Black History Today: Marcus Harrison Green, voice for the Southend

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.

"I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed."


By Marcus Harden

In an era in which truth is under attack for what is comfortable, authenticity is sometimes seen as weakness, and recollection of the facts as heralded as “fake news.” Those that still want to stand for what is true, what is authentic and what is good are in great number, yet often lack the platform — and sometimes the courage — to stand in those values.

Marcus Harrison-Green has embodied and championed those values for the last few years. Born in the legendary Southend of Seattle, Marcus (what a glorious first name) attended private schools — often as the ‘only’ Black student — and upon graduation from high school he attended California Lutheran University.

While at CLU Marcus experienced what many do when they “get out” and find themselves in predominantly dominated culture spaces. He was the token Black student in a place he says believed in “Reagan, Money and that order.”  Upon graduating Marcus walked down the path many are told to travel: get a good job, stash your money and live happily ever after.

However, Marcus’ happily and ever-after weren’t connected to working in a small investment firm, having a nice house and driving a nice car. His happily-ever-after was connected to writing — specifically telling the stories of the communities and the people who often hadn’t had their stories told properly.

Marcus made one of the most courageous and impactful decisions of his life when he walked away from it all, packed his life up and moved back in with his parents to begin the journey of writing about others’ journeys while living his own. In 2014 Marcus founded the South Seattle Emerald, to explore the lives and stories that were true to the people he knew and interacted with everyday, behind the headline sensationalism that often depicts Southeast Seattle.

Since that time Marcus has helped steward the Emerald to be a viable source for reliable storytelling and news in Seattle. In 2018, Marcus took that experience with him to the Seattle Times to promote that same voice and energy of the Southend to the greater Seattle region.

Marcus’ greatest story, though, may he his own, opening up about his battles with mental health, self love and self worth. The courageous nature of a man who shares others’ stories of triumph and trial with the world, openly sharing his own, true leadership and truly newsworthy.

Marcus has had an odyssey that has taken him on a journey of self-discovery and examination that have led to his gifts manifesting in service of his community. Lois Lane once said about her famous reporter friend Clark Kent, “That's the thing about heroes. No matter how brightly you shine the light on them, they always want to stay in the shadows."

Marcus Harrison-Green is a hero who prefers the shadows, but deserves the spotlight. He is a voice for the voiceless, for the community in the community, and that among many reasons is why Marcus Harrison-Green is Black History, today!

To learn more about Marcus:



The Full Series: Black History Today 2018, by Marcus Harden

The Full Series: Black History Today 2018, by Marcus Harden

I want to thank all who allowed me to honor and showcase them for Black History Month. The daily posts started as just a personal letter to people whom I believe to be truly amazing. We often wait too long to tell people what we think of them and their effects on us and our lives.

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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.

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Seattle teachers vote against McCleary walkout

The Seattle teachers union voted down a proposed one-day walkout meant to pressure the legislature to fully fund its McCleary obligation.

This would hardly be unusual for Seattle's teachers. In fact, this would be their third strike or walkout in the past three school years.

We've all been agreeing for years now that we need a solution that fully funds our schools. I'm glad to see the teachers recognizing that taking a day of classroom instruction away from their students will do more harm than good at this point. Or at any rate, it's not going to apply such pressure as the legislature hasn't already been feeling.

From Paige Cornwell of the Seattle Times:

Union members who voted no questioned the effectiveness of a walkout, as well as the disruption it would cause for students and families. Lawton Elementary teacher Lyon Terry said his experiences with the 2015 walkout and strike led him to vote no on the proposed walkout.
“We walked out to fund education, but we ended up having to strike anyway,” Terry said. “My interpretation was that it wasn’t effective in that way. I don’t think this one would be, either.”
In addition to possibly changing the last day of school, students in some Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes are scheduled to take exams on May 1. The AP exams, which students can take to earn college credit if they score high enough, can be rescheduled, union leaders wrote in an email to members. But the IB exams, which students in the program take to earn their IB diploma, can’t be taken on a different day. [Union President Phyllis] Campano said she has heard more concerns from members this year than the last time they voted on a walkout.


Interestingly, Seattle City Councilmembers Mike O'Brien and Kshama Sawant jointly told the city's teachers through the South Seattle Emerald, "If you decide to go on strike, we'll have your back."

I give Sawant a mountain of credit as a fearless voice for equity, but in this case, it seems like she and O'Brien might be seeing this issue for what they wish it were, rather than for what it is.

