Filipino Contributions To Seattle Black History: Mr. B’s Yard

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

In 1955 my family lived in Seattle’s diverse Central Area neighborhood, Europeans, Asians, Latinos, African – Americans, and Native Americans, we all got along well but sometimes there were disagreements, we kids did have to watch ourselves around one Filipino (Pinoy) gentleman. Mr. B’s yard was the pride of the neighborhood, daily manicured with loving care by this older man, I was of six years old so anyone over the advanced age of twelve was ancient, but Mr. B. also carried the  image of an elder and a family patriarch . Little neighborhood children were constantly vexing Mr. B by carelessly running onto his lawn, or making irritating  loud noises at the B’s  quite times* or dinner time, which our parents agreed was disrespectful to elders and other neighbors. Our neighborhood catholic church was Immaculate Conception, Irish Catholic church where the Filipinos worshiped at 6 AM, the Irish Catholic worshiped at 9 AM, and the Blacks worshiped at 11 AM on Sunday mornings. Mr. B was a devoted member of Immaculate, and after Mass  he would look in on his plants and vegetables, in an expert and loving manner as did his neighbors with similar maintained lawns and gardens.

The only threat to our peace and tranquility were the racist Seattle neighborhood vandals and young white thugs, who burned down all three of our movie theaters and sanctioned young “Wilding Gangs”; comprised of vindictive white youth that recklessly sped through our community, beating up and molesting Black women and children, without fear of police reprisals.  The minute people heard the roaring engines and wild hooting and laughter, accented by squealing tires as they tore around looking for victims, our neighbors would shout out their doors and windows, “They’re coming!”  and open their doors to their threatened neighbors on the street. My family’s babysitter was only two blocks from our home; we heard the alarms from women calling children and adults to seek safety, my siblings and I looked around in stark terror being too tiny to make it home safely, fearing our imminent doom we looked up plaintively at  Mr. B standing on his porch.  Mr. B. signaled us to climb the 15 steps to waiting sanctuary, which seemed a million miles long and took our tiny little legs  forever to ascend, all the time transfixed on Mr. B’s urgent plea and extended welcoming hand. He patted us on the shoulder and gently positioned us at the entrance of his front door, our guardian then readied himself to protect these little Black kids if necessary, and we breathlessly looked up to our hero with admiration and gratitude.

Our nemeses’ never appeared to attack us that day, though their hideous screeching of tires could be heard in the dim background, we believed it was safe to scurry the block and a half to our home. We profusely thanked Mr. B as we headed down to the sidewalk; Mr. B patted us on the shoulder and assured us that everything was “okay”, as we dashed toward home we looked back at the reassuring smiling savior one last time. From that day on neighborhood children took special care to avoid tramping Mr. B’s lawn, we made certain we didn’t play around his home at “Quiet times” and dinner time, and we always smiled and said hello to Mr. B and his family whenever we saw them. My siblings, all the neighbor children and myself, received the same care and support from our courageous adults when the Wilding Gangs appeared. It didn’t matter what their race, creed, or color of our Community Adults were, we had faith that our elders would always love us and protect us. I specifically wrote this story about Mr. B because I have always cherished my Filipino neighbor youth (born in the Philippines) and Filipino school mates, church parishioners,  and their families, for their love, loyalty, and strength of character.  I also  had the honor of working with the  “Asian Pacific Islanders” (Pinoy) student group at Shoreline Community College in the 1990’s, whose president went from being a street tough on a destructive path, to conversing and sharing a podium with President Bill Clinton. I would hope that we could go back to being good neighbors and protecting one another, celebrating and embracing our diverse cultures, maybe my 1950’s Boomer generation can start this process of loving thy neighbor in earnest.

*PS. Quiet times relates to being a toddler taking needed naps, which allowed the adults to have a break, and it was also down time for working people after a long day. J


Martial Artists Dan Inosanto and Jesse Glover important students of Bruce Lee (In Memoriam  to Jesse Glover by Dan Inosanto)