Dear McGinn Camp, Name That Black, Iconic, Historic Civil Rights Leader…Need a HINT?!
Wednesday Seattle Mayoral Candidate Mike McGinn held a morning press conference at the Columbia City light rail station to discuss his transportation plan, which includes- heck, this isn’t about that so let’s skip ahead.
The media was alerted to this event Tuesday when the “all volutneer” McGinn Camp sent out its press release. It listed the location of the press conference as “Empire Way S and S Edmunds St.”
It’s one thing for an internet mapping service to mis-name this well known Seattle street. It is another entirely for anyone who has lived in or around Seattle to do it.
It’s dawned on me that many of you, actually, may have never even heard of Empire Way, and for good reason- the name empire way is so old it hasn’t even been used in the 21st century– now c’mon.
Empire Way was renamed (after a long battle and tons of advocacy) in 1982 in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
That’s right, that long street known as MLK Way used to be known as Empire Way (which sounds as trife as Pac Hwy, doesn’t it?).
According to wiki, as of ’08 more than 700 American Cities have streets named for the famed civil rights leader, and it actually lists Seattle’s as one of the more “prominent” examples.
There’s really no reason why one shouldn’t know that Empire Way is actually MLK Way, I mean, unless of course you’re just blissfully unaware (that’s my dad’s code phrase for “White and ignorant” (you can’t yell at me- my dad’s white)) of what the “other side of town” looks like.
I am certain that some people will accuse me of looking for something that isn’t there, of making a big deal out of nothing, nitpicking, bashing, being a hater, ect, but this gaffe says a few things:
~Whether it was McGinn or a member of his camp, this error suggests that attention to detail isn’t their strong suit. Also, the elected officials I respect the most have that respect, in part, because they hire people who are smarter than them.
~I think it is very ironic that McGinn can, in one breath, rally the troops behind the “controversy” of the AWV and the surface vs tunnel nonsense, but somehow he missed what happened in the hood when Sound Transit announced that it was going to displace businesses and homes to go with a surface light rail option when we (I say we because yes, I lived on MLK pre light rail) wanted a tunnel. Not only did we want a tunnel we had viable reasons for wanting a tunnel. Sound Transit (and by relation the City of Seattle) decided the “better fiscal option” was to put light rail straight down the center of MLK Way.
~It’s insensitive. At a time when the south end was 70% Black, the renaming (and reclaiming) of Empire Way was something accomplished by the community. It was a statement about so many things, including the movement and the reality of life for thousands of Black families living in Seattle at the time.
~Not only was this significant for Seattle’s Black community, this is an obvious part of Seattle history
I know that Seattle enjoys thinking of itself as progressive and liberal and “tolerant”, but the truth is Seattle has a history as complex as the south when it comes to race and civil rights, so having him visit the city, renaming streets, parks, counties, ect for him, all of those things truly represent our efforts to honor the man who was King.
Dr. King only ever visited Seattle once; November 8-11th, 1961. Thousands attended his handful of speeches, welcoming this young, bright, hopeful leader with open arms. But King faced racism here as well:
“Arrangements were made for Dr. King to speak at First Presbyterian Church because Mount Zion would not be large enough to handle the numbers expected. First Presbyterian Church canceled the oral agreement to rent the sanctuary to Mount Zion just weeks before King’s scheduled arrival and shortly after advertisements of his lecture were circulated…” ~History Link
My grandparents have told me countless times of MLK’s visit to Seattle and what it meant, their descriptions vivid enough to paint a clear picture which has stuck with me my entire life.
So, I don’t get it. I don’t get how the McGinn camp could make a mistake like this, and I stick with it being a telling one- just one of those things you sort of file away and consider along with any other hints when considering who a person is and what they stand for (or his potential team).
I’m not “for” Mallahan and “against” McGinn. What I am for is the elction of a Mayor who represents the entire city, not just its most influential.
I don’t think McGinn gives a sh*t about Seattle- the only thing he cares about is the AWV- he wants to go down in history as the man who saved us from the tunnel option. As I have said before, that’s not the issue.
I am disturbed at how much lip service the McGinn camp gives to issues that only impact special interest groups. McGinn is so detached from human service issues that he cut corners and hired brought on Dorsal Plants (who ran for city council) to head up those issues for the campaign. He’s so clueless on issues effecting youth in the south end he thinks bullying his way onto the stage during a youth march makes a positive impression (oops, your privilege is showing!). His views on gun violence are, at best, shallow, and at worst, frightening. I have heard of no plan to bring real jobs and authentic economic growth to the south end, and how the hell does expanding light rail help residents in south Seattle? It doesn’t.
It never will.