GUEST


Kristina Clark (she/her/they) is the creator of LOVING ROOM: diaspora books + salon. She is a commitment to collective Black ancestral healing and is activating the space at LOVING ROOM through #BlackLit and African diasporic decolonial aesthetics as foundational for the ways we express #BlackLove and #BlackJoy. She finds joy in warm sunny days near / in water, beads, small smooth stones, incense, natural fibers, and the earthy rhythmic eloquence of natural dye prints in traditional textile design. She also loves to cook and break bread with friends and chosen family. In another life, Kristina has danced and played liberatory musics of resistance to colonial oppression from the Black diaspora in Latin America (México, Cuba, Perú). She is a solo mama to two bright stars, Zubeyde and Sahabiyat. She dreams of a world where her children, their communities, and the generations to come experience robust belonging, dignity, safety, and abundant love.

Born in northern California and raised in Seattle, Kristina completed her BA in International Relations and Spanish at the University of Southern California. She later earned an MEd in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Washington College of Education, with a focus on Secondary Social Studies Education. Educational advocacy and equitable access for youth of color inspire and motivate Kristina immensely. She has served Black and brown youth and families in various capacities through her work at Global Visionaries, Seattle Public Schools, YouthSource, Families of Color Seattle (FOCS), and Black Maternal Health Week Seattle. Kristina has contributed to spaces of belonging, celebration, and liberation for Black and Brown communities in the Seattle area with her service to the Garfield High School Black Student Union, the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party 50th Anniversary (2018), and Queer The Land.


You can find Loving Room's website here

You can find the book mentioned in the episode, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl on bookshop.org or read it in person at Loving Room.


 

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (00:00):

Hey, I'm Vivian Phillips.


MARCIE SILLMAN (00:01):

And I'm Marcie Sillman. And, and this is Double


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (00:05):

Double


MARCIE SILLMAN (00:06):

Exposure.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (00:07):

<laugh> DoubleXposure is a podcast where we plumb the deepest depths and the tiniest cracks of our world to understand how culture and creativity shape our lives.


MARCIE SILLMAN (00:26):

On this episode, how Kristina Clark plans to use books to facilitate community identity and healing. Vivian Phillips, December, it is the month, it is the Dark Month, but a month where I think my brain is lighting up from conversations. How are you?


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (00:55):

I am feeling the exact same way, Marcie. I mean, I think that if we did not have this outlet for having these conversations that are enlightening and bring us joy, then it might be a much more depressing month.


MARCIE SILLMAN (01:11):

This episode we talked to, I can only describe her as somebody who's quietly passionate, Kristina Clark, who is the owner of a new bookstore and gathering space, cuz it's not just a bookstore. It's called the Loving Room on 20th and Union. And her story could be mirrored by a lot of the other Black-owned businesses that are starting to take root in the Central District.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (01:38):

You know, it's, it's quite true. And in listening to this series of conversations, listening back and, um, just having these conversations with you, first and foremost, Marcia, I wanna say to you how much I appreciate your interest in the development of the central area. And I think that it makes sense for Pupil to know that that was once your home as well, that you used to live in the central area. And, you know, I just really, truly appreciate having the partnership that we have to talk about a place that means so much to me, it means a lot to you as well, but in general it means a lot to the city of Seattle.


MARCIE SILLMAN (02:26):

I think what's so thrilling to me about this particular series of interviews above all, and they've all been so fascinating this season, is not just that I know the Central District when there was just Ralph's on the corner there, Union


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (02:42):

And Martin Luther King <laugh>,


MARCIE SILLMAN (02:44):

Where I shopped and, uh, walked around and pushed my child in his baby buggy down to the Douglas Truth Library. But I think what I'm loving so much is that it's not just that Black owned businesses are moving in and taking back a neighborhood. It's the passion and the joy with which I see these businesses opening. And so there's so much spirit and power. That's what's so wonderfully inspiring to me.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (03:15):

Yeah. One of the things that Kristina says in this interview that I had to note and, uh, really loved and embraced, so she said that we will thrive with grace, beauty, and joy. And so I think that's a perfect introduction to this conversation with Kristina Clark at the Loving Room. Kristina Clark, I want to thank you so much for joining us today. Um, first of all, we want to hear a little bit about the Loving Room: diaspora books and salon. What exactly is this business and when did you open Loving Room?


