I have received many kudos over the years for the work that I’ve done in Rainier Beach and for my contribution to a strong neighborhood advocate: the Rainier Beach Action Coalition. This comes with the culture of positive reinforcement practiced by RBAC internally and in the community. But the truth is, I owe you all a huge debt of gratitude. I would have never been able to make such a life changing decision to leave architecture behind and take a leap of faith to the nonprofit world if I hadn’t felt so welcome and supported by this neighborhood. I had been trained to believe that architects were meant to make a difference and build an environment to improve people’s lives. I found out that architecture firms can have a different purpose, one that does not necessarily have folks’ best interest at heart. I was blessed to be able to make the transition to a work that I cared about and that allowed me to lead change, however big or small, every day.

It is easier to be confident or feel strong about your convictions when you know you’re supporting a worthy mission and people have your back. It’s more comfortable to be courageous and cause good trouble when you’re part of a team. It’s very convenient to feel empowered to raise tough questions when the only reason you’re in the room with the other white folks is systemic racism. I was not aware of all of this at first, and I had to learn to listen, hear the stories, and see color. I owe this to your patience and your trust and I’m extremely grateful. Still, not all is well and good, and it needs to change. We have had many conversations about succession plans at RBAC, and as bittersweet as this is, I’m happy that it was time for me to make space for others and especially women, younger, hungrier for justice, and rightfully more diverse.

I couldn’t be any prouder of the team in place, leading the work. You’ve seen them around at the Farm Stand and activation spaces. Make sure you stop by and say hello next time you see them in the neighborhood. They work tirelessly and deserve your recognition! It’s been such a privilege to grow as a human from all their wisdom and a pleasure to learn among such diversity. From the farmers to the local businesses and their communities represented throughout the neighborhood, we’ve celebrated cultural heritage together, broken bread, and build trust, relationships, and memories.

Sure, I was an immigrant too, first generation in my family to make it to college (all measures of social upward mobility by any standard) but we know that’s just taken for granted by white folks. And as much as I value my education, it’s the experience(s) that I lean on today. As I go back across the pond and reconnect with my original roots, I am so excited to see the facility shaping up at the light rail station. It has taken so long, and figurative sweat and blood to get there. RBAC took the more difficult, the high road, to deliver on the promise. Many would have chosen an easier path to get an early win. Not RBAC! When ownership means control and sovereignty, RBAC didn’t give up on the dream and resisted the pressure from developers and other wannabe “partners”, more interested in their own benefits than our community-led project.

As construction wraps up at the RBAC Growth Center – and yes it will still be challenging every step of the way until these doors open – I can’t wait to see the impact this interim facility will have on the long-term progress of the Food Innovation Center and District, first, on our own team, but also on our farm partners and all the stakeholders likely to benefit, as well as every single residents of Rainier Beach and beyond…

I left pieces of my heart at Rainier & Henderson, King Donuts, Lake Washington, along MLK and up on the hill, but it will still feel like coming home for a very long time, whenever I will be back to visit. I look forward to discovering how the neighborhood has continued to transform, finding out what new programs RBAC has created at the Growth Center, catching up with the OGs and meeting the new Young Adults Transitioning To Adulthood.

It’s up to you all to support the neighborhood so it can thrive and remain a place for everyone. So don’t forget to get involved, volunteer, or donate.

And again, thank you Rainier Beach!

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