Seattle Public Schools unveiled a new strategic plan based on targeted universalism! Will it be enough?

Seattle Public Schools unveiled a new strategic plan based on targeted universalism! Will it be enough?

The opportunity gap, as we all know, is a byproduct of systemic oppression playing out in our schools. The way to upend systemic oppression is to find a way to turn the system on its head. Targeted universalism applies that table-flipping mentality in a constructive way. I’m so surprised and pleased to hear this idea mentioned as our schools’ strategic north star.


Read More

Jesse Hagopian is being displaced at Garfield High School

Jesse Hagopian is being displaced at Garfield High School

Tracy Castro-Gill, the ethnic studies program manager for Seattle Public Schools, posted on Facebook today that “Garfield administration has chosen to displace Jesse Hagopian.”

“Jesse teaches less than half time at Garfield because of his work with Rethinking Schools,” Castro-Gill wrote. “He authored the course description and curriculum for the only board approved ethnic studies course. His leadership in the BLM@SCHOOL movement has strengthened the fight for ethnic studies. And now the district is not willing to pay the 0.4 FTE to continue his work at Garfield.”

Read More

Black History Today: Cal Bonner, a true artist blazing his own trail

Black History Today: Cal Bonner, a true artist blazing his own trail

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.

Read More

Black History Today: Adrienne Decuire-Packard, purveyor of family, advocacy and justice

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.


“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”
-Michelle Obama

By Marcus Harden

If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, there were varying images of who Black people were and how they lived. We could be movin’ on up, or busy pitying the fool or maybe even asking, “Did I do that?”

However, one of the aspirational staples of a young childhood in that era was seeing the image of a Black doctor and a Black lawyer having functional, everyday-life conversations and promoting Black excellence. Claire Huxtable served as an image for many to aspire to.

While Claire inspired a generation, we needed real examples in our lives to truly know what could be possible in a field that many times doesn’t look like it’s meant to serve us. Adrienne Decuire-Packard is that reality of Black excellence — a fictional image come to life.

Born and raised in Seattle to a large biological and extended family, Adrienne is a proud alumnus of Garfield High School and the University of Washington, and her passion for justice is evident upon meeting her.

Adrienne is the personification of passion and joy, and it was her passion that pushed her across the country to pursue her dream of becoming an attorney at the prestigious Howard University School of Law. Through trials and triumph of charting unknown territory, Adrienne graduated and passed the bar, along the way finding time for love with her supportive husband, Darryl.

Her passion would then spread to different cities, Boston and Chicago, where Adrienne would serve as a voice for the voiceless in civil rights matters as a staff attorney for the American Bar Association. Eventually she married her gifts of advocacy and education together, becoming the Associate Director of Student Affairs at the University of Chicago Law School — in service of all students, yet fiercely creating pipelines for women and students of color.

For Adrienne, the adage “You can’t go home again” doesn’t apply, as in 2015 she was offered to return to her second home — the Mecca, Howard University School of Law — as the Director of Student Affairs, utilizing her passion to fulfill her purpose of servant leadership, shining as a realistic example for others to see and be.

Adrienne's passion for the profession and for creating pathways within it are only exceeded by her passion for her family. As a loving daughter, inspired little sister and proud big sister, the art of love was shown to her at an early age. She manifests that art as a powerful wife and loving mother to her three incredible children.

Because of women like Adrienne, we don’t need made-for-TV accounts of powerful Black women living fully in spaces that we once never saw and thought possible. Her advocacy to help shape and create better environments and opportunities for Black women is inspiring, and her ability to balance those as a 3D model for living life's purpose and passion is astonishing.

If the scale of justice is the pursuit of a perfect balance between love and advocacy, then Adrienne pushes those scales to change the world for the better days, which is why Adrienne Decuire-Packard is Black History, today!

To learn more about Adrienne’s work:



Black History Today: Brayon Blake, a reflection of present greatness

Black History Today: Brayon Blake, a reflection of present greatness

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.

Read More

Black History Today: Bookie Gates, a local hero with a bat

Black History Today: Bookie Gates, a local hero with a bat

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.

Read More

The Rise Up and Be Recognized Awards: Honoring a Handful of 2017's Local Heroes

The Rise Up and Be Recognized Awards: Honoring a Handful of 2017's Local Heroes

Welcome one and all to the first semi-annual, fully manual Rise Up and Be Recognized Awards. Thank you for being here, wherever that may be.

These awards were created by me as a way to recognize a handful of Washingtonians who deserve a few extra hand-claps for the way their work and their way of life contributed to positive change in 2017.

