Sankofa Theater holds fundraiser to survive Seattle's increasing rent prices

A local theater in Seattle's International District is holding a fundraiser that will hopefully help them keep their doors open as they navigate through the city's increasing rent prices.

Seattle is known for its vibrant art communities, but what is the economic reality of keeping these creative spaces when the price of rent continues to rise?

"We've been vibrant, and we've brought life into the building where there wasn't any," said Teme Wokoma.

She and co-founder Elijah Lewis opened the Sankofa Theater in November 2021. The space the theater occupies is in the Inscape Arts and Culture Building, formerly the old immigration building, in the International District. The theater is the same room where people were sworn in to receive citizenship.

"It was a detainment center for you know, illegal immigrants," said Wokoma. "And just a space where black and brown people, you know, had to prove themselves that they were worthy of being citizens."

Now the space is an art-making-haven for people like Wokoma.

RELATED: Soul of the CD: Arte Noir creating revenue stream for Black Artist

As a professional performer herself, Teme, is committed to providing a safe space for black and brown artists to share their work, build community, and make a living.

Sankofa theater wants to uplift the community. 

Unfortunately, as the years have gone on, the rent has gone up. 

Now faced with the grim reality of closing their doors for good, the theater is holding a fundraiser on Sunday in hopes of maintaining this precious space.

"The money would go towards rent and really, you know, positioning ourselves to continue to sow the seeds," said Wokoma. 

RELATED: Soul of the CD: Flowers Just-4-U blossoms with community support

Teme wants Sankofa to be a place where the BIPOC arts community can continue to grow. However, she says she needs to raise $30,000 to stay inside the Inscape Arts building and compensate for the recent hike in rent. 

"In the event that Sankofa Theater does not succeed and being able to maintain space and agency, I believe Seattle is sending a message to the art community." Said Wokoma. "And sending a message to young, inspiring black entrepreneurs in the communities that are affected by those folks that we don't want you here. That you can be priced out commercially, and you can be priced out, residentially, and we're okay with that. And it breaks my heart."

The fundraising event will be held, this Sunday, May 28 at the Inscape Arts building, 815 S. Seattle Blvd. It will be from 12PM to 6PM and will feature local musicians and performers. 

You can also donate to Sankofa theater’s go-fund-me page.