They write of the May 1 walkout as part of a larger show of resistance throughout the day, and they fold SEA's potential action in with other labor rights issues:

We applaud the incredible courage Seattle educators are showing in considering strike action on behalf of their students, their schools, and all those in our community under attack from the Trump administrations. Your bold actions are an inspiration for working people everywhere.
May 1 will be a historic day of resistance, with immigrants, women, students, and workers taking the streets across the country. In California, a coalition of SEIU locals, United Service Workers West, and workers center members (nearly 350,000 workers altogether!) are preparing to go on strike.
From the Fight for $15 to the NoDAPL campaign, Seattle’s movements of working people have again and again acted as a catalyst for change nationally. Now, Seattle’s labor movement is helping lead the way on bold May 1 action.
UAW local 4121, which represents graduate student workers at the University of Washington, are also voting on a similar strike action. And importantly, last week, the Martin Luther King County Labor Council passed a resolution in support of local unions taking strike and protest actions on May 1.
The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that the state legislature is unconstitutionally failing to fund public education, and yet this outrage has continued for years. Underfunding of public schools impacts students of color in particular, as well as young people from low-income households.

This misses the mark for me. Teachers' rights as workers are not at stake, unless you consider the gross under-representation of people of color in the field -- 80 percent of current Seattle Public Schools teachers are white -- so this walkout would have been a students' rights issue, not a labor issue.

And, thankfully, the union voted against it in the end. I appreciate that they will maintain continuity in the classroom while finding other ways to advocate for a legislative fix for McCleary.


'Still I look to find a reason to believe' in Seattle Public Schools

Seattle Public Schools announced recently that it will face a $74 million budget shortfall if the state legislature does not "fully fund education." Since that phrase has been so overused in Washington that it's lost all meaning, it seems safe to assume SPS will have to make some pretty enormous cuts.

Stephan Blanford, our strongest and often lone voice for equity and reason on the incessantly dysfunctional Seattle School Board, wrote in a piece for the South Seattle Emerald about his fears that our more-voiceless south-end schools will bear the greater burden of these looming cuts:

"I know I am motivated more by fear — fear of the kinds of cuts that we will need to make in December and January as the board grapples with a deficit that has grown to $74 million. I am deeply troubled by the ramifications these cuts will have in classrooms across the city and the uneven impact we could have on schools serving low income students and students of color. And I am motivated by my knowledge of what has happened in the past.
First, the uneven impact. Academic research demonstrates that seniority-based teacher layoffs disproportionately impact schools serving low income and students of color. This is because those schools tend to be staffed with newer teachers having less seniority – the last hired is often the first fired. Many of our principals will tell you that they’ve finally gotten a good mix of older/experienced and younger/energetic teachers in their buildings. As a result, many are optimistic for the first time in their careers about the chances of closing our achievement/opportunity gaps — unacceptable gaps that are larger than nearly every big city school district in the nation.
Secondly, based on recent history, I have come to believe that the school board that I serve on is not sufficiently oriented to or motivated by the need to eliminate the gap, in spite of the fact that the majority of students (53%) served by Seattle Public Schools are students of color. Obviously, not every student of color is in the gap – in fact, many students of color outperform their peers. But for those that don’t, there was very little outrage or even discussion when the board learned of our national ranking in a story that was reported back in May. I’ve frequently seen members of the board disregard advice from the staff and parents when it conflicts with the narrow interests of some of their constituents. During the months when we first learned of a possible budget deficit, some of my colleagues were much more interested in how to spend last year’s $10 million surplus, which could have made a sizable dent in the projected deficit. Many of the choices that were made during that exercise only make our achievement/opportunity gaps worse.
Why does this matter?
If you have a child in Seattle Public Schools, or are troubled by the growing gaps based on family income, race and ethnicity, gentrification, the school-to-prison pipeline or any number of societal ills confronting our city, region and nation, you too should be concerned! At the root of each of these problems is society’s failure to adequately prepare our children to reach their awesome potential. IT IS CRITICAL THAT WE STEP UP NOW."


If you want to lose hope altogether, read the comments on Blanford's article. He's met with defensiveness, privilege and skepticism, often admittedly from the north end residents (and from Charlie Mas, who loves chiming in on our issues from wherever he's at).

This isn't about dividing the city into a north and south end. That's already been done. We are already the have-nots. It's not that there are no low-income families in the north end, or that there is no money in the south. It's that these are two very different places, home to two very distinct populations. Our city has been largely segregated for ages.

Blanford's fears are based in reality, and part of that reality is that schools like Emerson exist in a different realm of Seattle Public Schools than their north-end counterparts. At Emerson, we are already operating with two long-term substitutes where we should have full-time teachers. We are one of the only schools in the city with such a high percentage of students eligible for free/reduced lunch that it's just given to everyone. We've had four principals in four years.

This is, by definition, a high-need school, but it's serving mostly low-privilege students and families, which means it gets ignored. Then when someone tries to speak up about it, the overwhelming response is defensiveness.

But we should just keep plugging away, believing things will change. I'm trying.

We're progressive in lots of ways in Seattle, but that doesn't give us a pass on all the ways we're still way behind the times. We have the fifth-highest achievement gap along racial lines in the country. It persists because comfortable, privileged white moderates dominate the conversation about education locally.

We will keep speaking up from the south end, from the other sides of all the borders and barriers. The question becomes, when will people listen? I'm looking for a reason to believe that will happen soon. It needs to, because my kids won't be kids forever.