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Reimagine Seattle: Takiyah Ward

The challenges of the past two years have changed the way we live, the way we work, and the way we show up for each other. They have also given us a rare chance to collectively reimagine our future. Through the Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project we invite community members to reflect on their current experiences in Seattle, how they have been impacted by recent events, and their hopes for the future of our city.

I remember my morning drive to Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School. We would always take the “Lake Way” known to most as Lake Washington Blvd. On those morning drives, I would study architecture. I would study the houses that lined the Boulevard and anticipate my favorites. I loathed mornings. Sometimes my mom would have to dress me as I pretended to still be asleep. We were living in Kent with my grandfather at the time so being up before sunrise was a normal occurrence for young Takiyah. But once we were heading down the Lake Way, I was fully awake.

I remember the portraits that lined Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, the murals that covered the walls on the playground. I remember the larger-than-life Yoruba deities that stood guard in the halls of Garfield Community Center, and the hand-painted Bulldogs around Garfield High School. When I imagine Seattle, I remember these moments. The frame of reference for my entire life is this city. Every corner, every block, and every neighborhood. I can tell exactly where people are by the backgrounds of their photos! I can’t be more Seattle. This is my home in every sense of the word.

So, when I started to see a drastic change in the landscape of my city, I really felt that change. I started to feel as though something was happening around me – and to me – that I had no say in. Like my thoughts, feelings, opinions, connections, and memories were being erased. Like my experience wasn’t worth as much as I thought it was. It felt like a lot of tables were being set, and the people I know from Seattle weren’t invited to dinner. It was disorienting, I knew if I continued to feel this way the only logical outcome was being permanently jaded and opposed to change and the people it attracted. I didn’t want to feel that way. So, I made a way.

I began to seek opportunities to tell my side of the story, my way.  I connected with my community and we discussed our wants, desires, and how we wanted to show up and continue to create space for one another. And in the most uncertain of times, creativity was the light at the end of the tunnel for me and so many others. But I don’t think any of us could have imagined how bright our light would shine.

Takiyah standing in front of a mural in the Central District

When the world shut down, we were forced to quarantine. Life as we knew it was no more. The things we considered normal, things we may have been ignorant to, were thought about a lot differently.  I believe this space is where creatives thrive because we inherently look at ‘normal’ things differently. We regularly practice flipping normalcy on its head because a lot of times we don’t see ourselves as normal, as celebrated, as essential. You saw boarded-up businesses, we saw opportunity. The world became our canvas and was made better for it.

Suddenly, my opinion mattered. Not because someone else finally realized it, but because I did. We did. And proved that every perspective has value toward the greater good.

I always reimagine Seattle because a lot of the time I don’t feel the city represents me. When I see homelessness on the rise while the rich get richer, that is not representative of my imaginings of Seattle. When funds are being taken away from schools while enforcement budgets continue to rise, that’s not the Seattle I imagine. These things were normal.

I think I speak for most creatives in Seattle when I say our wildest dreams of Seattle aren’t that wild at all. We simply want to see a city where more people from all walks of life thrive. Where creatives have the space to create and there’s support and resources for realizing the things we imagine. When the next generation can live in a world of vibrancy and imagination, they are invited to dream beyond what they see. And a world the youth can imagine, is a world I want to live in.

Takiyah Ward standing outside in a knit hat and coat.
Takiyah Ward is a multidisciplinary artist born and raised in Seattle, WA. Whether it be painting murals and sneakers as T-DUB Customs or dazzling stages as TAQUEET$!, Takiyah is the embodiment of creativity. A natural born talent, Takiyah began dancing at the age of four, studied tap and ballet, and eventually developed her own ‘free’ style of movement. Her company T-DUB Customs got its start as a hobby in high school and is on track to become Seattle’s premiere sneaker care and customization provider. Takiyah is incredibly passionate about her hometown connection, and hopes to be an example for artists of all disciplines that you can make it here at home and take your talents around the world at the same time.

This piece was commissioned by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. The opinions expressed and information contained herein do not necessarily reflect the policies, plans, beliefs, conclusions, or ideas of the City of Seattle.