Hello my name is Mara Jacqueline Willaford.
I first appeared in Real Change on the cover with Marissa Johnson in a feature last year. The story ran months after Marissa and I, along with several other Black activists, interrupted Bernie Sanders as he spoke in front of thousands at the end of a public event in Seattle, a day before the one-year anniversary of the death of Mike Brown. The media storm surrounding the action lasted for months. At first I didn’t do any interviews, ultimately ignoring nearly all of the relentless interview request that came in. Because Marissa and I were so intentional about the media we chose to talk to, the only local interview we did was with Real Change.
We knew that most other media outlets locally and nationally were — and are — deeply and fundamentally invested in maintaining the status quo, portraying protesters like us in a negative light, while simultaneously erasing our politics and what we actually have to say. We knew that we could trust the folks at Real Change.
Now a year later, I’m writing this column because I still believe in Real Change’s mission as much as ever.
Real Change serves as an opportunity for poor folks and communities of color in Seattle to share our stories without it being twisted to serve someone else’s career or agenda.
Real Change’s mission aligns with the work that I do, the pieces I write and the issues that I care most about. As a queer, Black woman who lives with chronic illness, I hope to offer folks a deeper analysis than what is typically found in mainstream media outlets.
Born and raised in Seattle, I’ve been an advocate for the homeless as well as an enthusiastic supporter of Real Change since my early childhood. Real Change isn’t afraid of telling the truth or making people uncomfortable, which is why I trust them and have chosen to bring my personal stories and cultural criticisms to the paper as a columnist.
Even though I’m known for the direct actions I’ve participated in within the Black Lives Matter movement — as well as my work as a community organizer and political strategist — I’m also a writer, artist, educator and advocate. Topics I choose to write about include race, gender, class, sexuality, feminism, politics, society and culture.
While Seattle’s mainstream media is saturated with and is geared toward class-privileged Whites, the rest of the city is being denied, disserved and misrepresented. The perspective and voice found in my writing is something not often heard or digested. It’s my hope that my writing will show others living at the margins that our voices matter, are important and have value.
Mara Jacqueline Willaford is a Seattle-based writer, artist, strategist and community organizer. Follow her on Twitter @MaraWillow.