Miriam Pratt’s parents used to live at 17th and Yesler in the Central District when they first arrived in Seattle, less than 20 blocks from her east-facing apartment in the Liberty Bank Building – she loves watching the beautiful sunrises. Her father was civil rights leader Edwin T. Pratt, memorialized in the Pratt Fine Arts Center, Pratt Park, and, most recently, the Edwin Pratt Early Learning Center. She sees his name and picture by the elevator every time she comes home now.
The Pratts embodied a vision for equal housing, education, and employment, becoming the first Black family to live in Shoreline. 50 years ago, her father was assassinated at their home. Miriam was five years old.
She and her mother left Seattle and, in 1978 when her mother passed away, she moved back to Seattle for several years and then to Texas to live with her grandparents. She’s now living in Seattle for the first time since her childhood, putting the finishing touches on her new, never-before-lived-in home.
“It feels like a village,” she says. “We help each other out. We all work together. It’s a joy.”
Miriam remembers receiving a call from Sasha, a CHH Housing Assistant, asking if she was still interested in living in the Liberty Bank Building. She’d been on the waitlist. In fact, she had been staying with friends and family without a home of her own for a very long time. She imagined her parents were looking out for her.
For Miriam, the Liberty Bank Building is an opportunity to bring back a community disenfranchised by the oppressive systems and attitudes that her father fought against and that that persist today. Named after and located on the same site as the historic Liberty Bank, the first Black-owned bank west of the Mississippi, the building represents a legacy of community resilience in the face of systemic, institutional racism. It also creates opportunities for a bright future for its residents.
“The Liberty Bank Building is an example of what he would have liked to see being done,” she says.
For herself, she sees this moment in time as a chance for all people to “light the torch again” to make progress toward equality and civil rights for everyone.
CHH developed the Liberty Bank Building in partnership with Africatown CLT, Byrd Barr Place, and the Black Community Impact Alliance. Africatown CLT recently began community conversations about a new development right around the corner at 23rd and Union – Africatown Plaza. Miriam has been attending those meetings.
“I’ve met families who grew up in the Central District who can only stay because of Affordable Housing.” She’s committed to seeing more families stay in place and to welcoming displaced people back home.