The judging process was stringent and unscientific. I created the categories to suit my fancies, and I’ve awarded fake awards to whatever number of people I please. By the end, I’ll have failed to mention just about everyone, so if you find you've been omitted, don’t despair. The pool of nominees was limited to people I know about and managed to think of while writing this, and as a periodic shut-in, that’s not as long a list of names as you might think. For instance, I only finally discovered a few months ago that Chance the Rapper is amazing, if that gives you some idea. So, if you or someone you know has been egregiously overlooked, please get in touch with me and I’m sure I’d be happy to make up some new awards in the near future.

Read More

In Trump's America, we're all activists all the time — not just on MLK Day

Martin Luther King Day is a reliable source for inspiration every January. It’s like the activist’s New Year’s. Just about everyone goes out — even lots of folks who wouldn’t normally — and things seem possible and fresh and worth dreaming about.

Particularly striking this year was the intersectionality on display at yesterday's MLK Day march from Garfield High School to downtown Seattle. “Black Lives Matter” was sort of the grounding principle of the event, but woven in seamlessly were protest signs and chants tied to Standing Rock and the #NoDAPL movement, opposing Muslim registry and urging resistance to Trump.

We will face another challenging year together in 2017. Unlike any I’ve ever experienced, I’m quite sure.

If you thought last year was crazy, think about the implications of this woman's sign:


Days before the inauguration, we have many, many people filling the streets of many, many cities advocating resistance to our President-elect. And not just because we want different things or have different political ideals. This resistance is being shouted into existence out of fear and shock and desperation and self-defense.

We’ve elected a leader whom a LOT of people — intelligent people — believe to be a fascist posing a serious threat to our “democracy.” A startling number of people believe he represents a force to be opposed, and I think there’s good reason to be scared. Trump is a bad guy in the Lord Helmet or Dr. Evil mold — stupid yet sinister. You can never really let your guard down.

I think that sentiment, the idea of “resisting Trump,” in some ways encompasses everything. It gets at the root of the issue for once.

An inequitable public school system is a symptom of an inequitable, racist system of government. Poverty and gross income inequality are symptoms of our savage, discriminatory capitalist system. They aren’t themselves the source of the sickness.

We know our systems are fundamentally flawed. To continue on this way is akin to tirelessly treating every individual symptom of a disease without ever acknowledging the disease that continually births the symptoms. We don’t worry too much about alopecia until the cancer is gone, you know?

So, I hope we continue to see and create this intersectionality all year long. I will not truly be free until all my brothers and sisters share the same privilege that I do. My liberation is tied up in everyone else’s.

Standing Rock and Ferguson, Flint and Charlotte, Seattle and Chicago and New York and everywhere else that someone has been resisting, these are the front lines. They are the front lines not of individual, separate wars, but of different battles within the same desperate struggle against American hate and blind capitalism.

It’s only appropriate today to refer back to someone who has talked much more eloquently about all this than I ever will:

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, 
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. 
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar, 
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. 
Through violence you may murder the hater, 
but you do not murder hate. 
In fact, violence merely increases hate. 
So it goes. 
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, 
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. 
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: 
only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate:
only love can do that.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
From ‘Where Do We Go From Here?” as published in Where Do We Go from Here : Chaos or Community? (1967), p. 62.


Remember: Martin Luther King, Jr., was just a man. He was a man who lived an unusually bold, unusually brilliant life, and his work has made life better for every person in this country. I believe that. But he was also just a father and a son, a husband with a profession. 

We’re all just people, and no one else can do this work for us. It may threaten our comfort and our safety and our lives, but if we are to live out the values that we all so fervently and social-medially supported yesterday, we will have to be bolder than we are used to being, too. We will have to use our fear and our discomfort as torches lighting the pathway to our courage. It will take everyone’s love to drive out this much hate, and everyone includes you.

Yesterday was a beautiful day, but it will be a hollow gesture if we don’t spend the rest of the year backing it up with more bold, loving action in the name of equality.

Resist Trump. 

Seattle just keeps ignoring racism at Garfield High School

Garfield High School is segregated by race. Still. We've known for years and we've done nothing to force change.

Students of color -- especially black students -- are disproportionately disciplined and under-represented in rigorous courses. Still.

And still, their graduation and college acceptance rates lag behind Garfield's white students.

Claudia Rowe wrote an excellent, in-depth piece for the Seattle Times about Garfield this week, painting a sad picture of a school whose hallways, opportunities and outcomes are segregated by race, and of a principal who feels forced to decide between following the rules or doing right by his students:

On paper, Garfield looks like a liberal utopia, a majestic, Federalist-style building in the center of the city with a broad mix of students and long history of academic and athletic success under Principal Ted Howard, a black man.  Yet students of different races inhabit separate worlds. The school’s advanced-track classes are mostly white, as is its well-heeled parent fundraising group, and its annual crop of National Merit Scholars.

Meanwhile, on this year’s list of problem kids permanently removed from campus, 21 of 24 are black.

Garfield, in other words, is Seattle: a place of high achievement and deep divides, progressive ideals sitting atop uncomfortable realities.

