A&E Pick of the Week

Welcome back to Arts & Entertainment Pick of the Week, in which our writers share some particularly interesting events, shows or something else that caught their eye.

Earlier this summer, Seattle organizer and cultural worker Karen Toering wanted to do something to honor the life of community organizer Rahwa Habte, who died in August 2020, on Habte’s birthday this June. 

Toering, who’s a founder of Sankofa Film Society, a Seattle organization focused on Black films, and the founder of the Gary International Black Film Festival in Indiana, decided that hosting a screening of one of Habte’s favorite films would be the perfect way to remember her. So on June 13, she showed “The Last Dragon,” a Black martial arts comedy film, for Habte’s friends outside at Feed the People Plaza on Beacon Hill.

Toering says the people who went “had the best time” and were able to feel a sense of community, even in the midst of the pandemic. So she decided to keep it going.

The Black Summer Camp film series is now a weekly event, showing a diverse array of films every Saturday at sunset through Oct. 30. The location recently changed to Plaza Roberto Maestas, but the idea is the same: to highlight the diversity of Black life through films and to connect with others through conversation. 

Karen Toering, a founder of the Black Summer Camp film series, which has weekly film showings on Beacon Hill through Oct. 30, speaks at the Gary International Black Film Festival in Illinois in 2015. (Naomi Ishisaka / The Seattle Times)

Toering says she chooses the films based on what she likes, without adhering to any genre. Some of the movies coming up in the series are more serious like the 2016 drama “Moonlight,” an Academy Award-winning film about identity and sexual orientation. Others, like the 1998 stoner comedy “Half Baked,” are sillier.

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And on Oct. 9, Toering plans to screen the locally made short film “Hagereseb” about the Yesler Terrace housing project, which Habte acted in.

Toering says most Saturdays, a few dozen people sit on blankets and lawn chairs to snack, watch the film and chat. Don’t expect any kind of structured film discussion; Toering says it’s a casual community event where people might talk during the film or get up to adjust the volume midscreening. She says one time a chef at a nearby restaurant even brought a pan of mac and cheese for viewers to share.

So bring something to sit on, something to eat, and enjoy the show. 

Recommendations

Screenings start at sunset, which is getting earlier every day, so look up the sunset time before going. The Beacon Hill light rail station is less than a block away; take advantage and skip driving. And Toering says even though it’s outside, she wants the event to be COVID-19-safe, so bring a mask and prepare to distance.

There’s plenty of good takeout on Beacon Avenue, including Carnitas Michoacán, around two blocks northwest of the plaza, which has some of the best tacos in Seattle and refreshing agua frescas. Show up early, get takeout and eat while enjoying the show. 

Keep in mind: Though Toering says some of the films, like “Liyana,” are great for viewers of all ages, others have more mature themes that might not be suitable for children.

The Lineup

Aug. 14: “Hollywood Shuffle.” Aug. 21: “The Last Black Man in San Francisco.” Aug. 28: “School Daze.” Sept. 4: “Medicine for Melancholy.” Sept. 11: “Claudine.” Sept. 18: “Moonlight.” Sept. 25: “Jackie Brown.” Oct. 2: “Liyana.” Oct. 9: “Hagereseb” and “Daughters of the Dust.” Oct. 16: “Half Baked.” Oct. 30: “Blacula.”

Clarification: A previous version of this story mistakenly stated that the Gary International Black Film Festival is held in Illinois. It is actually held in Gary, Indiana.