What the Emerald Means to Me: Space to be Heard

by Paul Benz the Younger

In reflecting on the articles and voices raised up every week in the Emerald I’m struck by what the Emerald provides and what it represents.

Bold and honest, I’ve read articles in the Emerald that other publications might view as too risky or even dangerous. The times we live in are times of great danger so we may as well face it with words of truth and inspiration. These are times that require risk and courage on behalf of historically suppressed voices if we are to survive. I’ve seen the Emerald provide this.

All romanticism and sentimentality aside, I honestly feel a very visceral connection between the Emerald’s work and our First Amendment right for “freedom of the press” and a press that, to borrow another ideal, really is a publication of the people, for the people, and by the people. I feel like the Emerald is intentional about including both voices of professional journalists and the observations of everyday people. People with concerns and something to say that perhaps they do not see reflected in other mainstream regional news outlets as much. I would argue that we need an organized and consolidated space for this, and the Emerald provides that in its many regular stories and perspectives.

The most immediate example of this was going to my email this morning where articles by Jazmyn Scott, Jack Russillo, M. Anthony Davis, Carolyn Bick, Ari Robin McKenna, Paul Kiefer, and the Morning Update Show provided critical information and local perspectives. “How to Celebrate Khmer New Year Month,” appeared next to the latest on COVID-19 vaccines, returning to in person learning in public schools, and cycles of trauma wrought by repeated killing of Black Men and Women by police. I’ve seen the Emerald in its leadership and writer pool be intentional about creating a space for what matters most to its community. In this regard what the Emerald provides is also what it represents: voices for and from the community as well as a space for those voices to be lifted up, heard, and celebrated. Alice Walker said that “hard times call for fierce dancing,” and I feel the Emerald represents a renewable truth and courage where pain is not ignored and beloved cultural traditions are celebrated.

What the Emerald means to me is that in giving space for people to be heard there is hope, and my hope is that this continues here in South Seattle, here in King County, and that publications like the Emerald are strengthened throughout the U.S. 

Paul is a Resident Spiritual Care Provider at Harborview Medical Center and Fund for Leaders Scholar from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and a 2013–2016 Uganda RPCV. 

Original illustration by Vladimir Verano

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