In celebration of the South Seattle Emerald’s 8th Anniversary, we asked community members to share moments in our publication’s history that remain special to them.
by Reagan Jackson
The Emerald community has been creating ripples with its creativity and genius for 8 magnificent years! Those ripples are felt far beyond South Seattle — community, after all, is not a place but its people. And home can be a place, people, or both. The energy our people generate at home and beyond ignites sparks that prove perennially that even the tiniest of sparks illuminates dark places in all directions and can guide us to wherever we need to go. Please help us continue to serve our community by becoming a recurring donor during our 8th anniversary campaign, Ripples & Sparks at Home, April 20–28. Become a Rainmaker today by choosing the “recurring donor” option on our donation page! —The Emerald Team
Marcus Harrison Green and I met shortly before the birth of the South Seattle Emerald. What started out as my giving him writing lessons turned into a lot of laughter, knocking back rum and cokes at Jude’s, talking shit about local politics, and reading each other’s writing. Inevitably, our conversations would return to the big gaping hole in Seattle’s media scene and Marcus would wax poetic about the need for a news outlet where the South End could curate its own story rather than being continuously villainized in news told by strangers from outside the community.
Turns out, he wasn’t just talking. Marcus was building a movement as big as his dreams, and like many others, I wanted to be part of it. During the first couple of years, I lent my support in a variety of ways, from editing, to allowing the Emerald to repost columns I wrote for the Seattle Globalist, to facilitating community workshops to engage and train new contributors, to working with the Emerald’s first class of interns. As the voice of the publication began to take shape, I also started writing pieces specifically for the Emerald.
“Who’s afraid of Rainier Beach?” was written for the Seattle Globalist, but was the piece that showed us all how hungry the South End was to participate in the conversation around how the area and its residents are viewed by the rest of Seattle. I continued to write for the Globalist, but I realized that when it came to talking about Rainier Beach, I wanted to do it at the Emerald.
I wrote three pieces that debuted in the South Seattle Emerald (and were republished in the Seattle Globalist and Real Change, respectively): “Brad and Becky from Bellevue are Coming to Rainier Beach,” “The Displacement Tax: An Update from Gentrification Ground,” and most recently, “Rainier Beach—A Beautiful, Safe Place to Live?”
These stories are what I think of as some of my most expensive writing. Not because I was paid a lot to write them (though I was compensated fairly, because that is a core value of the Emerald) but because of what it cost me to live these experiences and share them publicly.
The story of my home is a deeply personal one, but the story of gentrification is one that is deeply personal to many communities, especially for BIPOC folks who have been disproportionately redlined and displaced. In sharing my story and perspective, I broke the taboos that keep us silent about the intersections of classism and racism within our city structures and policies. I don’t think I said anything new, but what was new was that when I said it through the Emerald, it sparked a much-needed public conversation. It got people thinking.
The comments section is a place most journalists fear. When we post our work in public, it is expected that people will have opinions, and during my tenure as a journalist, I experienced the full spectrum, from the cheerleaders to the skeptics to the folks just trying to connect and make sense of things to the violent vitriol of asshole trolls. It can be overwhelming.
What my mentors and teachers never explained to me is how writing becomes a time capsule. It shows you who you were and what you were thinking in a specific moment in time, and it can be a beautiful measure of growth. This is part of what makes it so vulnerable. What if you were wrong? What if what you wrote no longer reflects the person you’ve become and now your mistakes or unformed thoughts are out there for the world to critique? The comments section of the Emerald taught me humility, the value of good editors and fact checking, how to discern when to listen and learn, and when to ignore a troll. Even when it’s hard to read, it has been important to me to engage with and sometimes learn from the conversations my writing sparked.
I also felt honored to be heard and to see how many people felt moved by words enough to share their own Rainier Beach stories, to talk about the way gentrification has shaped their lives, and to propose solutions for moving forward. In addition to the comments section on the articles themselves, my neighbors read and posted my work on the Rainier Beach Facebook page, and wow, the conversations were gritty, combative, vulnerable, nuanced, divisive, and galvanizing.
As the South Seattle Emerald turns 8, I realize the gift of conversation is still one of the most important gifts it’s given the South End. This platform has given our community a voice, a multifaceted, nuanced representative space where all of our voices can be heard, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue to contribute to it. From Marcus’ dream, we’re building something meant to last.
Help us celebrate our 8th anniversary with our ‘Ripples & Sparks at Home’ virtual event on April 28 at 7 p.m. with Ijeoma Oluo, Charles Johnson, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, and our own Marcus Harrison Green — with the music of Shaina Shepherd and Intisaar, plus Emerald board member Lucas Draper will make a custom cocktail/mocktail with you to enjoy in the comfort of your own home. RSVP here!
Reagan Jackson is an award-winning journalist, multi-genre writer, activist, artist, and international educator with an abiding love of justice, spirituality, and creating community. She is the co-executive director of Young Women Empowered and the co-founder of Blackout Healing. Find out more at www.reaganjackson.com.
📸 Featured Image: Illustration by Haley Williams for the South Seattle Emerald.
Before you move on to the next story … The South Seattle Emerald is brought to you by Rainmakers. Rainmakers give recurring gifts at any amount. With over 1,000 Rainmakers, the Emerald is truly community-driven local media. Help us keep BIPOC-led media free and accessible. If just half of our readers signed up to give $6 a month, we wouldn't have to fundraise for the rest of the year. Small amounts make a difference. We cannot do this work without you. Become a Rainmaker today!