Emijah Smith, Mother, Survivor, and Seattle Public Schools Volunteer Counters Media Shaming

by Emijah Smith

I am a mother who loves my children. As a parent, it’s my responsibility to protect the safety of my family and keep them from harm.

I am a survivor. Seven years ago, my family’s safety was in jeopardy. Dangerous adults violated and disregarded a protection order when they came to my home with ill-intent to harm us. This incident was one in a long, traumatic series in which members of my family experienced violence and threats of violence. My entire family was harassed and our physical safety was threatened prior to and after the incident recently reported. I protected my family to the best of my ability. However reporting by The Seattle Times and particularly KUOW have represented this experience in ways that are an attack on my character and victim-blaming.

The reporting on this story was inaccurate. KUOW Reporter Isolde Raftery misquoted me and she lied. I never agreed with the accuracy of the police report. I said I would not go over the details of the incident because it was retraumatizing for me.

The story was published the night before the Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors decided on my candidacy for the District 7 board director position. Given the timing of the publication and the sensationalized way that this story was presented, in the KUOW story in particular, I see this reporting as undermining my candidacy, rather than accurately informing or engaging the public in this long appointment process. These choices highlight how institutional racism and sexism play out in the media.

My family is resilient, and we have survived a very traumatic experience. We are focused on our healing and restoration, while simultaneously maintaining our safety. We choose to move forward every day as the positive and productive people we are. I’m moving forward to being a service to community and families. As I advocate for my own children, you can be sure I will continue to advocate for the well-being of all children.

Background checks are part of the process for volunteering for Seattle Public Schools, and I have been approved to work with the district every year since 2012. What happened seven years ago has not prevented me from volunteering in schools and SPS district advisories and committees, nor should it have prevented me from serving as an SPS Board Director.

What I have gained from this is that, as a woman like me, in violent situations we’re not always afforded the same protection.

Although I see this as an attack on my character and victim-blaming, I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors who have made huge sacrifices for our world today and have modeled strength for me. I will continue to walk forward with my dignity, understanding and appreciative that so many in this community are with me.