Photo depicting protestors walking across a crosswalk carrying signs that read, "Listen to Educators, Listen to Students" and "Stop the Killings in the Philippines"

National Teach the Truth Rally Toured Historical Sites in the CID

by Ari Robin McKenna with photography by Chloe Collyer

For those who may find themselves within a sustained moment of historical hopelessness, recent Teach the Truth protest organizer and educator Bruce Jackson would like to point your attention back to the year 1919.

More of a “jumping-off point” reminding us of a need for action than a comparison, Jackson points to themes that are both “massive and consistent.” In 1919, the United States was coming out of a terrible pandemic (the Spanish flu) and blowback about masking had led to unnecessarily high death tolls during the third wave. There was a rash of horrific race riots called “The Red Summer” across the country in over three dozen cities, terrorizing communities and galvanizing resistance. Prohibition also began that year, and World War I had just come to an end. Women gained the right to vote after decades of struggle. Post-war labor tensions led to one-fifth of the nation’s workforce participating in strikes, and locally there was a general strike in Seattle that lasted five days. In the Chinatown-International District (CID), where the Teach the Truth rally was held June 12, 2022, the 2nd Avenue Extension was being built, displacing Chinatown from Pioneer Square to the CID’s current location.

The Teach the Truth rally was part of two nationwide days of action the second year running. It sprang up in response to what the Zinn Education Project says is legislation in 42 states that requires “educators to lie to students about the role of racism, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, and other forms of oppression throughout U.S. history.”

Seattle’s version is organized by a broad coalition of students, educators, and activists, and involves a walking tour of a neighborhood with frequent stops at sites of historical significance. June’s CID rally followed a March historical tour of the Central District, both involving a guide with a mic followed by a speaker wheeled through the streets.

Map of Pioneer Square and the Chinatown-International District with a blue line that shows the route of the Teach the Truth rally.
The route traveled by the Teach the Truth rally on June 12, 2022. Details about each stop below. Map by Alison Underdahl.

Organizers put together an information-packed 2-mile route, taking just over two hours to walk, that weaved through the CID, Pioneer Square, and down to the Marion Street Bridge before turning back towards the CID. The crowd, protected at street crossings and during speeches by the Seattle Bike Brigade, did not thin when someone shouted menacing obscenities from a pickup truck, or when they were heckled from an outdoor bar table, or as the afternoon shadows began to elongate. Instead, passersby temporarily swelled their ranks — stopping to listen as the cavalcade paused at a corner near them.

Jennifer Hogue, who teaches elementary school at B.F. Day Elementary School in Fremont and who brought her first-grade daughter along, said, “I’m just happy to be here. I teach fourth grade — which is Washington State history — and so I think it’s really important that our youngest kids learn the truth from the very beginning. That’s why we’re here.”

Here’s a recap of the stops and speakers, with highlights from a couple of the speeches:

A. Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, 719 S. King St.

Photo depicting Kaley Duong wearing an orange hooded sweatshirt speaking into a microphone as a crowd walks behind.
Kaley Duong, a recent grad of Meadowdale High School in Lynwood, reads a speech written by educator and activist Jesse Hagopian (who was unable to attend) about “Teaching Truth to Power.” (Photo: Chloe Collyer)

“In the aftermath of the horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson blamed the shooting on anti-racist teaching. He said, ‘We’ve stopped teaching values in so many of our schools. Now we’re teaching wokeness. We’re indoctrinating our children with things like [critical race theory], telling some children they’re not equal to others and they’re the cause of other peoples’ problems.’

“This desperate attempt to shield the weapons manufacturers and gun lobby from any culpability while attempting to blame the massacre on anti-racist education is a particularly vile kind of sophistry given that gun violence is now the leading cause of death for young people.”

