by Marcus Harrison Green
Dear South Seattle,
There’s a Mary Oliver quote that always resonated with me: “to live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.”
I feel every one of those words today. After four years, my time with the South Seattle Emerald will be coming to an end at the beginning of next month. I’ve accepted an offer from The Seattle Times to become their South King County Metro Reporter.
The decision was one of the hardest of my adult life. I’ve overseen every story ever published on this site. I’ve depleted my savings to get it off the ground, and I’ve sacrificed friends and personal goals to make the Emerald my life.
But that’s what you do when you love something as much as I love the Emerald and the community it covers. However, the time is right to hand over the reins to a new Editor-in-Chief and our exemplary board.
My decision is two-fold. As much as the Emerald has been gratifying – as much as I wouldn’t trade any moment of these last four years – nurturing it, managing it, writing for it, fundraising and eating, sleeping and breathing the Emerald has taken a toll.
It hasn’t allowed for much-needed maintenance of self or authentically showing up to important relationships in my life that I’ve let deteriorate because of a lack of awareness and empathy. A recent situation reminded me that there are moments you get so lost in the work that you lose yourself, leaning too heavily on some people and not enough on others, unable to value either for their true worth until it’s too late.
It’s also the fact that I want to give back a little bit of my life to myself and my family. My grandfather Lenny, whom I never met, dreamed of being a writer and the first Black journalist at the Chicago Tribune. He spent five years working on a book that he submitted to a publisher. He never heard back from them, but a year later, he saw his work in a bookstore, with a white writer’s name and picture on it.
He let that destroy his life and his dreams. He turned to alcohol and left my grandmother and my then-2-year-old mother to fend for themselves, eventually drinking himself to death after a tortured life.
Before she passed, my grandmother said I’d fulfill what he didn’t. I’d become what he threw away. She said I’d write for a big city paper one day, a generation atoning for the one before. And she was right.
The position will not only be for our region’s largest paper, but also allow me to continue to be embedded in South King County, telling the stories of the chronically uncovered.
As for the Emerald? It’s not going anywhere. For the first time ever, we have a board at full strength, with an amazing array of talents who, along with our soon-to-be-announced interim Editor-in-Chief, will help produce some of the finest storytelling we’ve ever done.
I want to personally thank all who have served on the Emerald’s Board: Dominique Scalia, Devin Chicras, Alan Preston, Bridgette Hempstead, Nick Patterson, Ijeoma Oluo, Maia Segura, Dominic Smargiassi, Andrew Johnston, Emanuel da Silva, and Jovelle Tamayo.
And an immense debt of gratitude to our first Executive Director Marilee Jolin who’s more responsible for the Emerald’s continued existence than she’s given credit for. Additional gratitude to Regent Brown and Reagan Jackson who are more responsible for the Emerald’s commitment to this community than most know.
We also have a broad community of people who are stepping up operationally to make sure the Emerald isn’t only dependent upon one person.
All that’s missing from the Emerald is you. We need you to step up as Rainmakers, if this is going to be a successful transition, and if the Emerald is going to thrive after I depart.
I have no doubts that it will, because in these past four years, while I was couchsurfing, when I temporarily didn’t have a place to stay, only had enough money to buy one meal a day, and when we were a hair’s breadth from closing our doors, because of a lack of funds, it has always been this community who has rallied for us.
The Emerald is not mine and it never was. Nor does it belong to the board, or our advertisers. It belongs to you.
Take care of it. Nurture it. Create it. Own it as your own.
As for me, I’ll be sure to write. You do the same.
Featured image by Hannah Letinich