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.
“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.”
By Marcus Harden
To be a light in an unlit room is the goal of many who commit to a life of service. To be a light that is not only willing but committed to illuminating others’ wicks so they can shine is one of the highest acts of service. For many African-American males, expressing their light inside of school systems, popular culture or society is oftentimes viewed as an unwelcome problem.
Rashad Norris, thankfully, is not only a beacon of light but also a problem-solver! A proud native of Tacoma, Wash., Rashad has spent his life committed to the service of and with others. The child of two wonderful parents, his early life was marked by spending time in the Netherlands, where his father was stationed in the army. He was even featured in commercials as a kid for G.I. Joe and Transformers. Maybe it’s no surprise, then, that Rashad has always had a hand in being a hero for others.
Rashad attended the University of Puget Sound armed with a dual love of writing and basketball, and he graduated with a degree in communications and a minor in English. Rashad moved on from there to a couple of corporate jobs but never quite felt fulfilled until he became the athletic director for the Boys & Girls Club of Lakewood. It is there where Rashad began to step into his purpose.
In 2007, Rashad joined Highline College as Assistant Director of Outreach and truly begin to have a platform to cultivate change. Rashad's commitment to outreach and particularly to promoting an atmosphere for more Black and Brown students to have a safe space to attain higher education has helped lead him into the role of Director of Community Outreach.
From this position has come perhaps Rashad’s greatest legacy: his leadership in the creation of the annual Black and Brown Male Summit in the fall, and the Young Educated Ladies Leading Summit in the spring. The Black and Brown male summit was met with great initial resistance, primarily centered around what some considered the slim possibility of Black and Brown males getting up on a Saturday morning to learn. Instead, Rashad’s faith and vision have been affirmed and empowered, and what started with 50 young men has grown to annually include more than 600 across the Puget Sound Region.
Rashad's leadership shines in these spaces. He doesn’t lead from an ivory tower or from a perch above. If you see Rashad during one of these summits, he’s running around, keeping the same energy with an old friend that he maintains with a 9th grader whom he’s never met asking where to find his table. Rashad's energy and leadership are magnetic, and his courage to stand up and create systems within sometimes-unwelcoming systems for young men and women of color is not just inspiring but impactful.
Rashad's equally great impact is at home with his wife and children. He is as proud as a husband and father as he is a changemaker and convener of and for the community. Rashad is a local agent of change, doing the work in the Puget Sound Region that we search the country for when everything we could need is right in front of our eyes.
Rashad's humble leadership has led to a pipeline of systems that will extend even beyond his physical presence. He has truly created positive outcomes for young people across the state. Much like the commercials he once appeared in, Rashad is “more than meets the eye,” and he has inspired knowledge in spaces where knowing is half the battle. Rashad Norris is a leader, an innovator, a mentor and a friend to all, and that is why he is Black History, today!