The South Seattle Emerald’s founder and publisher, Marcus Harrison Green, often says that we’re “flying the plane while we’re building it,” which is an apt description. But after more than seven years of struggle and dedication, the Emerald is pleased to take a giant step forward. This week, the Emerald is posting the job description for the newly created Executive Director position. The person filling this position will manage the Emerald while Marcus steps away from day-to-day operation but remains the Emerald’s publisher.
Geographically, the Puget Sound region is well known for its beautiful landscapes. There’s no shortage of stunning views from majestic mountains to expansive bodies of waters leading to the Pacific Ocean. The other gem of the area is the vibrant community of prolific writers. Charles Johnson is one of many accomplished authors who have impacted the literary world. Johnson is the kind of artist who keeps a notebook handy, so he’s always prepared to write down thoughts and ideas to be polished and used later.
The University of Washington professor emeritus has published more than two dozen books over the years. He’s also a screenwriter, essayist, and cartoonist. But he may be most well-known for his historical novel Middle Passage, which won the National Book Award in 1990. One of his most recent projects was guest editing the June issue of the Chicago Quarterly Review (CQR). It’s the first time the review has focused solely on Black literature. The anthology features new works of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and art. It’s available for purchase now for $16. In this Q&A, Johnson talks about being a part of the milestone and much more.
Community members across Seattle are celebrating Ron Chew for a career totally dedicated to his community as a journalist, advocate, and fundraiser for Seattle’s International District. Since the mid-1970s, he has worked as editor of the International Examiner, director of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific Experience, and currently as the executive director of the International Community Health Services Foundation (ICHS) for Seattle’s Chinatown International District (CID). Chew will retire from ICHS on Jan 1 after leading it the entirety of the past decade.
In a recent Emeraldarticle, Glenn Nelson aptly described Ron’s journalistic focus: “Chew practiced his craft largely on a concrete island isolated from the rest of Seattle by railroad tracks and the I-90 and I-5 freeways.”
Crumbling brick buildings litter a once thriving business district. Two-story homes blackened with soot sit boarded up and abandoned. Children find pipes and needles in sandboxes. Twenty students share five books in a freezing classroom … no heat. No food tonight, just too expensive. No new shoes — wear your older sibling’s pair and line the holes with newsprint. This is America: Late ‘70s and ‘80s. To be clear, this is America’s urban ghettos: Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, and yes, even Seattle. One generation earlier, much of Black America fled the vicious Jim Crow south seeking safety and opportunity in the north only to find itself pinned into economic wastelands with no capital and little opportunity for growth. And it is within this context that hip hop was born. During my interview with Daudi Abe, a Seattle Central College professor and the author of Emerald Street: A History of Hip Hop in Seattle, he shared his thoughts on hip hop and its political and cultural impact.
Abe, who was born and raised in Seattle, teaches a class on the history of hip hop at Seattle Central College. Most of his students are in their late teens and early 20s, and they have a hard time understanding the context from which hip hop was born, he said. But context is key to understanding why hip hop survived and thrived while other music genres such as disco faded into history.
The whole thing just kind of snowballed on Ron Chew — the book writing and the running. One day revealed to him a rapturous synergy. He realized that the running — the moving — jarred things in his brain: memories, organization, solutions.
Down the home stretch of completing his book, Chew vowed to run 10 miles. Every morning. Every day, until his book was finished. One day he surmised that 10 miles was so close to a half marathon, he increased his mileage. And then he determined he should do them at a swifter pace.