The past year has been one of complete and authentic gratitude. In addition to marking the accomplishment of year one in the ARTE NOIR physical space in the heart of the Black community where my personal life was formed and shaped, I was also lauded on numerous occasions by organizations I respect and honor.
Dr. Quinton Morris saw fit to extend the work he has done with his organization Key to Change and our decades-long friendship and collaborations by honoring me with the Inaugural Community Achievement Award. Cornish College of the Arts President Dr. Raymond Tymas-Jones and his board lifted me with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, and the Northwest African American Museum extended the honor of awarding me the Champion of Unity Award. As the year came to a close, the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle under the monumental leadership of Michelle Merriweather, bestowed upon me the Legacy Award. These recognitions, all within the same year, represented the acknowledgment of my lifetime commitment to community and each one served as a reminder of the importance of integrity, responsible leadership, and influence.
But what I know for sure is that awards and recognition can fade. What is lasting is the power of influence and the responsibility that comes with it.
The January/February 2024 issue of the venerable Seattle Magazine released their list of "Seattle’s Most Influential," in which I was included among some of the true heavyweights of Seattle, and world influence. In publisher Jonathan Sposato’s note, he stated, “…we are proud to amplify the efforts of so many who are truly changing the world for the better, while asserting and reasserting Seattle’s importance.”
Seattle is a place of possibility and innovation. What we do here has resonance around the world. I have always understood that about my home city and have always carried with me a commitment to being a part of the possibility.
I am still reeling from, and sitting with the surreal nature of a year that felt like the entire city had its eyes on little ole me. The gratitude I feel covers me with waves of emotion and also feels at times like living in a fishbowl. And while I was the individual named, these honors are less about me and more about those who have walked with me over the years, in solidarity of vision and action.
But what I know for sure is that awards and recognition can fade. What is lasting is the power of influence and the responsibility that comes with it. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Power without love is anemic.” It is the pure and abiding love that I have for this city, my community, and the artists who have made the most difficult of times palatable and the best of times inspiring, that keeps my blood count high.
On these pages and inside the walls of ARTE NOIR, our intention is to responsibly exert whatever influence we might have to assert and reassert our collective importance, love, and power, by consistently uplifting the soulfulness and beauty of Black art and culture.
Vivian Phillips, Founder + Board President