Black History Today: Dawn Bennett, empowering educational activist

This post is part of an ongoing Black History Month series written by Marcus Harden, a truly unsung hero of South Seattle, as he honors the living legacy of Black history in his community and beyond, and recognizes the people who are shaping the future.

When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.

-Iyanla Vanzant

By Marcus Harden

The word “empower” gets thrown around a lot, sometimes in spaces where it’s not fully actualized or lived. Yet if you walk into any setting and you see the powerful community beacon that goes by the name of Dawn Bennett, then you know that a warm smile, a challenging thought and authentic empowerment are not far behind.

Very few people embody the definition of empowerment, the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights, the way Dawn does.

Dawn Bennett has been an advocate for children and teens throughout her career. As a basketball player and coach, gang prevention specialist and caseworker for the city of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools, Dawn has worked to support those who might otherwise fall through the education gaps. During her work on political campaigns and as a community organizer, she co-founded the Multicultural Education Rights Alliance (McERA) in 2011 with Kerry Cooley-Stroum to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline through education and action.

Dawn is one of those people that when you are in her presence you immediately feel loved and inspired to be a better version of yourself. With her passion for the rights of those who have been marginalized, coupled with a true community advocate’s heart and a cool young auntie’s soul, when you’re near her you know she has most of the answers, but her beauty shows up as she patiently and willingly arrives there with you.

For adult leaders and educators navigating difficult conversations of race, class and power intersecting, specifically in education, Dawn never runs from what is right. William P. Young wrote, “You don’t play a game or color a picture with a child to show your superiority. Rather, you choose to limit yourself so as to facilitate and honor that relationship. You will even lose a competition to accomplish love. It is not about winning and losing, but about love and respect.”

Dawn Bennett is respect, and Dawn Bennett most definitely is love. Dawn’s love for self, her love for community, her love for advocacy, her love for education, educators, families and most importantly children, radiate from her pores.

If and when you ever get the opportunity to be near Dawn Bennett, you leave better than when you came. Dawn Bennett is indeed what Maya Angelou famously stated: “Phenomenal Woman.” And Dawn Bennett is the embodiment of Black history, today.

For more information on Dawn Bennett visit: