by Marilee Jolin
From the first moment I was introduced to the South Seattle Emerald, I knew I had stumbled onto something special. Since that day in 2014 I have had the privilege and honor of joining the Emerald family as a writer, columnist, Rainmaker and, most recently, Executive Director.
When I joined the Emerald as ED in August of 2016 I knew I was joining a dynamic organization with a powerful platform and growing influence. I knew the Emerald was meeting a vital need for the South Seattle community. I knew I was lucky to get to support a young and growing organization.
What I didn’t know was how much there was still to do and how much work it would take to get there.
In this past year, we’ve made incredible progress and I’m proud beyond words of what Marcus, myself, our Board, and our incredible community of supporters have accomplished in such a short time.
In just over a year, we’ve doubled our readership and our newsletter mailing list. We’ve exponentially increased our donor base, from just a handful of financial supporters last August to almost 300 recurring donors (yeah, Rainmakers!) and hundreds more one-time donors today. And, maybe more importantly – though certainly less flashy, we’ve put core building blocks in place to ensure the Emerald’s continued growth and development as a sustainable, POC-centered, non-profit news organization.
We’ve had so much help along the way, I barely know where to begin. The ongoing support from other Seattle media has been essential: The Seattle Globalist, International Examiner, Seattle Weekly, and Crosscut, as well as countless community partners whose support has created opportunities for collaboration: Third Place Press and Townhall Seattle, to name a few.
More specifically to my realm of organizational development, our growth has been impacted by incredible partnerships. We could not have built what we did this year without the Non-profit Assistance Center (NAC) Capacity-building cohort whose supportive structure, individual coaching, resources and networking have proved invaluable. Thank you so much, NAC!
On a personal level, this has been a year of exponential and sometimes painful growth in my efforts at becoming an anti-racist white person. I knew going in it’d be tricky to be a white lady helping lead a POC-centered organization. It was even trickier than I expected. And much more beautiful.
Of the many, many areas I’ve been challenged in this year, one that stands out most profoundly is learning to shift from an object-oriented to member-oriented approach. I was challenged by a mentor to consider whether I was approaching my position at the Emerald primarily through an object-oriented lens – meaning outcomes, goals and accomplishments are mostly highly prized and prioritized – or through a member-oriented lens that values people and relationship.
I am so grateful to Marcus, Miss Bridgette Hempstead, Miss Cynthia Green, among others who showed me by example what member-oriented truly feels like and offered me countless opportunities to try and fail and try again to balance my at times unhealthy focus on outcomes.
Countless times I found myself in a meeting, my anxiety growing, my foot tapping, checking the time wondering when we were going to get down to business; forgetting – but thankfully often remembering, or being reminded – that the relationship is the business. And some of my most fulfilling, heart-warming, soul-affirming moments were those that only happened when I calmed my spirit, stopped the foot tapping, put away my watch and focused on the person before me. I am so grateful for those moments – and for the relationships they built.
These are deep patterns and are will require ongoing awareness and maintenance to continue to shift my viewpoint. My profound and formative experience learning this at the Emerald, however, is a powerful foundation on which to keep building.
I am eternally grateful to have been supported in this work – and many other aspects of personal and professional development – by some phenomenal people and organizations who have held me accountable, asked me difficult questions, encouraged and supported me, and helped me find the right time to hand off the reigns.
Infinite thanks to Regent Brown of Fostering Real Opportunities, Martin Friedman of the New Woke, Mijo Lee and Rebecca Allen of the Social Justice Fund, Erin Okuno of Southeast Seattle Education Coalition, Morgan Wells of NAC, the wonderful folks at European Dissent, and many others throughout this amazing community who have walked by my side.
Marcus Harrison Green, the one who started it all and keeps it all together has impressed me time and time again this year with his dedication and commitment to the Emerald. Whether it’s sleep, salary, or social life – I’ve seen him make sacrifice after sacrifice to keep this scrappy media source thriving. He has turned a great idea into an essential element of this community’s identity and voice. This is a remarkable feat and my admiration for his work cannot be overstated.
The future is bright – and the potential is incalculable! I’m proud beyond words to have a tiny role in the early years of the Emerald. Someday people will gasp and say, “What?! YOU were the ED of the Emerald?” I’ll nod and smile proudly, remembering those early days when we worked without pay and thought 300 Rainmakers was a lot!
But in order to get that someday – and to meet our immediate goal of paying our Editor-in-Chief and other staff for the first time – we still have a ways to go. We must meet our goal of 550 recurring donors at an average donation of $12/month. We are currently at just under 300. We also must increase our advertising revenue and bring in some grant money.
This is all possible. I see no reason why the Emerald won’t hit these milestones in the next 6 months. We have a spectacular transition team stepping up to make my departure as smooth as possible and to help shepherd the Emerald toward these milestones.
And, of course, we also need you.
Marcus told me a few weeks ago that my legacy at the Emerald will be “transparency” and “recurring donors”. I hope he’s right. And so here I am, taking this chance to drive those two points home once more: In order for the Emerald to survive and thrive, we must have the support of our community. We are surviving – but we need to thrive. We need to pay our Editor-in-Chief a salary. We need more staff. We can thrive with the support of our community; without you we will not.
Join us as a Rainmaker if you haven’t already!
Thank you all for your support: for supporting the Emerald and thank you for supporting me personally as my friends, guides, advisers, cheerleaders and critics. You’ve welcomed me with open arms and hearts and I’m so grateful. I look forward to supporting the Emerald’s ongoing and increased success as a reader, Rainmaker, and occasional writer, along with the rest of this incredible community.
With deepest gratitude,
Featured image by Jama Abdirahman