Since its inception in 2004, the Central Area’s non-profit Multimedia Resources and Training Institute (MMRTI) has empowered hundreds of local youth participants  to develop broadcast TV skills and media fluency. From basic technology, to script-writing, filming, editing and leadership skills, MMRTI has had a transformational impact on the youth of Seattle’s Central Area and beyond.

In partnership with Ethio Youth Media (EYM), participants also have the opportunity to air their stories on EYM broadcasts each week.  

Recently, the city of Seattle and Vulcan each donated $5,000 in grants, enabling MMRTI to update its equipment and begin hosting mobile workshops across Seattle.

We recently spoke with MMRTI executive director Assaye Abunie about MMRTI’s legacy in the community, as well as the organization’s plans for the future.

Q. Tell us about the mission of MMRTI. What are some of the outcomes your program has seen?

A: This is actually our 12th anniversary. MMRTI is a community engagement program that focuses on East African communities here in Seattle. Those of us teaching have backgrounds in media, technology, engineering, website design and more. I myself graduated from San Francisco State University in 1984 and have a computer science background, having worked for a variety of organizations including Boeing. We’re committed to serving and engaging immigrant communities because we believe multimedia skills – and media literacy – is very important. A lack of information and a lack of resources is an issue. That’s why we came together.

We’ve been interacting with schools and hosting workshops, including programming at nearby elementary schools and Garfield High School. It’s a great program for at-risk youth, and a great way to engage them and get them involved with issues that affect the community.

Q. What are some of your students’ most memorable projects?

A. Two years ago through MMRTI, about 15 students went to Seahawks training camp to capture footage and interview the players and the head coach. They also interviewed the previous owner, John Nordstrom, to produce a documentary on the Seahawks’ season. This happened to coincide with the Super Bowl season. The kids were very happy to be interviewing the players, and the fact that they were Super Bowl champs is something they were incredibly proud of. After that, our students filmed a documentary about the Sounders.

Every summer, we host a documentary project for up to 18 youth, who work on researching, filming and editing. We’ve completed 20 small documentary projects on the Yesler Terrace redevelopment project specifically. This is an important issue, because the redevelopment affects people who have been there for many years, and it’s a part of their identity, it really affects the community.

We cover topics that matter to the community. This includes jobs, the relationship between police and community, social justice, race and equity. We’ve also led a number of related workshops and panel discussions. Something we are also working on is a documentary about Promenade 23, the small business owners, the shoppers, the customers.

We are now also working on a documentary about the African diaspora in the Central Area, as well as the neighborhood’s history, music, arts and culture.

Q. Both the city of Seattle and Vulcan have pitched in with grants to help the program. How can others get involved and donate to MRRTI?

A. Interestingly, six Seattle mayors – including current Mayor Ed Murray – have visited our studio. The city is very familiar with our programs. The grant will help expand our offerings and has enabled us to go mobile and reach other partner organizations.

MMRTI's future plans include a state of the art broadcasting media center that serves the growing immigrant, refugee, and minority communities in King County and across the region.  

For others who want to participate, the best way to donate is to visit the EYM website.