The Northwest African American Museum serves to present and preserve the connections between the Pacific Northwest and people of African descent and investigate and celebrate Black experiences in America through exhibitions, programs and events. The museum is located in Seattle, Washington's historically African-American Central District neighborhood in the former Colman School . The building also contains 36 units of affordable housing.BackgroundThe first efforts at creating the museum began in 1981, by a multi-racial coalition called Community Exchange. In 1984 a formal task force was established. The following year, community activists Earl Debnam, Michael Greenwood, Charlie James and Omari Tahir-Garrett occupied the disused Colman School to claim the building as the desired museum location. Tahir-Garrett's son Wyking Kwame Garrett later also participated in occupation, which continued for eight years. Meanwhile, the city of Seattle, Seattle School District, and community activists explored other possible locations for the museum.In 1993, a not-for-profit organization called the African American Heritage Museum and Cultural Center was formed and a Board of Directors was selected to oversee the project with Mayor Norman Rice's office. In 1995, Mayor Norman Rice appointed Bob Flowers as chairman of the museum board. The Urban League became involved in the project in 2001 under the leadership of Board of Directors and CEO James Kelly and purchased the Colman School from Seattle Public Schools in 2003. Unlike Flowers's group, the Urban League group had no continuity from the group that had originally occupied the building, leading to a split among African-American activists.
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