Watch ‘The Legacy of the Soul Pole,’ Converge Media’s New Film

The Soul Pole has stood tall outside The Seattle Public Library’s Douglass-Truth Branch for almost 50 years. Now, the 21-foot tall artwork – which the Black Heritage Society of Washington State has called a “beacon of Black pride” in the Central District – is starring in a short documentary produced by Seattle’s Converge Media.

In the 10-minute film titled “The Legacy of the Soul Pole,” Converge Media, a leading producer of culturally relevant content in Seattle and across the Pacific Northwest, follows the Soul Pole over a one-year period starting in April 2021. At that time, the artwork was deinstalled from its historic spot at 23rd and East Yesler Way in Seattle’s Central District, because of concerns over deterioration. It was reinstalled in April 2022 after successfully undergoing conservation work.

The film will be promoted today, June 14, on the Converge programs “The Day With Trae” at 11 a.m. and “Truth With Proof” at 11 p.m.

“For us at Converge Media, documenting the story of the Soul Pole was a labor of love,” said Omari Salisbury, founder of Converge Media, in the press release. “Converge Media was born in the Central District of Seattle and many of us on staff including myself grew up going to Douglass-Truth as children and we remember how mighty the Soul Pole was and the story it represents: To be front and center through this amazing process to yes, restore the Pole, but more than that, to reaffirm that the Central District is still the cultural and historical epicenter for Black culture in the City of Seattle and beyond. We want people to know that this film was not commissioned by The Seattle Public Library or any other funding source. We were able to tell this very important Black history story with assistance from the generous supporters of Converge Media, who believe in the value of community storytelling and uplifting of the Black experience in Seattle and to them I say thank you and we offer you the ‘Legacy of the Soul Pole.’”

“We are grateful to Converge for creating an extraordinary film that sheds light on the Soul Pole’s past, present and future, and to the Black Heritage Society for their support in the research and preservation of these stories,” said Tom Fay, Chief Librarian of The Seattle Public Library. “Everyone who has an interest in the untold stories of Seattle should watch this film, and then go visit the Soul Pole at the Douglass-Truth Branch, where it stands tall once again.”

“The Soul Pole represents the tenacity and significance of the African-American footprint in the Central District. This is a beacon on this corner and I’m so proud to see it back,” said Stephanie Johnson-Toliver, president of the Black Heritage Society of Washington State, at the artwork’s reinstallation on April 5, 2022, a moving moment that is included in the film. “I’m kind of fighting back the tears.”

MOHAI photo of Soul Pole installation
Historic photo of Raqib Mu’ied (formerly Gregory X) at the Soul Pole’s 1973 installation, shown with permission from MOHAI, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, 2000.107.190.05.01

The film spotlights the Black Heritage Society’s collaboration with the Library to uncover the Soul Pole’s history, a process that is ongoing. It shares the story of artist and activist Raqib Mu’ied (formerly Gregory X), who led the Soul Pole project as art director for the Seattle Rotary Boys Club in the late 1960s, through interviews with Raqib’s son, poet and performance artist Elijah Mu’ied.

“The Soul Pole represents the advent of African American’s history coming to America, starting from the bottom to the top, when they got us in the homeland, brought us to America to enslave us, up to freedom, which is the top piece,” said Mu’ied. “Raqib Mu’ied was an activist, trained all of his children in that formula of searching for freedom. … I would say that the Soul Pole embodies his activism, from the ground up.”

Stephanie Johnson-Toliver and Elijah Mu'ied
Stephanie Johnson-Toliver of the Black Heritage Society of Washington State and Elijah Muied, the son of Raqib Mu’ied (formerly Gregory X);

The film also showed the work to conserve the Soul Pole through interviews with Kate Dawson of Artech Fine Art Services, which managed the conservation project, and conservator Corine Landrieu of Landrieu Conservation. Dawson and Landrieu spoke about the process to assess the damage to the Pole and create a conservation plan that would preserve the artwork and allow it to be reinstalled at its original location.

Conservator Corine Landrieu with Converge Media's Traeanna Holiday during the Converge shoot at Artech
Conservator Corine Landrieu with Converge Media’s TraeAnna Holiday during the Converge shoot at Artech

Converge’s film ends with footage – some aerial – of the Soul Pole being reinstalled on April 5, 2022, a sunny, blue-sky day that culminated in a moving ceremony attended by community members and family members of those originally involved in the project.

Attendees and speakers at the Soul Pole reinstallation
Attendees and speakers at the Soul Pole reinstallation

Thanks to the Seattle Channel for letting Converge use footage from the reinstallation ceremony and to MOHAI for the use of their historic photo.

HISTORIC SEATLE AWARD

On May 31, 2022, Historic Seattle announced that the Soul Pole won its 2022 “Preserving Neighborhood Character” Award. This award will be presented at Historic Seattle’s Preservation Celebration benefit on Wednesday, September 21, at Washington Hall. Find out more at historicseattle.org.

NEW SOUL POLE PLAQUE

Soul Pole new plaqueIn late May 2022, a new plaque was placed at the Soul Pole’s base to honor the artwork’s history and the conservation process. The plaque names Rotary Boys Club art director Raqib Mu’ied; the five youth – Brenda Davis, Larry Gordon, Gregory Jackson, Cindy Jones and Gaylord Young – who were the primary artists; and Wilson Gulley, Sr., director of the Rotary Boys Club from 1968-1971, who worked with Raqib Mu’ied to conceive of the Soul Pole project, and shaped many other programs for Central District youth.

You can find out more about the Soul Pole at www.spl.org/SoulPole.

– Elisa M., Communications

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