My Emerald Story: A Legacy of Community

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 Marcus Harrison Green

Join me in helping the Emerald create ripples and sparks everywhere! Information is Power! Imagine media for, by, and accountable to the community — thankfully, you don’t have to, because the Emerald already exists! As a founding board member living in a community so often treated as powerless, I’ve seen the Emerald grow to become a beacon of light that reminds us of our power, our wisdom, and our agency. But we can’t continue to do it without sustainable financial resources that allow us to thrive. Help us celebrate authentic community stories during the Emerald’s 8th anniversary campaign, Ripples & Sparks at Home, April 20–28, by becoming a recurring donor! 

—Bridgette Hempstead, Community Activist, Founding Board Member, & Rainmaker


I’ve reflected continuously on that word over the last couple of weeks. Today not only marks the celebration of the South Seattle Emerald’s eighth anniversary, but also my second to last day as its interim editor-in-chief and executive director. Next week, I will transition from the day-to-day operations of the Emerald to fully adopt the role of publisher as a part of the Emerald’s board of directors. 

As we celebrate eight years of incredible work that this overachiever of a publication has done in this community and beyond, I must confess that it’s been hard for me to avoid wondering how my time here will be remembered, knowing I’ll soon pass from the realm of the “who’s who?” to the realm of the “who’s he?” 

The Emerald has consumed nearly my entire life since its founding eight years ago. That carries with it a sense of desperation to know with some certainty that what you did mattered. That your time here meant something. That you were an indelible part of this story. 

But then, the more I reflected on the Emerald’s history, the more I realized how much I was allowing myself to be seduced by a distorted definition of legacy. As tempting as this definition is to a sensitive ego, I had to bolt as far and as fast away from it as I could. It’s a foolish and widespread myth that one person alone can ever truly be responsible for a success that was, in fact, achieved collectively. 

The story of the Emerald is one that has been written with the words, deeds, sacrifices, grace, and passion of so many people throughout these eight years. 

It began with my mother and father who believed in the mission of this publication enough that they allowed their 30-something-year-old son to move back into their home to pursue his dream, even as they faced ridicule from their friends. Their living room turned into the Emerald’s first base of operations, and there my mother Cynthia would proofread my articles for typos while nagging me to finally eat something for the day. 

It continued with the No New Youth Jail activists, who would speak exclusively to this publication, even with a paltry audience size of “me, myself, and my mother.” They trusted us to not dismiss or distort their words or views while fairly telling their story. That trust resulted in tremendous audience growth for our publication and relevance throughout the city. 

The Emerald’s early story is a tale of bosses like Kelly Powers, at the League of Women Voters, and MC Ptolemy, at Big Brothers Big Sisters, who allowed our only reporter at the time (yours truly) to duck out of his part-time gigs as an administrative assistant and donation bin sorter whenever he needed to cover a protest.

Our early story is a tale of wickedly talented writers and photographers like Sharon Ho Chang, Susan Fried, Chloe Collyer, and Alex Garland, who were willing to accept the small “honorariums” of $50 those part-time jobs allowed us to pay, because they believed in the Emerald.

We are a story of our first executive director, Marilee Jolin, who believed in the Emerald so much that she forewent any compensation for eight months, volunteering full-time until we could scrounge up $750 a month to pay her. 

This publication’s story is one of Miss Bridgette Hempstead and Sonya Hubbard, who opened their doors to my family in the third year of the Emerald after we were evicted from our home and temporarily had to sleep five people in a one-bedroom apartment. Had they not, there would be no Emerald today.

Our story is one of Reagan Jackson, Sonya Green-Ayears, Enrique Cerna, Jerry Large, Greg Hanscom, Tyrone Beason, Sarah Stuteville, Mark Baumgarten, Susan Gleason, and so many more, who freely gave their mentorship in writing, journalism, and life to novices.

The Emerald is a story of local businesses like The Station, Cafe Red, Red Wing Cafe, Lottie’s, and Beach Bakery, which allowed me to squat at their establishments all day when all I could afford was a cup of coffee and the free refills they offered.

Our magnificent tale is that of our current core team: Sharon Maeda, Jessie McKenna, Carolyn Bick, Lola E. Peters, Mike Davis, Megan Christy, Phil Manzano, Vee Hua, Marti McKenna, Mark Van Streefkerk, Sarah Goh, Patheresa Wells, Amanda Ong, Ben Adlin, Ari McKenna, Afrose Fatima Ahmed, and so many more. All of them could easily be pulling down lucrative salaries at Fortune 500 companies, working at larger publications, or enjoying retirement. Yet they choose to use their talents for the benefit of our community here each and every day. 

The Emerald is the story of people like Miss Alesia Cannady, a senior raising her grandchild in Skyway who, despite being on a fixed income and having little to donate, gives what she can to us every single month, without fail. 

We are a story of the grace, love, and hope that so many people have given me through my continued struggles with bipolar disorder and depression, and my mental breakdowns. Their support never wavered for the Emerald even when they were upset or frustrated with me.

We are a story of every single act of kindness, sacrifice, devotion, love, humility, and labor, provided by a generous community that has forged this special and rare gem.

And that is our legacy, one of community. And one far from over.

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!

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: Illustration by Haley Williams for the South Seattle Emerald.

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