Participants explore ‘what’s next’ for addressing issues raised during Black in Edmonds series

Panelists in the fourth Black in Edmonds discussion included clockwise from upper left: Alicia Crank, Edwin Weary Sr. and Mikayla Weary, Michelle Osborne and Richard Taylor.

Listening. Empathy. Understanding. Those were among the suggested next steps for addressing issues raised during a series of online conversations on being Black in Edmonds.

Moderator Alicia Crank on Saturday afternoon hosted the last of the four-part series, recapping the last three listening sessions and asking the part four participants for their ideas on where to go from here.

Crank — a member of the Edmonds Planning Board, the Snohomish County Airport Commission, and Chief Development Officer at AtWork! — started the series of “listening sessions” in August, with the aim of giving Black residents and their non-Black allies and accomplices a chance to discuss their experiences. The series intentionally did not include a question-and-answer session from listeners.  “We don’t want this to be about answering other people’s questions but talking about what it is we feel like we need to talk about,” Crank said during the first session.

In part one (see our story here), Crank invited a group of five Black Edmonds residents to have a frank conversation about their experiences living in a mostly white community. Part two  (story here) focused on equity in education, police officers in schools and defining hate crime. Part three (story here) focused on allyship and being an accomplice.

In part four, Crank invited three new participants but also brought back a panelist from part one — Richard Taylor, a speaker, author and mental health consultant who has lived in Edmonds for the past year. Taylor said that “a lot has happened” since that first discussion, during which he shared his experiences of being viewed suspiciously by some in his Edmonds neighborhood during his regular runs to stay in shape during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When he went out running after that part-one conversation, Taylor said received positive responses directly from neighbors who heard his remarks, and added he also has been overhearing “people having more conversation and dialogue.” In addition, he said he has noticed business owners becoming more vocal and engaged in supporting Black customers.

“This is why these conversations are so important,” Taylor said.

With the month of September highlighting suicide prevention, Taylor said that when it comes to mental health, “community is so important. I truly believe there is a power in community.”

He then shared his story of being on the Northern Illinois University campus on Feb. 14, 2008 when a campus shooting occurred right next to his dorm, in which the shooter killed five people in a classroom and then took his own life. “The first time that I ever got a chance to see community was in the moment after the shooting, when the victims who had been hit who were still alive but bleeding out were going over to our dorm hall and we were literally hauling people in,” Taylor said. “It didn’t matter — race, creed, belief or anything in that moment. We literally just saw people right there trying to make sure that we were helping the next make it.”

In talking about community, he added, “the one thing that sticks out to me is, can we not wait until things get tragic to show love or to be in that space to say ‘hey I see you, I get you, I’m here for you. Does it have to be a George Floyd all the time?”

“Prevention starts when we have the opportunity early on to be a helping hand to the person next to us, ” he said.

During the conversation about what to do next following the initial Black in Edmonds conversations, Taylor encouraged people to examine, “How can I be a better neighbor, how can I be a better member of my community, how can I be an individual who is making sure that I am putting my actions where my mouth is?”

That sentiment was also expressed by Erwin Weary, Sr., an Edmonds resident who is the CEO of Black Coffee Northwest, a coffee house planned for Shoreline. “Honestly, it’s really just understanding other people’s position in the world and what are they doing and how are they doing it and what are the challenges they are having,” as well as the source of those challenges, Weary said. “There are selfish people that do not want anybody else to succeed and then there’s people (who say) ‘I never saw that. We need to do something.’ It’s just talking, understanding and the word empathy is huge. Have empathy toward people.”

Weary’s daughter Mikayla, a 17-year-old Shorecrest High School senior and community activist who serves as president of Black Coffee Northwest, said it’s important, moving forward, to ensure Black youth are “lifted up” and supported. Black youth are feeling the pressure to “have to be ‘the good one,’ have to be the best (at) everything, due to people not seeing black youth as youth and acknowledging the simple things that they do,” she said.

Part four participant Michelle Osborne, J.D., a racial equity consultant, brought a national perspective to the conversation. She said that President Trump has responded to the “racial reckoning” that has been happening in recent months by stating that there will be no more diversity training in federal employment that includes an acknowledgment of systemic racism and white supremacy, and by calling for “the patriotic education of American schoolchildren.” She defined both of those efforts as “part of a decades-long pushback against achievement by Black and brown people.”

Osborne said that the current educational curriculum in the U.S. often leaves out the history and achievements of people of color, and has also in some cases harmed those communities. She pointed to a local incident in the Edmonds School District in 2018, in which a Meadowdale Elementary fifth-grader son brought home a homework assignment — based on 50-year-old curriculum — that asked students to write a journal entry from the perspective of an American colonist witnessing a group of settlers killed by Native Americans.

The pushback against a more inclusive school curriculum, she said, “is a pushback about us knowing our history, understanding our history fully, understanding achievements and contributions from all of us.” That understanding “is what is going to open up the dialogue of unity, not divisiveness,” she said.

Crank said she was pleased to hear the positives from online conversations she initiated. But she also noted that since starting the Black in Edmonds series, she has noticed more people adopting what she calls “the intention of misunderstanding,” in which “no matter what facts you put in front of them, if it’s going to negate what they believe it doesn’t exist. It didn’t happen.”

In concluding the part-four discussion, Crank promised that — after taking some time off — she may have “something else up my sleeve” for the future. “I love my community and I like being able to do something that feels positive,” she said.

You can see all four videos in the series at

— By Teresa Wippel