skip to main content
caption: Elmer Dixon, Seattle, WA, 1970. Akoiya Harris, Seattle, WA, 2020.
Enlarge Icon
Elmer Dixon, Seattle, WA, 1970. Akoiya Harris, Seattle, WA, 2020.
Credit: Mr. Dixon: AP wire photo. Ms. Harris: Photography by Nir Arieli

‘Definitely is the same fight:' Two Garfield High grads talk two eras of civil rights protests

This conversation is part of our Beyond the Protest series, led by people involved in the struggle for social justice, from different generations and viewpoints, from protesters to police.

Elmer Dixon helped start the Black Student Union at Garfield High School in 1967 — it was the first such union on the West Coast. The following year, he and his brother Aaron helped found the Seattle chapter of The Black Panthers, the first branch of the organization outside of California.

caption: Elmer Dixon and other Seattle Black Panthers gather on the steps of the Capitol in Olympia on February 28, 1969, to protest a bill aiming to it a crime to exhibit firearms with 'an intent to intimidate others.' 
    Slideshow Icon 2 slides
Enlarge Icon

"We grew up in an an era of assassinations and the rise of the Black Power movement … it was Stokely Carmichael’s speech that initially got me fired up," Dixon said. "And Stokely made us realize that Black is beautiful.”

Dixon is now the President of Executive Diversity Services.

Akoiya Harris is also a graduate of Garfield High School, and a recent graduate of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She came back to Seattle to join Donald Byrd’s Spectrum Dance Theatre.

caption: Akoiya Harris (front right) at a Black Lives Matter protest in Seattle.
Enlarge Icon
Akoiya Harris (front right) at a Black Lives Matter protest in Seattle.
Credit: Courtesy of Susan Fried

“I remember when I was in middle school, and Trayvon Martin was murdered," she said. "That's the first time I can remember actively being involved in something — because he was so young, and he was so close to my age."

Harris has been participating in the Seattle protests against police brutality.

Harris: “Is this the future you imagined when you were my age?”

Dixon: “This is not the world that I would have envisioned. Although, I knew that we used to say ‘Revolution in our lifetime.’ We knew that it would take generations before the evils in this country would change.”

To suggest someone for a conversation in this series, email us at engage@kuow.org.

The music used in the end of this episode is a quarantine performance of Johnny Green’s Body and Soul, by Garfield High School students Philip Ratner (rising Senior) on the piano, and Jonah Hieb (rising Junior) on the trumpet.

Listen to the full version below:

Body And Soul

Johnny Green’s Body and Soul, performed by Garfield High School students Philip Ratner on the piano, and Jonah Hieb on the trumpet.