We are on the 3rd and last part of our Black Leaders of Tacoma blog series!
If you haven’t done so yet, please go back to read Part 1 and Part 2 to gain a brief history of Black History Month. Plus, hear from our first two interviewees, T’wina Nobles who was recently sworn in as the 28th District Senator of Washington State and, Umi Wagoner, one of Tacoma’s streetwear and cultural pioneers.
In this last interview, we ask Tacoma’s very own Deputy Mayor Keith Blocker what his thoughts are on Black History Month.
Our third and final interviewee, Keith Blocker, Deputy Mayor of Tacoma, has been District 3’s seat of the Tacoma Community Council since 2015 and has been working with great effort to create meaningful change in Tacoma. His continued efforts, consistency, and dedication to his craft and commitment to the Tacoma community is remarkable.
Below we peer into his thoughts on Black History month as he shares who his favorite Black Leaders are as well as some of his dreams, aspirations, and guidance that has helped him along his path.
Question 1: Does this month mean anything to you? If so, what type of inspiration do you draw from this month? If not, why?
Answer: Black history and black history month means a great deal to me. I learned about black leaders at home from my parents, but I always appreciated the intentional focus on black history and black leaders in school. To me, black history is American history and to this day it’s one of the topics I read about the most. Having a good understanding of how history has shaped the realities that black people experienced in the past helps me deal with and strategize how to handle situations in the present.
Question 2: Which black leaders do you especially look up to and draw inspiration from at the national and international level?
Answer: I have a great deal of appreciation for leaders like Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells, Dr. King, and Malcom X. They all fought for equal rights and fought against systemic oppression. I also appreciate leaders like Madam C.J. Walker and A.G. Gaston. These two were black entrepreneurs and pioneers in the business industry and demonstrated black people’s ability to achieve economic success.
Question 3: Who are some prominent black leaders in Tacoma that you support and vibe with? Why? This can be people you know personally or support from a far.
Answer: Victoria Woodards, Marilyn Strickland and Lyle Quasim. I appreciate their commitment to service. They all lead in different and unique ways and they understand how important it is to create space and opportunity for others to lead.
Question 4: What were some struggles you faced along your path? Struggles that you both anticipated and haven’t anticipated.
Answer: I would call this more of a challenge than a struggle: serving people with competing interests. Finding the balance of satisfying the irritated without irritating the satisfied. I struggle with norms, traditions, and systems that work for some but not all and the resistance to change those systems that continue to benefit some at the expense of others.
Question 5: What do you think is your purpose? What plans do you have in place to fulfill it? Any sort of personal testimonial that can be utilized as advice and guidance to the reader is solid here.
Answer: Everyday my goal is to be a better version of myself. My purpose is to use my knowledge, resources, and gifts to improve the quality of my life as well as the quality of life of the people I interact with.
Deputy Mayor Blocker calls attention to the urgency and importance of understanding our past, to understand the implications it has now and in the future. His path illustrates how developing and sharing our individual gifts with the world is vital to improving individual and community life in the present and preparing our future generations for success.
Consistency towards an equitable future
These 3 community leaders are an absolute inspiration to say the least. They have all gone through their fair share of trials and tribulations and yet still manage to break barriers on the daily. The common theme they have laid out is that purpose and consistency is vital to making meaningful change.
This year we’ve teamed up with Noble Farms to aid in Tacoma Urban League’s mission. We will be gifting a portion of February Noble sales to the Tacoma Urban League. We will also be teaming up with the President of Urban League, T’wina Nobles, and Noble Farms to present a cannabis careers presentation in an effort to provide education and transparency to our local urban communities who are interested in a cannabis career. If you’re a part of the Tacoma Urban Community and would like to attend, please reach out to the Tacoma Urban League for more information!
We hope that you all continue to carry on your Black History studies beyond the month of February as Black History is a vital part of American History and World History at large!