A Feast for the Senses, Every Year in Seattle

Summer Festival Road Trip: The city comes alive during Festival Sundiata, its black cultural celebration.

2013 Festival Sundiata promotional poster

“The African-American arts, the black arts, are something that everyone participates in on a daily basis, whether they recognize it or not,” said Morgan in an April interview. “Listening to Jay-Z, listening to BeyoncĂ©, listening to Prince, listening to Michael Jackson, or you watch some Michael Jordan films — these are all African-American artists. These are all people who are contributing their essence to contemporary culture.”

The 2013 festival will be at the Armory, a 74-acre park at the heart of the Seattle Center, home of the Experience Music Project and the Pacific Science Center, and within spitting distance of the Space Needle, Seattle’s reigning architectural landmark. A monorail runs every 10 minutes between Seattle Center (the site of the 1962 World’s Fair) and Westlake Center, a major downtown shopping district.

There’s more to do and see in Seattle outside of the festival. The Northwest African American Museum (2300 S. Massachusetts Ave.) is a great place to start. Opened in 2008, the museum has become the definitive repository for artifacts and information related to the black experience in Seattle. Current exhibitions include a photo history of James Baldwin’s sojourn in Turkey (through Sept. 29) and “Book of the Bound,” Carletta Carrington Wilson’s mixed-media series “to honor the unheard voices of the enslaved.”

If the festival food has whetted your appetite, try the Kingfish CafĂ© (602 19th Ave.), just a short two miles away, on surface streets across Capitol Hill. The Kingfish is an oasis for those looking for seriously Southern fare in this Pacific Northwest city. Standouts include a wholly decadent mac ‘n’ cheese, fine buttermilk fried chicken and fried green tomatoes with hush puppies on the side.

If you’re eager for a glimpse of Seattle’s multicultural present and its future, take the monorail from Seattle Center to Westlake Center, and from there a short light-rail train ride to Columbia City, one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods. The South Seattle area has fully come into its own in recent years, with a diversity that distills the new America. Ethiopian restaurants vie with Caribbean eateries among others in this small, spicy slice of the fifth-whitest city in America. Hot spots include the Royal Room (5000 Rainier Ave. South), a near-new nightclub with great sight lines and a mix of local and national talents on any given night, and Island Soul (4869 Rainier Ave. South), a restaurant that deftly combines Southern and Caribbean fare.

Click here for The Root’s ultimate summer festival guide, and find out where to eat, sleep and party while you’re attending some of the season’s hottest events.

Michael E. Ross is a regular contributor to The Root and the author of American Bandwidth, on the 2008 Obama campaign and the first days of his presidency.

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