Headshot depicting Emijah Smith wearing a purple top and looking off into the distance

Meet Emijah Smith, 37th Legislative District Primary Candidate

by Nura Ahmed

To help our readers make more informed voting decisions ahead of the Aug. 2 primary election, South Seattle Emerald interviewed all four candidates for Position 2 of the 37th Legislative District. Each candidate’s Q&A portion presents their perspectives in their own words.

In addition to Emijah Smith, other 37th LD candidates include Andrew Ashiofu, Nimco Bulale, and Chipalo Street.

Born and raised in the Central District, Emijah Smith is a mother, community advocate, organizer, and healer. Deeply rooted in her community, Smith understands the level of work involved to ensure no one falls through the cracks. That dedication to community is exactly what pushed her to run for the 37th Legislative District.

Smith began her advocacy career at Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic (OBCC), where she worked on addressing the harms which come from hurtful systems of oppression, such as the war on drugs. When Smith saw how many Black families weren’t getting what they needed to heal themselves from the pitfalls of working within the health care system, she was inspired to pursue her master’s in public administration at the University of Washington. Straight out of graduate school, her heart pulled her back to OBCC, where her advocacy efforts continued to flourish; she later spent 11 years working with children and families of color as a community engagement manager at the Children’s Alliance. Smith is now chief of staff at King County Equity Now.

Smith has spent her whole life fighting for the community that raised her. Some of her other roles include: president of the Mercer International Middle School PTSA; board member of the Tubman Center for Health and Freedom; planning team member of the King County Child Well-Being Council; member of the Tabor 100; member of the Black Women’s Coalition To End Violence; and community stakeholder for both the King County Community Investment Budget Committee and King County Gathering Collaborative.

South Seattle Emerald: Describe yourself as a community member of the 37th District, and why your story makes you a unique candidate.

Emijah Smith: I am a born and raised 37th leader. Ever since I was a teen at Garfield High School, I have worked to restore and heal the harms our community experienced by the War on Drugs. I’ve been walking alongside families engaging in legislative advocacy for over 15 years, utilizing the power of our voice for meaningful change in our community.

SSE: What calls you to run for the 37th district?

Smith: We’ve made some strides forward, but there is much more to do. Our laws and policies need to catch up so we can achieve racial and social equity. I’ve seen what we can accomplish together, and I know that I can bridge a strong connection between the legislature and our community. 

SSE: What are the top three issues that are important to you and why?

Smith: My priorities are all rooted in achieving racial justice so that our diverse communities in the 37th District are safe, free, and thriving. My top issues include housing, health care, education, reform of the criminal legal system, and true community safety. [My] top three include:

  1. Access to housing for all. Housing provides families, elders, and all of us an opportunity to be safe and thrive. In our community, housing can prevent displacement, interrupt gentrification, and advance equity. It is key to our well-being.
  1. Full access to health care for Washingtonians including mental health and dental health care. Health care is a fundamental right. Everyone, no matter where they are from or what they look like, should have the care they need. Health care is one key part of creating equitable health outcomes for people in the 37th District. 
  1. Excellent, high-quality, equitable, welcoming public education for all our children of all abilities. I believe that education provides an opportunity to change circumstances for marginalized communities. My commitment to education is rooted in my commitment to racial equity, and I will champion policies that interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and advance justice and opportunity for all students. 

SSE: Why are you the best person to advocate for South Seattle in Olympia?

Smith: I am deeply rooted in this community. I have the historical and current context to understand the breadth of community needs, and my advocacy has resulted in victories that make our lives better within the 37th District, including millions in community investments. 

SSE: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Smith: I’m proud to be endorsed by King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay; family health leader Dr. Ben Danielson; Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales; State Reps. Tarra Simmons (23rd LD), Jesse Johnson (30th LD), Jamila Taylor (30th LD); Renton City Councilmember Kim-Khánh Văn; Seattle Port Commissioner Hamdi Mohamed; Seattle Chapter Black Panther Party cofounder Elmer Dixon; civil rights leader and former King County Councilmember Larry Gossett; 37th LD Democrats Sergeant at Arms Tandy Williams; [and] Rainier Beach leader Gregory Davis, among others.

SSE: Is there anything else you believe that South Seattle Emerald readers should know about you or your campaign?

Smith: I’m a person who takes care of their community and leaves it better than they found it. My volunteer roles include president of Mercer Middle School PTSA, where I work to support student and family voices and board member at Tubman Center for Health. As an education advocate, I was a champion of the current strategic plan of the Seattle Public Schools that invests in students further from educational justice. 

This run is not mine alone — it’s yours too. I look forward to earning your vote for state representative!

Emijah Smith lives in South Seattle, a few miles south of where she grew up in the Central District. You can visit her website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Support one of the 37th Legislative District candidates by voting in the Aug. 2 primary election. The deadline to register or change your address online is July 25, though you may also register and vote in person through election day. Confirm your voter registration now at VoteWA.gov.

This story was funded in part by a Voter Education Fund grant from King County Elections and the Seattle Foundation. The credit was inadvertently not included with the original publication of this story on July 20, 2022. 

Editors’ Note: After publishing the interview, Emijah Smith requested that we change the number of funds raised for community investments to “millions” rather than using a specific number.

Nura Ahmed is an organizer, writer, and artist based in Seattle and South King County.

📸 Featured Image: Emijah Smith is running for the 37th Legislative District. Photo courtesy of her campaign.

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