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Happy Juneteenth: A Year To Remember For Change

Looking back on a year Seahawks’ efforts to push forward change for African Americans in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

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Last June, then-rookie wideout Dareke Young and radio personality Gee Scott Sr. led the Seahawks 12 Tour stop in Pasco for a Juneteenth celebration. On June 19, 1865, enslaved Africans in Texas began to learn of their freedom following the conclusion of the Civil War. Take a look back at a year of well-orchestrated, thoughtful efforts by the Seahawks organization to further create change and opportunity for African Americans off the field and in the community. These efforts and those still to come are part of the Seahawks' 12 commitments to racial equity, a commitment by the organization to advance economic stability, foster inclusive culture and combat racism through education and awareness.

WHOLE Mentoring: 206 Black Excellence

With Hope Our Lives Excel (WHOLE) Mentoring Program is the brainchild of Office of African American Male Achievement in partnership with Seattle Public Schools, created in 2019. Dozens of young Black men from public high schools across the city are granted access to resources, mentorship and opportunity.

The collaboration kicked off in August, with a panel hosted by Black representatives of Seattle's front office, including Seahawks Legend Ben Obomanu and Director of Legends and Player Engagement Mario Bailey. The young underclassmen were given the opportunity to get first-hand knowledge and experience from successful men that look like them. Program coordinator William King discussed the purpose of WHOLE, before the boys were surprised with a surprise private tour of Lumen Field, getting an in-depth view of the facility's inner workings.

In January, the Seahawks and Microsoft collaborated to bring 50 WHOLE participants on a Microsoft campus tour, surprising the group with tackle Charles Cross and free Microsoft Surface GO 2 laptops.

In April, the Seahawks and Microsoft reunited to partner with WHOLE and the BE Project to take 16 WHOLE participants on the first-ever HBCU tour experience. Over the course of a week, the group learned the history Black colleges and universities, stopping at six institutions (Norfolk State, Virginia State, Virginia Union, Hampton, University of District of Columbia and Howard) along the east coast. For the last leg of the tour, linebacker and longtime HBCU supporter Bobby Wagner surprised the group in the Nation’s Capital to visit Howard University, where Wagner stopped past the Bison’s spring football practice to give words of encouragement.

Consistency is key in developing relationships, and Seattle's efforts to build a bond with the youth of WHOLE Mentoring has extended beyond the 2022 campaign. In May, the WHOLE group got to meet Seattle's 2023 draft class in a Teams Q&A session powered by Microsoft.

Pilgrimage To The South: Choose 180 Experience

Last November, Seattle collaborated with Sankofa Impact and Choose180 for a seven-day Pilgrimage through the South, a cross-country trek through Black History.

More than a dozen of the Pacific-Northwest's most-passionate community leaders flew to the deep south to learn more about Black History – and themselves. The group traveled through pivotal moments in Black History by bus, getting true accounts from living Civil Rights members. The journey began in New Orleans, as the group attempted to stomach the historical injustices they learned about the Crescent City before heading to the Mississippi Delta. Philadelphia, Mississippi lifelong activist, community leader and tour guide Leroy Clemons informed the group of the brutal murder of three voting rights leaders in 1966 at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan - and how the town ultimately got its revenge via the education system. The group then traveled to Money, Mississippi to learn about the 1955 murder of Emmett Till and the subsequent funeral and trial that would change the course of the Civil Rights Movement. The tour continued with a history lesson in Memphis, Tennessee before heading to several cities in Alabama. Seahawks Legend Ben Obomanu led the tour of his native Selma, Alabama, giving the group first-hand history of his family's legacy in the town where the group re-enacted the 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery. For the last leg of the trip, fellow Legend and Super Bowl XLVIII Champion Cliff Avril met the group in Atlanta for a museum tour and to learn the prejudice history of Stone Mountain Park.

Over a week's time, the mixed group of community leaders and former Black athletes were exposed to Black History unlike anything printed in school textbooks, while given the opportunity to discuss and digest the overload of information to create tools to imprint a better future for the next generation.

Watch the emotional 49-minute journey here.

Buy Black-Owned: By The Numbers

In further efforts to go beyond signing a paycheck to help positively impact Black communities, the Seahawks opted in February to become a liaison for Black-owned businesses. The franchise partnered with Intentionalist, an online guide for finding small businesses across diverse communities. In efforts to raise spending with small Black-owned businesses for Black History Month, the team visited and highlighted five Seattle businesses - Flowers Just 4 U, The Barbecue Pit, Tougo Coffee, Baked From The Hart and Pam's Kitchen. But the efforts to highlight Black-owned businesses and restaurants have and will continue year-round.

The franchise spent $486,000 with Black-owned businesses in the calendar year, surpassing its intended spending goal by 13 percent.

Voter Registration Education Session For 2023 Rookie Class

Seattle's 2023 Draft Class got a first-hand course from Dr. Terry Scott of The Institute of Common Power on the history of voter suppression and disenfranchisement in Black communities across the United States on Friday - and the efforts to make a change. The 10 fresh faces to Seattle got an update on the modern voting landscape while being encouraged to appreciate the sacrifice from those before them for the right to cast their vote.

Last August, the team from The Institute of Common Power visited the Virginia Mason Athletic Center during training camp to register the team at camp. The group will return to the facility this September on Voter Registration Day, with players receiving help to register to vote either in Washington or their home states.

There are many layers to creating a world of equality, but the Seahawks are doing their best to internalize history and search for methods (and help) to create a better future. From creating opportunity, to having tough conversations to opening their wallets, the franchise continues to show a dedication to making players feel as valued off the field as they are on it.

Seahawks Legends, staff, and local non-profits working on social justice issues embarked on a trip to the South to explore Black history over the course of a week in November of 2022.

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