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Black History Today: Omari Salisbury, Uplifting and Empowering His Community by Sharing the Truth at Any Cost

by Marcus Harrison Green

Image depicting white text on a black background that reads "Black History Today." The word today is accented with a red and green line.

Black History Today, created by Marcus Harden in celebration of Black History Month, pays tribute to the living legacy of Black history in our community and beyond and recognizes the people shaping the future.

Presented in collaboration with Rise Up for Students.

“We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”

—Jesse Owens

What best reveals someone’s true character is the moment their life is ambushed by a heap of public awareness. In this moment, all of their work, exploits, and ambitions — once largely unknown to larger pop culture — become unhidden. With this fresh (and in some cases renewed) notoriety, discarding your community, your friends, your promises that initially set you up for recognition is an enticing option. One chosen so often that the tale of someone reaching the pinnacle of their profession only to leave us mere mortals behind as they fly “too close to the sun” before their inevitable crash landing is a well-recited cliché.

Less evoked are the stories of those who skyrocket and grab hold of their community to take them along on their journey.

I think of this every time I reflect on Omari Salisbury. 

Photo depicting Omari Salisbury standing with a Converge Media and notepaper in hand.
Omari Salisbury stands ready to broadcast from the grand opening of Communion Restaurant & Bar in Seattle in December 2020. (Photo: Susan Fried)

Before he became one of our city’s most recognizable broadcasters and personalities, he was a media entrepreneur asking me if I’d be willing to partner with him to broadcast his fledgling “Morning Update Show” on the South Seattle Emerald’s social media channels. 

In those early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Morning Update covered news and events with a lens that uplifted, engaged, and detailed the richness of Seattle’s Black community, much like it does now. It’s a vision still rarely shown with consistency in the mainstream media. 

Unfortunately, I was overwhelmed by my recent return to the Emerald. Back then, running it was still equivalent to steering a start-up, which meant next to no rest, little social life, and a constant re-prioritization of all things urgent. And in a start-up, everything is urgent.

These responsibilities resulted in it being weeks before I was able to respond to him with an answer, and only after conferring with my board. During that time, his stature exploded across social media. Following the killing of George Floyd and the nationwide protests ignited by that atrocity, Omari became a 24/7 eyewitness to the social uprisings and unrest taking place in our city.

He was there during the streak of marches against racial injustice that saw clashes with police and him getting tear-gassed and beaten, along with other protestors. Instead of recuperating, he’d be out the very next day, providing visual documentation and a community analysis that threaded together the civic, political, and activist strands into a social fabric that people could better comprehend.

He followed the saga of CHOP, bringing truth when so many other media organizations nationally and locally brought wanton speculation and suppositions. And though that truth brought him criticism from all corners, he never shied from telling it.

Watching all this unfold in the intensity of real time, I was certain my dillydallying had cost me any opportunity to partner with him. Firing off a response email asking him if he’d still like to form an alliance with the Emerald, I was all but certain I’d receive a “NEGRO PLEASE” in response. 

But no. He simply said, “When would you like to start?”

He’d given his word, and that meant any past agreement was inked in gold.

That’s how I’ve come to know Omari. You know exactly what he’ll do for his community: Everything he can.

That doesn’t change whether his audience is one or 1 million. 

What has changed — and he’s played no small part in it — is a local Black media sphere, which when I was growing up was hyper-competitive, with many carving moats around their individual fiefdoms. 

He’s been a pioneer of media collaboration, realizing that a vibrant Black media ecosystem is one of the best gifts Seattle’s Black community can receive. It’s a gift he contributes to with great financial and personal cost to him. Yet, he does so without complaint.

As Omari’s star continues to shine — and his Converge Media continues to grow — his outlook, grit, and desire to empower our Black community with an information system that spectacularly displays all shades of that community remains the same.

It’s why Omari Salisbury is Black History Today!

Marcus Harrison Green

Marcus Harrison Green is the publisher of the South Seattle Emerald. Growing up in South Seattle, he experienced first-hand the impact of one-dimensional stories on marginalized communities, which taught him the value of authentic narratives. After an unfulfilling stint in the investment world during his twenties, Marcus returned to his community with a newfound purpose of telling stories with nuance, complexity, and multidimensionality with the hope of advancing social change. This led him to become a writer and found the South Seattle Emerald. He was named one of Seattle’s most influential people by Seattle Magazine in 2016 and was awarded 2020 Individual Human Rights Leader by the Seattle Human Rights Commission.

📸 Featured image by Devin Chicras for the Emerald.

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