KRISTINA CLARK (03:53):

Loving Room: diaspora books and salon, is a space for our collective healing as black people. And it is a space that is activated through Black literary arts. So through the written word, it is a bookstore. It is also a reading room and a cultural gathering space. So, it encompasses many different purposes and, um, intentions. I would say at the heart of it, it is really a community space that I am, I'm using the bookstore as a means to keep the space open. Um, but I really just wanted a place, especially for, um, Black young people to be able to encounter our literary canon, which is so vast and so immense. You know, I'm still working to bring more titles in. Um, but a space that we, where we can do that and the comfort of who we are as Black people, um, here in Seattle. And then also space that can be activated in other ways through the arts and, you know, through arts that are parallel to literature.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (04:47):

We should also say where the Loving Room is. And again, when, when did you open?


KRISTINA CLARK (04:53):

Loving Room is located in the Central District, um, here in Seattle. So I'm located on the corner of Union and 20th, so I'm just off the heart. You know, we have this new kind of activated hub and corridor on Union right now, and it feels like a very vital time to bring Loving Room to life. This is a project that has been incubating and percolating for almost a decade. I remember talking to Royal Alley Barnes back in like 2013 or 2014 about this concept that I wanted to bring to life. And I just opened in August of 2022, so in Black August. And that was a bit intentional. Yes, it did overlap when, when the lease was available to start, but yes, in Black August of this year.


MARCIE SILLMAN (05:35):

I'm curious, Kristina, what actually pushed you from idea germination to actually taking action?


KRISTINA CLARK (05:43):

That is such a great question. So it's several factors I would say in terms of kind of like my personal trajectory, other, um, commitments, career profession wise. This past, actually year and a half now, um, has been major transition in flux for me. I have been working at Families of Color Seattle, doing programming for, um, black and brown parents and caregivers and children here, and decided to leave that work back in the summer of 2021 and have been in flux doing some consulting work on the side, you know, arts related things that I had really wanted to bring to life. And so I do have to acknowledge it was a spaciousness as far as just my capacity to commit to a project like this. But as far as the urgency, it really is just this shifting landscape here in the Central District in Seattle, where on the one hand you have these incredible projects.


KRISTINA CLARK (06:34):

I mean, I'm talking with the, the creator and the, the, you know, person who was brought to life, ARTE NOIR, which is, I mean, Vivian, I haven't told you this, but you're one of my heroes. Okay, so <laugh>, when I think a couple decades down the road, I'm like, who do I want to be? Like it's you. So to see this project come to life, one warrior is here. We have this incredible moment of reclamation and of just insisting that we will thrive and we will do it with grace, and we will do it with beauty and with joy and with flavor. And so, this is the moment that we're in right now here in the CD. And at the same time, these snatches and these grabs trying to take these pockets, and I'm talking about physical, actual land, space, real estate property. It's like we're in a fight for our lives.


KRISTINA CLARK (07:18):

So a couple things really were like the tipping point for me this year, my dream space. So I had always had my eye on the storefronts out on LER right next door to Langston Hughes. That was always my dream to open this bookstore in this reading room right next door to Langston Hughes. And I actually have a parallel little baby project that's like this cafe, and it's something else that gimme five years, maybe, you know, it'll come to life as well. But I had always imagined the bookstore in this cafe right next door to Langston. So I had had my eyes on those storefronts. They've been a beacon for what, almost two decades at this point. It's like over 15 years. And so I think about a year ago sometime 2021, I actually was able to track down who I thought was the owner. It turns out she had sold those storefronts in the pandemic.


