By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
If you’re driving along 23rd Avenue in the Central Area, you might notice a new mural on the building that houses the Central Area Youth Association (CAYA). The brainchild of Stephanie Tschida, who works with the Healthy Youth Central Area Network (HYCAN) – a Seattle-based prevention program for youth, the mural honors the rich legacy of those whose life’s work was about serving the children of the Seattle’s Central Area.
The mural, which sits along the northside of the building, adorns the faces of community icons like legendary basketball player and coach Joyce Walker of Garfield High School; Clarence Acox, the award-winning director of the Garfield High School Jazz Band for 50 years; Aaron, Michael, and Elmer Dixon of the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panthers, founders of the Free Breakfast Program and The Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center; Joanne Scott and Barbara Madison, co-Founders of the non-profit Sisters in Common; and CAYA founders Booth Gardner, O.L. “Mitch” Mitchell, Charles Huey and a host of others who have had an impact on the area’s youth over the years.
According to Joe Staton, executive director of CAYA, the mural commemorates the history of the Central Area and the leaders it has produced.
“It is really important that Seattle Central’s impactful figures and their legacies are recognized,” says Staton. “There are images of Black historic figures all over the Seattle Area but to have a mural of [these] figures on our building is really a beautiful thing.”
The mural was produced by a group of Garfield alumni, including Devon Midori Hale, Gabrielle Abbott, Anand Galloway-Davis, Nahom Girmay and Tom Blayney, who all added their creative genius to the project.
According to Tschida, the idea for the mural came about as HYCAN was looking to honor a longtime Garfield High School hero Wyndell “Two Bricks” Rick Hicks, who recently passed away. Hicks was a Central Area icon, who one could find at all of Garfield’s events, especially the sporting events. Hicks loved sports but more importantly he loved children. Hicks was also a person with special needs, but he was known to be probably Garfield’s most staunched fan, supporter and mentor to children in the neighborhood. You could always find him on the side lines of football games wearing his treasured honorary Garfield lettermen’s jacket, you could see him at every basketball and baseball game and the community always looked out for him.
“We wanted to memorialize ‘Two Brick Rick,’” says Tschida. “Rick was a hero, a Central District hero and he was always supportive of the kids, always talking with the kids, was at all the games and encouraged them. He was an inspiration. But talking to others, the suggestion was why don’t we also include other Central District mentors that helped youth, and who impacted youth positively.”
Once a decision was made on who to include in the mural, the only question that remained was where to put it. Because the mural represented icons who support youth, the logical location was CAYA, which during at the height of activism and progress in the Central Area was the hub for youth activity.
Founded almost fifty years ago, CAYA was originally formed as a youth football program for children living in the Central Area of Seattle. Its goal was to provide social development activities, education and recreation for youth between the ages of 9-18.
In the late 1950s, O.L. Mitchell, Charles Huey and former Washington State Governor Booth Gardner, who at the time was a student at the University of Washington, set out to change the name of the Capital Hill Junior Football Association to the Central Area Youth Association.
By 1964, CAYA was established and O.L. Mitchell was its first Director. Since its inception, CAYA has become the pillar of organized sports and youth activities in the area. The organization, which today houses many programs for youth, has plans of an expansion to better serve the community.
“Again, to have their faces put up there [on the building] for our community is really significant,” says Staton. “I was really excited when they brought this to my attention and I said I think we can do this. So, I brought it up with board and staff and everyone agreed that it was a great idea.”
CAYA along with HYCAN and the artists and activists involved in the project hope that the mural will become a cornerstone of history and pride, and provide inspiration for others as they continue to serve the youth of Seattle.
“We have a coalition that believes in the work that were doing, providing and having a legacy of something that last, not just by talking about it (a legacy) and a mural in and of itself is permanent, lasting,” says Tschida.