Sept. 6 commemorates Cynthia A. Green Day in South King County’s Skyway community. For nearly two decades, Cynthia Green served as the operations manager for the then West Hill Family Center. However, she meant monumentally more to the community than that title suggests. Transcending her position, Cynthia functioned as the last line of defense for community members facing eviction and utility shutoffs, provided counsel to domestic violence survivors, helped former gang members transition to better lives, and served as a trusted sounding board to countless community members who sought out her guidance.
In 2014 the West Hill Family Center was renamed the Cynthia A. Green Center in her honor.
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 Cynthia Green
Help the Emerald create more “ripples and sparks” throughout the community! I’m the publisher’s mother and an Emerald founding board member. I’ve lived in Seattle all my life. Over most of those 77 years, the brilliance, diversity, and beauty of our community lacked a constant spotlight — that was until the Emerald came along. I’ve seen my son and the Emerald team sacrifice sleep, health care, self-care, and better salaries elsewhere to keep the Emerald shining a light on our community. I’d never ask anyone to make that kind of sacrifice, but I do ask to do what you can today to support the Emerald as a Rainmaker, or sustaining donor, during their 8th anniversary campaign, Ripples & Sparks at Home, April 20–28. Become a Rainmaker today by choosing the “recurring donor” option on the donation page!
—Cynthia “Mama” Green, The Publisher’s Mama & Rainmaker
So, another year has gone by. I am so grateful that the South Seattle Emerald is still here to serve our community due to the dedicated leadership team, writers, photographers, board, and community. I’m also grateful that I have had the opportunity to see and experience something rare during my lifetime, largely because of the Emerald’s coverage.
As we come upon the close of International Women’s Month, we at the Emerald feel indebted to recognize three women who have been integral to the growth of our values and success. In the last eight years, the Emerald has come so far, and we know we could never have done it without so many of the amazing women on our team. But Cynthia “Mama” Green, Bridgette Hempstead, and Devin Chicras in particular deserve special recognition for their contributions. Green, Hempstead, and Chicras have been with us from day one, and we appreciate them beyond words.
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.
Cynthia A. Green has been a pillar in the Skyway community for decades. Her work and dedication to serving her community while working at the Renton Area Youth Services family center led to the center being renamed the Cynthia A. Green Family Center in her honor in 2014. In that same year, King County Councilmember Larry Gossett proclaimed Sept. 6 to be Cynthia A. Green Day across the county.
This year, in celebration of Cynthia A. Green Day, the Skyway Coalition created a series of social media posters with tributes from community leaders, colleagues, and friends of Green.
“We are very conscious of our history,” Rebecca Berry, manager of the Skyway Coalition says. “We’ve gone through decades of advocacy and work to try to get the support and resources that our community needs.”
The Skyway area has probably never been so thankful for its hilltop setting as enough tears flowed this past Saturday to precipitate a flood of biblical proportions when the community honored one of its matriarchs in a rousing building dedication ceremony.
“She is the most loving, caring person I’ve ever meet. She is the most selfless person I’ve ever been around!” gushed Harriette Moore, who offered but one in a grand chorus of echoes that lauded the woman whose name will be permanently affixed to the former Renton Area Youth and Family Services West Hill Family Center, Cynthia Ann Green.
The 69 year old retiree spent most of the balmy Saturday afternoon unsuccessfully fighting back tears as the building- located at the intersection of 76th Avenue and S 127th Street in Skyway- that served as her workplace for almost 20 years was designated the Cynthia A. Green Family Center.
Though her title officially read Program Assistant during her 18 year tenure at the Center, most in attendance at the dedication- which included a large swath of community members her work directly impacted, former colleagues, and local luminaries- would have found that akin to referring to Steve Jobs prosaically as a marketer.
Green’s days at the center rarely conformed to a 9-5 schedule as she spent long hours graciously assisting members of the Skyway community in everything from fighting home evictions, to securing enough money to keep utilities on, to providing food for those who had none- many times sharing her own lunch with those who came to the Center starving- to providing a pillar of strength in the midst of personal tragedy.
“Cynthia was your best friend. Your shoulder to cry on. The person who lifted you up when you had a bad day. She just brought out the best in everyone who came into contact with her. Everyone in Skyway still just loves her.” Shared Sherry Dione, a daily visitor to the center.
Confirmed Barb Wiley-Taylor, a long time colleague of Green’s. “I’ve been waiting for years to celebrate Cynthia; it’s so easy to celebrate her. This is long overdue. She’s such an incredible person who has given so much to the community. I’m glad we’re able to celebrate her!”
The celebration- which was a lively affair that featured the reading of an original poem written specifically for the occasion by award winning poet Peggy Williams, a performance from Seattle R&B sensation Shaprece, a proclamation by King County Councilmember Larry Gossett that declared it Cynthia Anne Green Day across the county, and frequent eruptions of applause as what seemed like an endless procession of speakers shared what Green personally meant to them – almost took place without its guest of honor in attendance.
Upon being forced to retire from her position at the center in February in order to care for her ailing mother, Green requested that the community and her colleagues at the center do nothing in recognition of her, and instead parcel out any money they had intended to spend on a celebration to families in the community who demonstrated economic need.
The modest mother of five, who abhors the spotlight, had actually vowed to herself not to attend any ceremony that was planned in her honor.
“I really didn’t want them to make a fuss over me. There are so many people that need help in the community that I thought they should just give any money they were going to spend on me to them.” Said Green. “Up until about an hour before the ceremony I was certain that I wasn’t going, but my husband convinced me that the community really wanted me to be there, and I’d be letting them down if I didn’t attend.”
The celebration’s ad hoc group of organizers included a myriad of friends, associates, and co-workers who Green had amassed during her time at the Center. They were able to construct a novel solution that both honored her request to help needy families and satisfied the communities desire to commemorate her accomplishments.
In addition to the renaming of the building, they founded the Cynthia A. Green Scholarship Fund that will aide families within the community in meeting their basic needs and will be managed by Renton Area Youth and Family Services- the local organization that continues to operate the Center.
All the day’s transpirings came as an immense surprise to the guest of honor, as she had not been made privy to any of the grand gestures the community planned to bestow on her. “I’m utterly shocked.” An overwhelmed Green said through tears as she reflected on the day’s events. “I just thought that people would get up and say a few things about me. I had no idea that they were going to name the building after me and start a fund in my name. I…I can’t believe all of this is happening!”
And although it had been months since the honoree had stepped foot into the building that now bears her name prior to Saturday, her impact and legacy within the community surely would have endured even without her names inscription on one of Skyway’s oldest buildings.
“There’s not a day that someone doesn’t come up here asking for Cynthia, even though she’s been gone for a little while. There isn’t a day that
someone doesn’t tell a story about her, or recount a memory about what she did for them.” recounted Cynthia A Green Family Center Director Morgan Wells.
Added Ginney Ross, a member of the group that Green founded at the center to help support grandparent’s who were sole guardians of their
grandchildren: “She always had this smile on her face that forced you to smile back, no matter how horrible your day had been, and she always has a solution to your problem. We know that there are angels on earth because of people like Cynthia.”
Disclosure: The writer of this article is the proud son of Cynthia Green
Photo Credit: Egan Kolb
Amplifying the Authentic Narratives of South Seattle