KRISTINA CLARK (08:07):

She was gracious enough to connect me with the current owners. And then I froze and panicked right after I had an actual introduction. And they're saying, yes, we we're open to tenants, and I had to pause and get my ducks in a row. So it took me a minute to reach back out and to kind of give them the concept and let them know what I was interested in bringing to the space. And by the time I reached back, this was early 2022, their response was actually, we've decided to bring a different project in here and we're not looking for tenants anymore. So that was a bit of a letdown. It really had, you know, I, I had gone to the point of literally drawing up floor plans based, I went to Google Maps, I had taken measurements of those properties. I mean, I had really looked into it.


KRISTINA CLARK (08:48):

And so I had really come up with a concept based on that space. And so, you know, that forced me to, to reevaluate and then to think about well beyond that, that physical building and then that specific location. What is it? You know, what's the project in terms of place? And then, you know, if you can't get that space, you know, how committed are you to doing this? And so, um, this current, you know, folks who own this property, they were gracious enough, they sent me a few other properties that were available and on the market, and I looked around and by the time I clicked on those links, it was like everything was either snatched up or it just really didn't accommodate, you know, what it was that I was trying to do. So that forced me to start looking and listening, when I tell you I would get on whatever platforms, it's not just Zillow.


KRISTINA CLARK (09:34):

There's a couple that are the specific real estate, right? I mean, things were getting snatched up in a matter of like 48 hours. So there's a property that was for sale down on Union, just kind of kitty corner to where Cortona used to be mellow. That property was gone. So when this space popped up, I came in and I really kind of fell in love with this space. Now it was beyond a reach for me to think that I was really in a position to launch the business This year I've had to move earth, wind, sea, just on every single level to make it happen. But this is a beautiful space, it's right here. And I thought, you know what? This is it. This is it. And I didn't want it to go, I didn't want it to go to somebody else who's not us, you know, I wanted it to be for us.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (10:17):

You talk about reclamation, and I think what you've just illustrated is how fleeting that can be in the Central Area where property is incredibly hot or have been sought after. On the other side of that, you also spoke about ancestral healing. And I wanna know if you can explore that a little bit. What are we talking about when we're talking about ancestral healing and how does that also connect to reclamation of place and space?


KRISTINA CLARK (10:56):

When I'm talking about ancestral healing, on the one hand, literally the fact that our ancestors were deprived of the right to read and the right to know the written word, one of my inspirations for Loving Room actually comes from the autobiography of Harriet Jacobs. Right? This is one of those slave narratives is so fascinating and so profound because it really gets into like the psychology, right? And the psychic violence that was involved in, you know, keeping us in this absolute objection. And it's profound. But one of the things that stood out to me was that essentially after Harriet Jacobs, she was essentially in hiding for like seven years. She lived in an attic, right? She was hiding from, from her slave master, from her captor, and, um, had to convince him that she was dead. So she hid in an attic where she could not even stand up fully to reach the ceiling for seven years.


KRISTINA CLARK (11:48):

And then she eventually escaped and she was up north and she reunited with her brother, and the two of them actually opened a reading room, okay. And it was an anti-slavery reading room. And the whole purpose of the reading room was to keep, this was kind of under the shadow of the Fugitive Slave Act, right around 1850. And so it was a space where Black people could come and be informed of the order of the day, whatever was going on as far as, you know, their safety and their mobility, their ability to move from place to place, and then also just to be educated, you know. And so they had pamphlets, literature, books, and I think they were able to keep the space operating for maybe a year and a half, two years. And then she states in the book that they, you know, the, the effort failed and they had to close.


