Taking a knee for justice

Football teams and their fans are conflicted over the practices of kneeling, sitting, joining arms, raising a fist, or staying in the locker room during the National Football League’s (NFL’s) pre-game national anthem ceremonies. The protests began in the wake of the videotaped police shootings of 2 young Black men, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.  To draw attention to these events and to issues of racism and injustice, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick declined to stand while the national anthem was being played at preseason games in 2016.  Over the past 2 football seasons, Kaepernick’s individual protest has gathered both support and condemnation.

Some wonder what the protests are accomplishing.  Back when it all started, in the summer of 2016, Garfield High School football team member Duncan King wondered the same thing. He offered some personal answers in his essay, “Kneeling for a Nation: How One Team’s Participation in a Nationwide Movement Developed into a Force for Local Civic Change.” The essay won a 2017 Stim Bullitt Civic Courage award – and a $5,000 scholarship – from the Seattle Public Library Foundation.

In his essay King discussed the aftermath of his team’s decision to kneel – media attention, Facebook likes, threats of violence (and actual violence), as well as shared introspection about why they chose to kneel: “Common themes were police violence against black males, school segregation and underfunding, and governmental and institutional racism.”  In addition to kneeling on the field, the Garfield team initiated an open discussion with the Seattle Police Department and were invited to the regional conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Local NFL players have also taken action.  Last month Seattle Seahawk Doug Baldwin joined NFL President Roger Goodell in a letter to the U.S. Congress that supported a bill to reduce minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.  One quote from the letter emphasizes the deep connections between NFL teams and their home communities:

“When the hometowns of our players or the 32 communities in which our clubs are located are hurting – whether from natural disasters or those that are man-made – so too are our teams. And like most Americans, our owners, players, coaches and clubs spring into action to help. Over the last two seasons, one particular issue that has come to the forefront for our players and our teams is the issue of justice for all…. The bottom line is, that we all want to make our communities better.”

To provide a platform for maintaining a clear focus on free speech and collective action, Seahawks player Michael Bennett joined other athletes in founding Athletes for Impact (A4I), a new organization to “build an inclusive and global network of athletes committed to equity and social change.” Bennett’s reach extends beyond an elite circle of athletes: a recent pregame ESPN video featured his volunteer work with youth at King County’s Juvenile Detention Facility.

On the field and off, in Seattle and across the nation, football players find themselves in an unfamiliar and possibly uncomfortable spotlight.  American heroes by definition, until recently all they had to do was play the game.  Now, under intensive scrutiny by the media and even the President, they’re having to take a stand.


Essay submissions for the 2018 Stimson Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship Competition will be accepted from January 1 to March 15. More information can be found at the Seattle Public Library Foundation.

Communities Count provides data on racial disparities for almost every indicator, including income, wealth, on-time graduation, and public safety.  In 2011-2015, the homicide rate among King County Blacks was 5.2 times the county average (forthcoming on Communities Count).  And in 2016, race/ethnicity/ancestry accounted for 62% of the motivations for hate crimes in reported by Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs. Communities Count will update hate crime data for King County in early 2018.

“Home: Lost and Found” storytelling workshops

The Moth, a popular public radio show that also puts on stage events and open-mic StorySLAMs in Seattle, is hosting free storytelling workshops to develop the storytelling skills of family homelessness providers and advocacy organizations in the Puget Sound Region. “We’re looking for people who have a personal story related to homelessness, who want to learn how to craft it into a compelling 5-minute story that can be told in front of a live audience.” Workshops will be held in February and March. Click here for details and a link to application information. Applications will be accepted through Feb. 6, 2015.
Communities Count tracks student homelessness in King County school districts. Collectively, close to 6,200 students were homeless in 2012-13. The overall rate of homelessness (1 in 44 students) masked large differences across districts — from Tukwila (1 in 10 students) to Mercer Island (2 in 1,000).

Early Learning Symposium at Town Hall

King County is ringing in the New Year with a January 7th Town Hall event designed to catalyze action on behalf of the county’s youngest children. Brain science tells us that quality early learning environments help children develop their full potential. Attendees of this event can participate in building and sustaining a vibrant early learning community that will benefit our region for generations.

Date: Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Time: 10 am to 12:30 pm
Place: Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Avenue, Seattle 98103

To register for the symposium, please click here.

Guest presenters include:
• Dr. Patricia Kuhl, nationally renowned researcher and Co-Director, University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Science (I-LABS)
• Mark K. Shriver, President of Save the Children Action Network (SCAN)
• Roberto Rodriguez, Deputy Assistant to the President for Education, The White House
• King County Executive Dow Constantine
• Seattle Mayor Ed Murray
• Leaders from local community-based organizations, non-profits, and early childcare providers

For background on the benefits of quality early learning, watch an 8-minute video in which economist and Nobel laureate James Heckman explains why Childcare is a Social and Economic Issue.

If you are an elected official and would like to participate in the working lunch associated with this event, please reach out to david@bezosfamilyfoundation.org.

The event is proudly supported by the Bezos Family Foundation, Kindering, The Road Map Project, SOAR, Open Arms Perinatal Services, and United Way of King County.

The ever-shrinking middle class

America’s middle class is on the move — but it’s not moving up. According to the Center for American Progress, only 45% of American families qualify as middle class, down from almost 57% in 1979. And research by a U.C. Berkeley economist found that during the “economic recovery” years of 2009 to 2012, the richest 1% of Americans received 95% of all income gains. In King County, economic recovery has been strikingly uneven by race: by 2013, the proportion of Black households with income below the Federal Poverty Threshold was up to 35%, significantly higher than all other race/ethnicity groups except those identifying themselves as “other race.” Communities Count presents data on wealth and income inequality in the Income section.

Income inequality shrinks the American middle class.

Unemployment is down; poverty isn’t.

Unemployment in King County has plunged from peak of 9.6% in early 2010 to only 4.5% in October of 2014. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Except that poverty hasn’t budged. As this month’s update of poverty data shows, 12% of King County residents of all ages and 16% of children under the age of 18 still live in poverty — exactly the same rates as in 2010. Because more people live in King County now than in 2010, though, these percentages include about 20,000 more residents in poverty. Updated data on poverty by race/ethnicity show a similar lack of improvement. Especially troublesome is the finding that more than 1 in 3 Blacks in King County was living below the Federal Poverty Threshold in 2013 — a significantly higher rate than that of almost all other racial/ethnic groups. While beneficial to many, our county’s “economic recovery” is decidedly uneven.