My Emerald Story: Whose Voices Do We Prioritize?

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 Paul Benz the Younger

Help the Emerald create more “ripples and sparks” throughout the community! I’m the publisher’s mother and an Emerald founding board member. I’ve lived in Seattle all my life. Over most of those 77 years, the brilliance, diversity, and beauty of our community lacked a constant spotlight — that was until the Emerald came along. I’ve seen my son and the Emerald team sacrifice sleep, health care, self-care, and better salaries elsewhere to keep the Emerald shining a light on our community. I’d never ask anyone to make that kind of sacrifice, but I do ask to do what you can today to support the Emerald as a Rainmaker, or sustaining donor, during their 8th anniversary campaign, Ripples & Sparks at Home, April 20–28. Become a Rainmaker today by choosing the “recurring donor” option on the donation page!

—Cynthia “Mama” Green, The Publisher’s Mama & Rainmaker 

The Emerald is local news I trust and a place I enjoy going to for information on what is happening in the greater Seattle area. I also trust that it is prioritizing local, marginalized voices and news stories, which is particularly important to me.

For me, the Emerald is a source of hope, healing, and repair. For one, it pays young authors not only for their perspectives and reporting, but also their poetry. As bleak, scary, and sad as the times can be, cultural greats always found hope and healing in the next generation. James Baldwin, toward the end of his life, saw hope in young people. And so did Einstein, who reportedly once said, “The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them,” and the verses from Sweet Honey in the Rock’s 1988 song “Ella’s Song” call for a world where young people come first:

That which touches me most is that I had a chance to work with people 
Passing on to others that which was passed on to me 

To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail 
And if I can but shed some light as they carry us through the gale 

We who believe in freedom cannot rest, 
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

A society that neglects its young people and the arts is on a fast track to ruin — and the Emerald seems to understand that. By uplifting young voices, the Emerald ventures to change the way things are done and right past wrongs, following the advice of these wise icons.

But, there are even more reasons I love the Emerald. Often, I hear about important news from the Emerald in my email inbox that either isn’t covered by other mainstream news outlets, or that I’ve unconsciously tuned out due to my weariness of the 24-hour profit-driven news cycle. So much news seems to thrive on conflict, sensationalism, domination, and people interrupting each other that certain voices and communities get lost in the chaos.

I’m so thankful for the BIPOC voices, immigrant voices, LGBTQIA+ voices I’ve found centered in the Emerald. As a person located at several intersections of privilege, and who laments the lack of empathy from billionaires and millionaires surrounded by so much poverty and oppression, I believe it’s critical to hear from those historically marginalized and silenced by the self-referential blind spots of my own worldview. I want a better Seattle, a better King County, a better country and world for my children and all children, and I trust the Emerald shares this desire through its centering of marginalized voices.

I wish The Emerald and its staff congratulations on this anniversary. May your work and our work together be blessed in the days ahead. We need you just as we need one another.

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!

Paul Benz the Younger is a mental health, addiction, grief, and trauma chaplain of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He works in Seattle as a street minister with Operation Nightwatch and a chaplain at Harborview Medical Center. He lives in King County with his family.

📸 Featured Image: Illustration by Haley Williams for the South Seattle Emerald.

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