KRISTINA CLARK (12:30):

So I've always thought of this space as kind of homage, you know, and acknowledgment to that effort and that intention, and going back again to also why right now we're in a kind of a parallel moment with this whole backlash against critical race theory, right? Or what's being called critical race theory or lump together, which, you know, critical race theory has its own place that is its own conversation, very much needed. But we're in a moment where any conversation about race or racism, historical oppression, is now being lumped into what's called critical race theory and being vilified, right? And so when I talk about ancestral healing, I am talking about literally just being able to engage with literature, the written word, giving our ancestors that acknowledgment and praise for, for us being in a space where we can do that now, because that's been accomplished by so many different feats and, and struggles on another facet, I am talking about what I call African diasporic decolonial aesthetics being away for us to engage in our healing.


KRISTINA CLARK (13:35):

So I want a space that aesthetically speaks to that ancestral presence or ancestral spirit. I can actually show you a little bit what's behind me. So I have a Yoruba beaded throne that is right behind me. It's this white throne right here. And this was like on a wishlist for me for years, okay, <laugh>. And I've been looking at it and just saying, so when I opened Loving Room, I used to call it living room, but when I opened living room, like this is gonna be one of the first things I get, you know, because this is a reference to royalty within our lineages. I was like, I want a young person to be able to sit down in a, in a hand beat Yoruba throne. Like this is just something really unique. You wouldn't have that opportunity every day. So some of the decor, some of the touches, you know, that's, that's another aspect of the ancestral healing piece.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (14:25):

You know, in response to your description, I completely and totally now have a fuller understanding of how reclamation and place and space and ancestral healing is all encompassed in your vision for the Loving Room. So thank you very, very much for that.


KRISTINA CLARK (14:49):

There's one other aspect I just wanted to add and, and I was saying I don't want to get too deep, but just briefly, I'm also trying to activate a space in a way that thinking about the amount of trauma in intergenerational trauma that we carry as Black people. And so a space that can tend to us in a way that we feel cared for and nurtured and where we can regulate and we can be present and just sinking and just be and feel safe in our bodies.


MARCIE SILLMAN (15:13):

So, one of the things that was really interesting to learn about you was your background coming to this project, and especially your work with youth. I know you spent some time at Garfield High School, you've worked on curricula, you've talked a little bit earlier about books for young people so that they could connect to their literary past. And I'm curious how all of that background of working with youth and being a mom informed this vision as well as, as some of the other things that you were talking about.


KRISTINA CLARK (15:44):

My background working with young people is yeah, predominantly high school aged youth. I was at Garfield for over five years, actually working as a bilingual instructional assistant and as an advisor to the Black Student Union. So it was those two experiences in parallel that really gave the impetus for this project. On the one hand, you know, looking at Black youth from other places around the globe, what kind of experiences with, you know, schooling, education, literacy, reading, um, historical selfhood they might have, and then being uprooted and coming to the United States and being in a high school classroom here, how much of their truths and realities are acknowledged and reflected back to them in learning spaces here? And then what's absent? I could tell you about, you know, some of these, these lessons I would sit in cuz as an instructional assistant, sometimes they're the only other adult in the room.


KRISTINA CLARK (16:31):

And so you’re witness to a lot, and I remember, um, a world history class where the educator, the teacher was leading the class on an activity that was supposed to be kind of a guided reenactment where they were acting out the British East India company coming to Nigeria. So there was a whole thing around the kids were supposed to understand that, you know, these local rulers were illiterate and that's why they signed these contracts because they didn't understand, they didn't even know what it means, meant to sign a document. And then me saying, hold on, pause, wait a minute. You could talk about Indigenous writing systems, you could talk about the presence of Islam, come on hundreds of years. You had literate people. It wasn't about Africans being illiterate, having a conversation with the teacher, and then this teacher saying, well, where can you prove that to me?


