Seattle Activists Turn Outrage Into Action On MLK Day | KUOW News and Information

Seattle Activists Turn Outrage Into Action On MLK Day

Jan 18, 2016

Seattle may have race and social justice as part of its mission, but the work isn't finished, say local leaders. They came together with citizens Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. to talk about what still needs to be done.


It started in the morning with outrage. Local civil rights activist Marissa Jenae Johnson spoke to reporters on a sidewalk corner. She gained fame for interrupting Bernie Sanders when he was here.

Johnson: “What we see in this white progressive utopia is that black people are still enslaved. They are still brutalized. That’s why black resistance in Seattle is so key.”

Marissa Jenae Johnson
Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Later in the day, people met in workshops at Garfield High School to take that kind of anger and use it to fuel social change. 

Elmer Dixon is a former Black Panther. He asked people in his workshop, what are you going to do?

Dixon: “If you have the will and the determination, and you’ve identified the problem, you need to begin to organize. Don’t wait. Don’t say ‘Ah, I can’t do it, 'cause I don’t have 10,000 voices.’ Get up off -- excuse me -- get up off your ass and do something.”

In the audience, Martin Wilcox responded to Dixon’s call.

Wilcox: “I think you know for me, I'm going to work with youth. That's really my passion. I have a great job and I'm a veteran, I'm this and I'm that. But when I really look at my life, where I feel like I'm being led is to enlighten men as to who they really are. I think that's the burning question of every person, who am I?”

Wilcox said when he was a kid, the signs of white people’s success were all around him.

Wilcox: “The average white kid knows who he is. He looks at a building, even money.”

It’s true, most of the people on our national currency are old white dudes.

In contrast, Wilcox said young black men feel pressured to fit a stereotype, to be a tough guy.

Wilcox: “You know, and we watch people get all these opportunities that we don’t get because we’re more invested in a stereotype because we don’t know our real history. Who we really are.”

Wilcox wants to teach black youth about their history.

Former Black Panther Elmer Dixon praises Martin Wilcox (near the back) for his interest in teaching black youth their history
Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The former black panther Dixon said that’s important.

Dixon: “That’s how you undo institutionalized racism. You give these young black kids identity and worthiness.”

After the workshops, people gathered in a gym at Garfield to rally before the big annual MLK Day march. Local rapper Draze celebrated the day’s work by calling people to put their fists up.

And from there, people marched by the hundreds down to the Federal Building.