This isn't the first time the Seattle Times has unearthed this fault line, though. Back in 2004, the Times ran this article about Garfield: "Decades of effort fail to close gap in student achievement."

It talked of "paper integration and a school whose hallways, opportunities and outcomes were divided between black and white:

      Perhaps in no other Seattle school have parents and teachers struggled for so long to achieve integration's promise of racial equality -- and been so stymied.

Of course, we already knew about it then, too. 

In 2000, The Stranger told us "A Tale of Two Schools: At Garfield High School, the Education You Get Depends on Your Color:"

A former Black Panther, Dixon [a Garfield High security guard] says black kids at Garfield are being neglected and left behind while white kids excel. (I look around and the only white kids I see in the vicinity are a cluster in the hallway, reading Shakespeare to one another.) The Seattle school district, Dixon says, has "built a white, racist program starting with busing. Black kids aren't getting what they need. They're watching the white kids get everything."
Dixon's not the first to point out that Garfield exists as a school within a school. The numbers speak for themselves. On one hand, Garfield boasts the best academic reputation of any high school in the city. It has the most merit scholars in the state and nearly half the Advanced Placement students in the Seattle school district. Yet, there is a second, less-than-world-class school within Garfield. During last year's round of Washington Assessment of Student Learning tests -- which rank students according to skills in reading, writing, math, and listening -- the school fell far below state standards in two categories. Garfield officials claim that many students didn't show up to take the test, accounting for the low scores. But even fancy tests aside, nearly one third of all Garfield students are failing or getting a D in at least one course required for graduation.
To make matters worse, the students who are doing well tend to be white, while the students who are doing poorly tend to be black. The student population at Garfield -- situated in the heart of the Central District -- is estimated by the school district to be 47 percent white, 35 percent black, 13 percent Asian, 4 percent Latino, and 1 percent Native American. Yet, 73 percent of students in the advanced classes at Garfield are white, while 19 percent are Asian and only 4 percent are black (Latinos and Native Americans together make up 4 percent of Advanced Placement classes). On the other end of the scale, 62 percent of all African American students at the school are on the "D and E list" (which is, itself, made up of mostly black students), meaning they are in danger of flunking out.
Excuses for the disparity range from complaints that black students don't want to excel and show up at Garfield unprepared for advanced classes to accusations that the school has set up purposeful barriers to keep black kids at a disadvantage. Ironically, as one of the more diverse inner-city high schools in Seattle, Garfield was once lauded by students as a "model for integration success." These days, it's considered a failure. "The first floor is black people, the second floor is white, and the third floor, I don't know," says junior EunJean Song, who's part white and part Asian. "We see it every day and nobody's doing anything about it."

That's 16 years ago! If we've been collectively aware of this publicly funded racism and systemic oppression for at least 16 years (and I don't imagine it would take much digging to prove we've known about it even longer than that), by now we're collectively complicit. We've given a segregated Garfield High School the blind-eye stamp of public approval.

So, we still know that Garfield is segregated. Meanwhile, its teachers have been more focused on urging students to opt out of standardized tests in the past few years than on teaching, let alone standing up and forcing equitable change.

Garfield is still segregated. Are Garfield's teachers and administrators, its school board representatives and legislators going to do nothing about it? 

Are we still going to do nothing but talk about it once every 10 years?


Photo by  Jesse Hagopian

You know it's bad when students end up teaching the class themselves

How many ways can we let our kids down? If you are a public school system it seems the ways are innumerable.

Case in point: due to dysfunction in the Seattle Public Schools students in one class are teaching themselves, even though there are three teachers on staff paid to do the teaching.

Julia Furukawa, a senior at Garfield High School, has taken the lead in teaching her Concert Choir class - a task she preps for during her AP Statistics, AP Biology, and History classes.

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat says the problem stems from adults "behaving badly," and kids getting short-changed.

He reports:

It’s a sore point because the district is astonishingly employing three adults related to these classes. One is the former choir director Carol Burton, whom the district fired last year for multiple lapses on a field trip. She was reinstated by a judge last week but remains on paid leave as the district figures out whether to let her return to Garfield.
Another is a replacement choir director who mysteriously bolted midyear but who mysteriously also remains employed by the district. The third is a sub called in to oversee the classes, but who has no music experience.
Bottom line: Since that fateful field trip to New Orleans in early 2015, the choirs have had no real instructor for about seven of the 12 months the school has been in session.
Most every adult at every level — from the original choir teacher to district staff who didn’t warn the school of a student with behavioral problems to the superintendent who has seemed more concerned with legal liability than getting these kids a teacher — all failed these students to one degree or another.

It's one thing to keep the pressure on the state for full-funding of our public schools. It's another to demand the district isn't paying teachers not to teach.

If you want to read the full face-palm inducing story, read it here.