KRISTINA CLARK (17:21):

You know, can you cite that he had, you know, all these like East African students in his class and you know, these are kids who are like, oh yeah, we got millennia of like, written history. Like, you know, so, so much of their experience just being totally erased. You know, this, historical truth just being completely left out. That's just one. Right. But just to draw a little bit on how, I guess, uh, specifically working as an English language learner, instructional assistant, right? Those experiences shaped some of this. And then of course, course working with the BSU, I mean, it was just ongoing conversations about the erasure, whether it's the current experiences of Black young people confronting systemic racism and structural oppression, or, you know, the absence of that robust Black historic selfhood, um, when it comes to the curriculum, the classroom, the implicit and explicit curriculum in the school.


KRISTINA CLARK (18:11):

So yeah, it was, it was myriad conversations, experiences supporting and serving these young people. I will say, I guess very specifically that piece around libraries, right? For me, I'm like young people at libraries. That's a good thing. They could be a lot of other places, but you know, they're in a library and they're being young people, they're being loud. And so they're getting kicked out of libraries or asked, well, where's your pass? Even that right? Where's your pass? A Black person being required to have a pass to be somewhere like that, that's reminiscent of something else. So <laugh>, you know, I I definitely felt like I wanted a space where, you know, we could have our literature, but you can engage with it in different ways, you know, and it doesn't just have to be silent, quiet reading, you know, there can be conversation and dialogue and just talking about other, other things that are unrelated. Um, but you still getting to have an experience of accessing.

MARCIE SILLMAN (19:09):

Our conversation with Kristina Clark continues after this break,



VIVIAN PHILLIPS (19:14):

Our music is courtesy of Big World Breaks, many thanks.


MARCIE SILLMAN (19:19):

And this year we welcome our sponsor, LANGSTON, cultivating Black Brilliance from their home at Seattle's Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in the Historic Central District.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (19:39):

In order to get this off the ground, you had to raise all of your seed money through a GoFundMe. I wanna ask you about how hard it is in your experience for small businesses, especially Black-owned businesses, to get off the ground in that way. And, and secondarily, how sustainable is that?


KRISTINA CLARK (20:03):

These are, I mean, very pressing questions because I think as Black folks, I mean, we have just an endless creativity and spirit. There are so many possible small businesses, nonprofits just bubbling within the community, and there are not, you know, folks do not have access to intergenerational wealth and resources to be able to bring these projects to life, you know? So yeah, it is beyond, so there's, there's many things that are off the record as far as you know how to get started. I'll just say that, you know, how some of us, uh, still qualify for a tax return. <laugh>, okay. I'm a single mom of two, okay. Left my job in 2021, but I decided to take that money and that was literally almost the exact amount that I needed to put onto my lease because I do, I do not have assets. I'm not a homeowner.


KRISTINA CLARK (20:50):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I had to pay extra on my lease. So got that check, it said, boom, you know, it's been a lot. Um, because there's things that I've, you know, my kids and I have had to, you know, leave out this past summer. It also was an incredible outpouring of support from community. I mean, that was super unprecedented. And so to see folks contribute and say, yes, we support you, yes, we want to see this vision come to life. I mean, I would, I, so my birthday is on Thursday, right? And I've been in this whole mode of contemplation mode, you know, just reflecting on what this past year has been, and it has been just unparalleled abundance and grace. And I am just, wow, I'm, I'm floored. I'm so floored. Loving room, just being one of several things. You know, there's some other projects I had the opportunity to bring to life this year as well, and I've just been so blessed and so, so content.


