Seattle Foundation Blog

Martin Luther King Day 2018

50 years after Dr. King’s death, the need for greater racial equity and economic opportunity is still pressing

January 11, 2018

"We refuse to believe there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation." 

These words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. hold an important lesson and call into question a common perception across America: that our country is flowing with opportunity, where any determined individual can work hard to create a path to success and self- sufficiency.

However, 50 years after the gains that Dr. King helped achieve in civil rights for African Americans and other oppressed peoples, we still do not have an equal playing field. The descendants of those who were forcibly brought to this country and enslaved for the enrichment of others still do not have equal access to those great vaults of opportunity this country has to offer.

As we celebrate and act in honor of Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 15, this is also an especially poignant year to reflect on Dr. King’s leadership, as April will mark the 50th anniversary of his death. As we know, Dr. King acknowledged the possibility of his own death the very day before he was assassinated, and he expressed the willingness to lay down his life in sacrifice to advance equality of all. 

Today, the need is still pressing to improve the opportunities and outcomes of African Americans, immigrants, refugees and other marginalized groups in our country and our community.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, just 18 percent of African American fourth graders meet reading standards and 12 percent of eighth graders were proficient or above in math. Black home ownership fell to a low of 40 years in 2016 to just 41.7 percent, 22 points under the national average.

Local statistics also reflect this unacceptable disparity. In Seattle, the median income for African Americans is $36,000, which is less than half the median income for whites at $90,000, and is lower than the national median income for black families. This is even more startling when considering the economic boom our region is experiencing. 

These numbers reinforce why Seattle Foundation is committed to increasing racial equity in our region and driving true opportunity for all.

At Seattle Foundation, we strive to support efforts that will lead to greater racial equity and economic opportunity across cultural and geographic communities, ensuring a thriving region for all. In the last year, we created the Resilience Fund to provide marginalized communities with resources to address eroding rights and decreased federal funding. This adds to our ongoing efforts to advance racial and economic equity through our Center for Community Partnerships and investments including the Vibrant Democracy Initiative, Communities of Opportunity and Neighbor to Neighbor programs.

In honor of Dr. King’s leadership and enduring legacy, here is a selection of local events and volunteer opportunities to volunteer to mark MLK Day 2018:

  • MLK Seattle is hosting a celebration with an opportunity fair, workshops, a rally, a march and a meal, at Garfield High School. The all-day, multi-tiered event begins at 8:30 a.m.
  • This four-hour workshop will empower youth with the tools to speak out publicly against Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism, while also building relationships between diverse communities:Seattle Art Museum is offering art and social justice tours spotlighting artists whose work explores those subjects now through Jan. 15 with regular admission.
  • •Kids4Peace Seattle and the Seattle Globalist host “Make Your Voice Heard 2018: An MLK Day Youth Advocacy Workshop” for youth in grades 6 through 12.
  • •On Jan. 12 Seattle Colleges hosts an MLK celebration and discussion of how to forget a path to real racial justice at Mt. Zion Baptist Church with keynote speaker Ijeoma Oluo, author of So You Want to Talk About Race. 
  • •United Way of King County lists many opportunities to volunteer for the MLK Day of Service over a number of days.
  • •Activist Jane Elliott hosts a screening and discussion of I Am Your Your Negro at Seattle First Baptist Church on Jan. 13.



Community Issues


African AmericansCenter for Community PartnershipseducationRacial equity

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