—Kaley Duong, a recent graduate of Meadowdale High School in Lynwood, reading a speech written by educator and activist Jesse Hagopian

B. Hing Hay Park, 6th Avenue South and King Street

Photo depicting Bruce Jackson wearing a brown baseball cap with a raised fist embroidered on it speaking into a microphone.
Bruce Jackson, educator at Aki Kurose Middle School and Washington Ethnic Studies Now (WAESN) board member, spoke about the Red Summer of 1919. (Photo: Chloe Collyer)

“America in the summer of 1919 ran red with blood from racial violence, and yet today, 100 years later, not many people know it even happened … It was branded ‘Red Summer’ because of the bloodshed and amounted to some of the worst white-on-Black violence in U.S. history. Beyond the lives and family fortunes lost, it had far-reaching repercussions, contributing to generations of Black distrust of white authority. But it also galvanized Blacks to defend themselves and their neighborhoods with fists and guns; reinvigorated civil rights organizations like the NAACP and led to a new era of activism; gave rise to courageous reporting by Black journalists; and influenced the generation of leaders who would take up the fight for racial equality decades later.”

—Bruce Jackson, educator at Aki Kurose Middle School and board member of Washington Ethnic Studies Now (WAESN)

C. Potential CID Link Stop, 4th Avenue South

Photo depicting August Jackson wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and glasses speaking into a megaphone.
August Jackson, student at Western Washington University, spoke about the current proposal for a new CID link station. She spoke from the community’s preferred location for the new stop. (Photo: Chloe Collyer)

D. International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 37, 2nd Avenue South and South Main Street

Photo depicting Sharlyn Santiago speaking into a megaphone to a gathered crowd. Another individual stands next to them with a red sign that reads, "Pass the Philippine Human Rights Act, Kabataan Alliance."
Sharlyn Santiago of the Kabataan Alliance spoke about the assassination of two Filipino organizers in 1981 from the site where it happened. (Photo: Chloe Collyer)

E. Old King County Courthouse, 410 2nd Ave. Ext. S.

Photo depicting Siham Mohamed wearing a black headscarf and face mask while speaking into a megaphone.
Siham Mohamed, a Rainier Beach High School alum currently studying computer science and software at the University of Washington, spoke about the Spanish flu pandemic and how the top floor of the courthouse once housed influenza patients. (Photo: Chloe Collyer)

G. Skinner and Eddy Shipyard, Marion Street Bridge

Photo depicting Gabriel Prawl wearing a black jacket with the ILWU Local 52 logo on it holding a megaphone and documents addressing a crowd.
Gabriel Prawl, the first Black president of a Longshoreman’s Union in the PNW (ILWU Local 52) and current vice president, spoke about the general strike of 1919.

H. International Workers of the World Hall, 117 S. Washington St.

Photo depicting Darrin Hoop wearing a green baseball cap and a T-shirt with the Black Lives Matter at Schools logo speaking into a microphone to a gathered crowd.
Darrin Hoop, educator at Franklin High School, spoke from a literal soapbox in Pioneer Square about the Industrial Workers of the World, called the “Wobblies,” and about the general strike of 1919.

I. Co-operative Food Products Association, South Washington Street and 3rd Avenue South

Photo depicting Whitney Khan wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and pink baseball cap speaking into a microphone.
Whitney Khan, an educator at Franklin High School, spoke about the end of the general strike of 1919 and the lessons learned. (Photo: Chloe Collyer)

J. Japanese Labor Association, South Washington Street and 5th Avenue South

Photo depicting Renee Agatsuma wearing a red V-neck shirt with the Highline Education Association logo on it holding up a red megaphone.
Renee Agatsuma, biology teacher at Evergreen High School, spoke about the treatment of Japanese workers in the early 20th century. (Photo: Chloe Collyer)

Ari Robin McKenna worked as an educator and curriculum developer in Brooklyn, New York; Douala, Cameroon; Busan, South Korea; Quito, Ecuador; and Seattle, Washington, before settling in South Seattle. He writes about education for the Emerald. You can contact him through his website.

Chloe Collyer (they/them) is a Seattle-born photographer, photojournalist, and photo educator whose work is deeply connected to the history and marginalized communities of the Pacific Northwest. For the past decade, Chloe has taught photography to youth while freelancing for local and national editorial clients.

📸 Featured Image: Seattle’s version of the Teach the Truth rally is organized by a broad coalition of students, educators, and activists, and involves a walking tour of a neighborhood with frequent stops at sites of historical significance. (Photo: Chloe Collyer)

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