KRISTINA CLARK (21:36):

So definitely did the GoFundMe. I had a few folks who wanted to donate, you know, amounts offline as well, and, you know, wanted to be kind of anonymous in that giving. And so, um, a little, couple things that came in that way. And then as far as the sustainability, you know, that path in and of itself, you know, it's not entirely sustainable. I will be quite transparent. I have not met my sales goals at all, you know, these first three months. I'm, I'm far below, and if it were not for another donor that just came through this past week, I would probably be looking at closing my doors in January, to be quite honest, you know, you know, we gotta have some conversations about, you know, the book, the book purchasing. I'm, I'm working on getting my online sales up and running as well. I know that the physical space is not always accessible to people. Folks wanna support, but they need multiple channels. So I'm definitely working on some of those pieces cuz yeah, I'm like, we want Black books for Black people. <laugh>


MARCIE SILLMAN (22:31):

The challenges both of getting this started and getting it in a, a mode where it can continue without you losing too much sleep over it just seem enormous. And I'm wondering, you know, what pushes you to keep going? Why do this? Why face these challenges?


KRISTINA CLARK (22:50):

I mean, on the one hand I think it's just commitment and follow through. I said I was going to do this. Um, and I think once you speak it, you know, that's accountability. Whether it's self-accountability, ancestral accountability, community accountability, and then you have people investing in you, you know, this is not casual that people are donating. I think it's like anytime somebody in community donates, it's like they're giving of something that they could put towards something else, but you also want to produce an experience that reflects that contribution. So, I mean, part of it is just honoring my word, it's just the follow through on the integrity. But on the other hand too, I mean, I've had people come in who said a number of things. I've had folks who've come in and shed tears. I've had folks who've come in and said, oh my God, you made this for me.


KRISTINA CLARK (23:40):

This is for me. You made this for me. I mean, just to have another Black woman say, you made this for, for me, I felt like there is no greater honor, there's no greater compliment than that. So to say this spoke to someone, this resonated for someone. I've had people say, I feel like rest, I feel like safety. I mean, just things that people have said. So to receive that I'm like, okay, I'm, I'm doing something. It might not be quite the volume or the level that I'm, I'm hoping the reach and the impact that I'm, I'm seeking to have that I'm building to that. But I do feel affirmed, and I feel like it's a worthy, worthy intention to continue building.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (24:18):

Truly glad that you feel that way because you are absolutely serving a purpose. And the initial question that I was going to pose had to do with why it was important for you to combine these two pieces of your mission, one as a learning and healing space and another, as a gathering place. But I feel like it's very obvious that there's healing and gathering.


KRISTINA CLARK (24:49):

I say exactly,


MARCIE SILLMAN (24:51):

You've alluded to this a little, but where do you dream the Loving Room could be in five years or 25 years?


KRISTINA CLARK (25:00):

Oh my gosh, <laugh>. Well, so I have, I'm, you know, I'm also following in the footsteps of a lot of greats. You know, this is not the first Black-owned bookstore in Seattle, right? So, wow. And there are several generations of, I would say Black women especially, but Black elders and adults who have held space for us in this city. So if I think about Loving Room over the next five years, or like you said, 20 years, I mean, my goal is to have much more consistent regular programming, especially for young people. I am working on bringing the Black Power Story Hour to Life. Okay. So yes, coming, but things of that nature. You know, I've written a couple, like a couple grants that I haven't gotten funded, but I have programming for middle school age youth. There's a whole like media literacy, um, program that I would like to, to bring to life as well, a fiction and poetry book club for high schoolers.


KRISTINA CLARK (25:53):

It's Salon, but lots of just different levels of programming that I would like to see sustained. And then to have generations of Black folks here, not just reading, but connecting with the literature, seeing themselves reflected, seeing our narratives, our stories, um, centered and at the forefront and, and presented in a depth of dignity, our fullness of our humanity, just being captured. I guess the major goal would be able to host authors, you know, black authors when they're on book tours, you know, for them to make a stop in Seattle and, you know, have an option other than Town Hall or Elliot Bay. You know, there's some great venues around town, and I think we do, we do bring some amazing, amazing authors and writers and thinkers here. But to be able to have a place that's very much homey.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (26:39):

One of my inspirations over a long period of time was Joseph Zimbabwe, who had Blackbird Books on 14th and Madison for many years. But you call the Central District home, we call the Central District home. We see each other, you know, in the neighborhood in addition to more intentional occasions. I wanna ask you, how does the cultural business like yours help in your view to sustain Black community in this neighborhood and beyond Loving Room? How do you see the connection between culture and creating and sustaining community? Because that's what this old series of doubleXposure conversations has been about. How do we connect art and culture to build and sustain community?


