Where is Hillman City?

I’m sitting here in a somewhat random part of Seattle that could be considered “dangerous” by some. I would be willing to agree with them, however I look at the danger of Hillman City in a different way.

I know a couple of dangerous people in Hillman City and I will do my best to introduce you to them.

Ben Hunter is a dangerous guy.  He along with a whole community of fantastic volunteers, artists, creatives, and other non-profiteers had the audacity of dreaming.  They had a vision of a community filled with immense diversity to have a space to gather together to discuss, create, love, play, cook, and grow.  Ben lead the charge behind the Hillman City Collaboratory.  This is a co-working space at the corner of Rainier Ave. S and Orcas.  It’s not just any plain old co-working space.  The Collaboratory from day 1 has been and continues to be an “incubator for social change”.  There is a community pea patch, amazing outdoor event space, giant meeting room, a full kitchen, and a handful of private meeting rooms.  The Collaboratory is dangerous to anyone who doesn’t want to challenge the status quo of how multi-cultural communities, in an underserved area of a major metropolitan area,  do life.  It challenges the idea that we should all just stay in our lanes and mind our own business.  It is a breeding ground for breaking down racial divides and doing work that matters in regards to bringing people together.

Ben is in a band with his buddy Joe, and they also go to school and host workshops to teach and explore bluegrass storytelling, music, and musicians.  Even my hometown recognizes Ben’s brilliance. They won 1st place in the International Blues festival hosted in Memphis, TN.

Ben is also leading the charge to have Hillman City and Columbia City to be officially recognized as  Arts & Culture districts with the City of Seattle.  He and some friends took over and are renovating an older building across the street from the Collaboratory and rebranding it the Black and Tan Hall.  His non-profit, Community Arts Create, hosts free music classes for middle school and high school kids every Wednesday through December from 4-6.

He has so much going on all the time. He has a healthy tour schedule and is seemingly always on the go.  I don’t get to see Ben that often anymore, but I see the effects of his hard work all over this part of town. Ben is the type of person that lights up a room and whenever you get a chance to talk to him about any sort of creative endeavor (your own or his) it’s really hard not to get excited. Ben is an instigator in the best of ways. Also, I beat him at Settlers of Catan once.

The next dangerous person I would like you all to meet is Joya Iverson.  You CANNOT stop
Joya.Literally.  She has been hit by 2 different cars.  She overcame major head trauma and after she could get out of bed, walk, and function in her daily life she got straight to work tenaciously pursuing her dream.

What was that dream? Well she’s lived in Hillman City for a long time and she wanted to do something for her own community.  She also spent sometime abroad, and fell in love with all things coffee. So she set out to open a coffee shop for Hillman City, since the closest one was actually a pizzeria (Where I worked and met Joya- in between car accidents) 7-10 blocks away.  She opened up down a block and across the street from the Collobabratory.

Dana and I had the honor of stepping in and helping out in the early stages of Tin Umbrella’s kickstarter and Go Fund Me campaigns.  I love coming here because as I sit outside at the Hillman City Parklet right outside the shop that wasn’t here 3 years ago, I think of how far Tin Umbrella has come since day 1.   It just makes me smile knowing how veraciously Joya loves her community and works every day to better it, one cup of in-house roasted coffee at a time.

She didn’t just open up a coffee shop.  She has developed relationships with other local business owners to help everyone really engage and thrive within the Hillman City community.  She has a desire to help others sort out what helps a small business thrive (beyond 7 day work weeks, heart-work, and an incredible amount of strength and resolve that comes with the herculean struggle that comes with forging a new way of interacting with the community.) so that she and her friends can help continue this amazing growth.

Despite how well her business or health are doing (as of writing, both are doing very well!) Joya is a constant source of grace and joy (pun only slightly intended).  Seeing how much she’s grown and all of the exciting things that she has done with the shop and the community is incredibly inspiring to me.  Joya is a true delight and every time I get to see her I am encouraged and excited for both her and what the future has in store for Hillman City

So there is something brewing in Hillman City (pun intended). Some would say it’s gentrification seeping southward.  (There is a pet grocery store closer than a human grocery store) and I wouldn’t argue that, however I do know that every time I am in Hillman City I feel this unique energy.  I wrote a chapter or 2 of my book at Tin Umbrella.  I occasionally peruse for rental listings down here because i would love to live down here.  So, do I lock my doors and worry about getting robbed in this “dangerous” part of town?  Eh, not really.  I actually do more creative work and think outside of the box, when it comes to my writing and the direction I’m going in my life, when I sit down and enjoy my favorite little corner of Seattle.

So if anyone reading this is in Seattle, go to Hillman, check out what’s going on, because there is much more than just these 2 things.  There is more than I can write on in one blog post.  Hillman City, feels like a place where anyone from anywhere could be welcomed and feel a part of the community – if they got out and engaged with it.  Just watch out for those movers and shakers, like Ben and Joya, they might just get you excited enough to pursue something that you are passionate about or get you to help them help others.

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