My Emerald Story: A Community Worth Fighting For

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 Andrew Johnston

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 

Way back in 2014, I was introduced to Marcus Harrison Green at a community event at the now-bygone Hillman City Collaboratory. At this time, the South Seattle Emerald, still in its infancy, was little more than Marcus himself. He passionately explained its impetus and where he saw it going. We immediately started vibing on community journalism and countering The Seattle Times’ editorial board and other mainstream propaganda machines that consistently tip the scales of justice in favor of the rich and powerful. I was a young architect with no tangible connection to the world of journalism, but I recognized journalism’s power and was awakening to how this power was being abused to the detriment of my city and beyond. I also recognized the importance of Marcus’ work because it represented a solution, a path forward, a way to empower a community of folks so often misrepresented and held down. I left our conversation energized and excited about this new friend I had met. 

I knew I wanted to see Marcus’ dream succeed, but I was deeply immersed in my own design career back then and my days and evenings were full of studying for my licensing exams and working full-time. That’s when I got the fateful phone call that would set me on my Emerald path. I was driving home from work when Marcus rang. At that point, we had hung out a few more times since meeting at the Collaboratory and were becoming fast friends. I could hear the desperation in his voice as I answered the phone in traffic and he made his ask.

“Hey brother, I know this is super short notice, but do you think you could represent the Emerald at a Seattle Public Library event at 6:30 p.m. tonight?” he asked. My watch read 6 p.m.

He explained that he had double-booked himself and that the library was promoting the importance of community-based journalism in our city and that the Emerald needed to be there. The event was a live radio show broadcast showcasing local media organizations while promoting low-power FM radio and online news reporting. Based on our conversations, he believed I had the passion to represent the Emerald’s aspirations and to speak on the benefits of community journalism for 5 or 10 minutes on live radio. I was flattered, but I’m no public speaker and was not ready for this. So, sitting on I-5, I had to decide how to respond to my new friend’s bold request. I hesitated and considered ways to politely decline, but this request felt bigger than just some guy asking for a favor. His request felt like a doorway or a ladder being placed in front of me, and I felt that this decision could send ripples through my future. I knew stepping up would take effort and commitment, but it also represented a path forward, a path toward solutions, and at the very least, an opportunity to support one man’s attempt to uplift his community.

So, I swallowed my doubts and said yes to support Marcus, to the Emerald, and to a community worth fighting for.

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!

Andrew (AJ) Johnston (he/him) joined the Emerald board shortly after the Emerald’s first anniversary. He is a South Seattle-based architect specializing in residential and commercial projects. Andrew is an outspoken supporter of Black-led, community­-centered media as a way to speak truth to power and inspire positive change within communities in need. He is also a passionate volunteer and organizer with Social Justice Fund NW (SJF), where he is working to foster a network of BIPOC donors in Seattle and the greater NW area.

📸 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 around 1,000 Rainmakers, the Emerald is truly community-driven local media. Help us keep BIPOC-led media free and accessible.

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