KRISTINA CLARK (27:25):

It does arc back to when you were talking about reclamation as well, right? Because we are, I mean, our reality is gentrification. Our reality is weed in seed. Our reality is all of these different ways that Black folks have been very, very actively and intentionally displaced from this physical community that is the Central District. So, and I'm looking at examples like <inaudible>, I mean, what an incredible project, what an incredible testimony, right? To the power of being able to, to claim space for black people and then to use the arts to be able to activate that space for that to be a vehicle. So I mean, I think it matters that we have spaces that literally welcome Black folks in, right? Not every business is gonna be a welcoming or a safe space for us as black people. And so it does matter that we have a range of choices.


KRISTINA CLARK (28:13):

A range of options. And like I said, it's not like I'm trailblazing out here. It's like I'm on the riding on the tail feathers. There's some incredible, incredible projects that have been birthed over the past couple years, and it does feel like a bit of a renaissance. It feels like a renaissance. So I'm really humbled and honored to be a part of that. And as far as community, yeah, we have to have places that we can walk into, right? One of my neighbors over here is, which a really beautiful project it is now, it's a rebrand. So it's made space now, right? I think it's formally known as the Liink Project right around the corner from me. Here's, um, same commercial space. So Made Space is another, it's a gallery, or I guess it's a rotating gallery, community art space. It's, it's available for private events and venues, but it is a space that has been an activated towards Black people through the arts and a really similar energy.


KRISTINA CLARK (29:01):

So I've been really grateful to call Stephanie my neighbor and to have her right here. We're looking at hopefully doing some tandem things, you know, where she has, you know, activities in her space that, that relate to what's happening over here at Loving Room. But yeah, for community to, to have community when we're being displaced in the, in terms of home ownership, you know, what is it that welcomes and grounds people coming back into the neighborhood? So I'll be honest, like this could very easily be a nonprofit. It is an llc. I'll say for the sake of efficiency this year, Marcie, your question about why right now, and I made that call. So I said, boom, I'm, I'm doing this and I don't have time to get a board together and to do all, you know what I mean? It's a process. So we said, okay, we're doing this, let's go.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (29:46):

You know, from all of the years that I spent working at theater in some capacity, there was always this thing that would happen when Black cast would come to Seattle. It was the question, where's the Black community? And in that question is, you know, that where do I see people that look like me? And these were, you know, normally the August Wilson play, clap, cast, <laugh>, you know, where are the people that look like me? Where can I get my haircut? Where can I get some food that feels right? And where do I see people that look like me? And there was a, a gap in time where it was, you know, we had to say, you gotta go south to Kent, but thank you for being a part of that whole reclamation with, you know, the change of complexion looks like in the Central District and for putting your heart and spirit, my God, into doing this.


KRISTINA CLARK (30:36):

Thank you. I received that. And I appreciate you giving me just a space. Oh, I have somebody knocking on my door, but I'm not open today. So I'm like, what are we doing? I'm gonna get that in a minute. What I wanna say before I, I lose track of the thought is that I've always also wanted this to be a space where folks, and especially young people, and especially our elders, didn't feel pressure to consume and to spend money. And I know that that's not a sustainable business model. The whole point of a business is somebody has to be spending money at some point, right? But I really like, that's why I have the reading room. I have this, um, collection, this a permanent collection. You can read it here, you could take it home, you could bring it back. No, I wanted some things here that would invite people in, but you didn't feel that pressure to like, well, I have to have money to buy books.


