“Doug gave me a standard as a Black man,” said Merman Sallier, a music producer and digital instructor from Seattle who grew up in the Central District and attended Zion Preparatory Academy with the class of ’91. “Just the way he carried himself and the way he communicated with people — his cars, his relationship with his wife, his relationship with his children, just everything. He was someone that me and a lot of my friends looked up to as the standard. At the time, the only other Black men to emulate in his community were drug dealers and pimps.” But even “those guys looked up to Doug,” said Sallier.
One of the region’s premier music education nonprofits is now enrolling young people in jazz lessons for the school year, continuing its mission of teaching jazz as “a quintessential Black American art form” and expanding its focus on equitable access and instruction. Tuition is pay-what-you-can, with no questions asked.
Seattle JazzED is signing up students in grades 4 through 12 for classes that run quarterly from mid-October through June. Students of all skill levels are welcome, and instruments are available to borrow free of charge. A blended in-person and virtual program will allow younger, unvaccinated learners to participate from home.
Registration is open online at the organization’s website. Instruments include flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, guitar, bass, and drums, as well as two new options this year: violin and cello.
Africatown-Central District hosted the Malcolm X Hip Hop Soul Rally at Jimi Hendrix Park on the afternoon of Saturday, May 22, to honor the life and legacy of the late Black activist. The event was open to the public and featured live performances from local Black artists as well as vendor opportunities for Black business owners all gathered in community. Throughout the event, emcees emphasized the importance of investing in local Black businesses and celebrating local youth and their passions.
Organizations involved with putting the event together included King County Equity Now, Africatown community organizers, Black Dot, The African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, Black Action Coalition, and many others.
Yesterday morning, as I reluctantly tuned in to the Derek Chauvin trial, which absurdly feels like the George Floyd trial, my Twitter timeline was ambushed with #DaunteWright. As Chauvin was on trial in Minneapolis for the murder of George Floyd, another Black man, Daunte Wright, was murdered by a police officer a few miles away in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.
Daunte Wright was 20 years old. One year removed from being a teenager. On Sunday, he was pulled over for driving a car with expired registration and breaking a Minnesota law that prohibits motorists from hanging items like air fresheners from their rearview mirrors. That traffic violation ultimately cost him his life.
I tried not to watch the video. I didn’t need to see it. I heard how it started and I had heard how it ended. Why put myself through the trauma? I shouldn’t have. But I did. And now, like so many of you, like the family and infant child that Wright has left behind, I am left sharing the communal trauma yet again.
(This article is co-published with The Seattle Times.)
Listening to Lynda Wolff, I want to roar at the world to remember her murdered son’s life. Four years ago, Latrel Williams was shot multiple times while returning to his Lakeridge home.
In the aftermath of his death, I spotted no signs at marches acknowledging his life, no public speeches given in his honor, and no politicians furiously spouting his name to earn social justice merits.
But Lynda still lost a son. Latrel Jr. (LJ) lost a father. And I lost a friend.
At the end of February, in partnership with WA Therapy Fund Foundation and The Root of Our Youth, KCTS 9 put on an event called “Well Beings: Centering the Mental Health of Black Youth.” The event is part of a virtual Well Beings Initiative “tour” that features young leaders across the U.S. who are working to destigmatize mental illness in their communities.
The night’s event was hosted by Deaunte Damper, vice president of the WA Therapy Fund Foundation. He facilitated a discussion that delved into the topics of daily trauma that Black youth endure due to racism, the stigma attached to seeking mental health treatment, and how young Black people can advocate for the services they deserve.
On Wednesday evening, Feb. 17, the Academy for Creating Excellence (ACE) hosted their second installment of the Black Educators Cafe, a series dedicated to helping Black people in the education field find community and support.
In August of 2020, ACE received a grant from the City of Seattle as part of an initiative to invest in youth mentorship and diversity programs. By partnering with the City’s Department of Education and Early Learning, ACE has been able to expand its reach beyond students and has begun working with Black educators as well.
These events were created to provide a safe space for Black educators, providing a virtual place where they can discuss issues that their Black students face and also their experiences working in a predominantly white field.
Three years ago on Orcas Island during the first-annual African American Males Weekend — while pretending to be asleep on one of the Camp Orkila bunk beds — Chukundi Salisbury overheard the innocent chatter of his son’s bunkmates take a turn as they thought their cabin leader had fallen asleep. Though he knew all the boys’ parents, he was troubled by the eleven- and twelve-year-olds’ need to stretch the truth in order to seem reckless, and by the way that they all fell in line with whoever stretched the truth farthest. Even his own son, Chukundi Jr, said things that seemed out of character to his dad.
Salisbury eventually dozed off feeling like the boys in his cabin needed representation, they needed … to see themselves in stories that deal with the complexity of their lives. The next day, while almost 200 Black boys mingled around a bonfire, Salisbury could imagine them reading high-interest texts or comics in their cabins, then coming out to the amphitheater bonfire to share their reactions and to sort through tough issues together. He tried to imagine the same thing happening in their classrooms. He tried to imagine Black boys reading stories written with them in mind, in classrooms where they feel appreciated, being comfortable sharing their actual feelings in front of others. But he knew that this is rarely the case.
My name is Ramone Johnson and I’m 17 years old. I’m from Illinois originally, and ever since I’ve been to school out here in Washington, any situation in school has been blasted way out of proportion. I want to share my experience to help students and teachers understand each other and learn to value every student and make schools a better environment for everyone.
I started recognizing I was being treated differently as one of the only Black kids in my Seattle middle school. The school administration and security guards came as hard as they possibly could towards me. If I called out the way they were treating me differently than other students, they would call me disruptive and send me out of the classroom. It’s like they wanted to prove a point when I refused to adapt to their environment. I watched them give some students extra time to finish assignments, and they wouldn’t do the same for me. What made him better than me? We were both students that needed help. Instead, they’d treat me like a terrorist. They’d have the cop and school security guard following me around all day and blame me for things I didn’t do.