Black art and reflection

Forterra’s senior project manager of community development, Jeff Dade, reflects on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Today I want to acknowledge Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Dr. King’s legacy. Through a nonviolent approach to civil rights, Dr. King and so many others of his generation helped pave the way for new laws and policies in an aim to systematically end segregation and push for racial justice. The Poor People’s Campaign was Martin Luther King Jr.’s last initiative before his assassination. It was a call for economic justice.

I am a Black man. I work for a predominately white-led nonprofit making steps toward being an anti-racist organization. My main focus is in Hilltop, one of Tacoma’s historically Black neighborhoods, and the attainable housing development we’re working on will sit right along Martin Luther King Jr. Way. I am so fortunate to work with a community that is driving to protect its heritage and future. Like Martin Luther King Jr., the Hilltop community is fighting for economic and racial justice.

The Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma is home to 150 years of Blackness in Washington. With Fab-5, we established the Hilltop Community Investment Council (CIC). The CIC helps drive pre-development decisions.

As part of their efforts, the CIC selected seven Black artists to activate the old buildings on site and enliven the block. Nearly all of these artists are from Hilltop. Their art is underway and we will “unveil” the murals in February, during Black History Month.

It’s been a blessing to work with Fab-5, the CIC, and the artists. I’m moved by this art. It heralds the restorative economic work to come — housing and business spaces that are generationally sustainable and attainable for Hilltop residents.

I ask you to join me in reflecting on our histories, the decisions we need to make to reach community equity, and a future where ALL people can afford to dream.

Today I invoke Dr. King’s name with hope. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I’m excited to show you a sneak peek of the art underway and sentiments from the artists.

Breyahna (“Breeze”) Coston

For Breeze, painting is freedom of expression. In 2020, her acrylic and oil paint work set her on a path as a muralist for Tacoma-centered projects.

The color that it’s going to bring, the attention it brings, the awareness that it will bring to let people know what’s going on. Bringing some life back to the area.
Breeze Coston

Adika Bell

Adika will use his art to embrace and celebrate Black images, accomplishments, and history.

I now have this opportunity to create my own mural in the same community where I was raised. It is my hope that this mural and the community will plant a seed of inspiration in some young minds just as I had been inspired over 30 years ago.
Adika Bell

Jeremy Gregory & Gwen Jones

Gwen’s art reflects her experience as a vintage architectural recycler, while Jeremy’s unique style and storytelling approach draws you in.

I am grateful to work with a group of Brilliant Hilltop artist on an adventure and journey to tell the story of African-American Historic Hilltop and to use the power of Love, Art, and music to connect and empower the community spirit in Hilltop.
Gwen Jones
  • Jeff Dade

    Jeff is a glass-half-full guy who works outside of the box. He is dedicated to fostering inclusive, equitable financial solutions to aid in the massive remediation and healing our society deserves, particularly in communities of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color who have historically been underserved. Before becoming a nonprofit community development professional and Accredited Financial Counselor®, he spent decades honing a career in business banking and real estate finance for Fortune 500 companies, working in a variety of subfields, including underwriting, lending, and wealth management. Jeff attended the University of Washington where he earned a bachelor’s in urban studies emphasizing community economic development with a minor in law and policy, followed by a master’s degree in community planning. His current work at Forterra is centered in community-driven design, attainable home and business ownership, as well as innovating restorative economic mobility models that bridge the Racial Wealth Gap. Away from work, Jeff likes soulful music, reading Chinese wuxia novels, cooking, and dreaming.