KRISTINA CLARK (31:20):

You know, I'm a bookstore junkie myself. I love like all, all the bookstores here. Like Magnus is my favorite up in the U district. Like I love bookstores, but when you go into a bookstore, you know, you can browse the shelves, but if you're not there to buy a book, it's like, there's not usually much for you to do in the space, you know, you can peruse, but that's why I have all the seating, you know, I just wanted a space where it's like people could come in and whether you were there to shop or not, you had a space, a space that you could call home.


MARCIE SILLMAN (31:45):

Kristina, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it.


KRISTINA CLARK (31:49):

Thank you both. Yeah, it's a gift and a pleasure. I give thanks. Thank you so much.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (31:53):

Thank you, Kristina.

I was so moved by Kristina's sentiments and having watched her grow up a little bit in the neighborhood, watching her as a mother and for her to express openly and publicly to me that I've been a bit of an example to her, really made me emotional. We've been talking a little bit about her personal emotions and it made me very emotional. But in addition to that, I also went to look up this book that she mentioned. She said that part of the inspiration for opening the Loving Room was the autobiography of Harriet Jacobs. And the name of the book is actually called Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl written by Harriet Jacobs. So I encourage people to go, go find that book and read it. And as I was listening to some of the terminology that she used a form of African diasporic decolonization and the whole conversation about critical race theory, I know that people have heard a lot about this, but it's never lost on me that slavery, the impacts of slavery and the ongoing long trail of the conditions of Black people in America have yet to be reconciled.


MARCIE SILLMAN (33:34):

It also really struck me when she spoke about her work at Garfield High School, which is your alma mater. And I believe he was a history teacher who she was assisting and had to stop the lesson because his assumptions were wrong. I think for those of us who are white, uh, we, well, not all of us anymore, but, uh, you know, most,


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (33:59):

You sound like Ta-Nehisi Coates coats right there. <laugh> <laugh>, those of us who believe ourselves to be white <laugh>.


MARCIE SILLMAN (34:05):

Well, I think, you know, once your eyes have opened to things that are going on, they don't close. You can't unsee what is happening. And I mean, I suppose you could, but you can't. And so when I hear stories like the one Kristina related, it just reinforces things that I know and things that I'm learning and things that now shape the way I approach the world.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (34:39):

Yeah, you know, each one of the neighborhoods that we focused on, there has been some effort to reclaim a sense of humanity that had been lost in some way. So regardless to whether or not it's Seattle Center or the Seattle Waterfront or South Park, Downtown Seattle or the Central Area, we're all kind of in this fight to reclaim what's been lost.


MARCIE SILLMAN (35:08):

This is really good prep for you listeners, because next show in two weeks is our last episode in this season it is a liveXposure recorded live at Wa Na Wari around the, the corner from ARTE NOIR in the heart of the beautiful Central District. And I am super excited because this is really a series of conversations about the culmination of everything that we've been exploring this season about the intersection of community building, of cultural work, of art making. And I think just in prepping for it, it's as if everything is gelling and it really is thrilling.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (35:50):

Well, we invite you to go to our website and check out all of the interviews, all of the live exposures, or join us and you can find us at doubleexposurepod.com. Find us there.


MARCIE SILLMAN (36:12):

Thanks for listening.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (36:13):

Thanks for listening. <laugh>


MARCIE SILLMAN (36:19):

DoubleXposure Executive Producers are me, Marcie Sillman,


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (36:23):

And me Vivian Phillips. We get production support from Hilary Northcraft, Randy Engstrom and Calandra Childers.


MARCIE SILLMAN (36:31):

Support for DoubleXposure comes from Pyramid Communications.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (36:34):

And we're especially proud to support Crosscut Media's Black Arts Legacies Project, highlighting the role of Black artists and arts organizations throughout our cultural landscape.


MARCIE SILLMAN (36:46):

If you like what you're hearing on this episode of DoubleXposure, be sure to follow us on your favorite podcast app and check out our website, doubleXposurepod.com.



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