Reflections on the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr Day we asked six South Seattle communitarians to  respond to the question: How can we as a south end community best honor the legacy of MLK?

Their replies were reflective, profound and as diverse as one might expect from Seattle’s most eclectic area.


Mark Chubb (King County Fire District 20 Fire Chief):  Dr. King challenged us to shine the light into dark corners and speak out against injustice. He challenged good people not to remain silent. My first response, and something I try to live by, is to speak up and speak out against injustice and inequity wherever I find it. This means I cannot just point out others failings, but must also critically examine my own complicity by asking how my actions help or hold others back. If I’m doing this right, I’m setting a positive example for others to follow. I’m leaving spaces for others to join the conversation.

In this conversation we’re listening carefully to one another and striving to achieve consensus. And we’re working together to make change happen- in both the short- and long-run. We’re not just eliminating the bad but creating a surplus of good, and celebrating with an abundance of joy and thanksgiving everyone’s gifts. All of this starts by showing up and opening up to the community’s capacity to do together what none of us can do alone. Maybe this explains why I consider myself so blessed to work as a firefighter, and to serve a community that values and celebrates diversity and inclusion the way Skyway does.


Sheley Secrest (Past President of the King County NAACP, Civil Rights Lawyer, Community Organizer): We honor the legacy of Dr. King inside of our classrooms when a Black child can not only sit beside a white student, but is given a true opportunity to receive a quality education that prepares him for a competitive workforce; we honor King when a mother working at a minimum wage job to feed her children is able to move beyond living check-to-check into a job ladder that provides a living wage for her family. The south end community lives in the legacy of the Great King as we continue to challenge policies; as we struggle together for solutions that reach the masses of people; as we march on until victory is won.


Louis Watanabe (Community Advocate, Business Professor, Speaking at Seattle’s 33rd Annual MLK Day Celebration Held at Garfield High School): I admire Dr. King because he was guided by love of God, family and human dignity. With the movie Selma, we as a south end community have the opportunity to reflect upon one of Dr. King’s great legacies, the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. Dr. King used thoughtful and deliberate action to overcome systematic exclusion, intimidation and violence that prevented Black citizens from exercising their right to vote. How will you thoughtfully and lovingly act to address the urgencies of today?


Bridgette Hempstead (Social Entrepreneur, Community Organizer): We can honor his legacy by being true to ourselves and true to each other as we move forward with a generation that has been hurt, abused, and neglected. There is a great deal of mistrust of each other within our community. If we don’t come together soon we will annihilate ourselves. We need to band together in the spirit of togetherness that MLK preached about. We need to truly not separate ourselves by racism or classism, but realize that we can only address the issues we face by first seeing each other as human beings.


John Helmiere (Convener at Valley & Mountain Fellowship): Rev. King’s final enterprise was called the Poor People’s Campaign. It called for government investments in quality housing, full employment with good jobs and a guaranteed income for those who fell through the cracks. There are not many places left in our city that are hospitable to those with less advantages.  We in South Seattle can honor his legacy by organizing our community to fight poverty and ensure that this neighborhood is welcoming on a personal and social level, and working to ensure that prosperity is shared.  To do this we must cultivate empathy individually, and organized power collectively.  As Rev King said: “What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic.”


Gregory Davis (Community Leader, Social Entrepreneur): We in the south end can best honor the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr by recognizing that his spiritual legacy precedes and outpaces his civil rights legacy. It’s in his spiritual legacy that the hope for our time and a vision for our future exists.