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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Executive Constantine names Abigail Echo-Hawk and Dr. Ben Danielson co-chairs of Racism is a Public Health Crisis community oversight committee and $25 million fund

Summary

Dr. Ben Danielson and Abigail Echo-Hawk will serve alongside King County Executive Dow Constantine as co-chairs of King County’s Racism is a Public Health Crisis (RPHC) community oversight committee to oversee a $25 million community fund.

Story

King County Executive Dow Constantine named Abigail Echo-Hawk, Executive Vice President of Seattle Indian Health Board and the Director of the Urban Indian Health Institute, and Dr. Ben Danielson, M.D. of the University of Washington as co-chairs for the County’s Racism is a Public Health Crisis community oversight committee.

Executive Constantine and then-director of Public Health Patty Hayes declared racism a public health crisis in June of 2020 in acknowledgment of centuries of systemic racism and colonialism, and in response to the centuries-long crisis in our society. The declaration’s intent is to make clear acknowledgement and initiate a set of investments to “disrupt and dismantle racism and protect the health and well-being of Black, Indigenous People and People of Color.”

Following the declaration, the King County Council adopted related budget and policy priorities, and the new committee will oversee the establishment of a community process to guide the equitable use of $25 million in federal funding to further economic recovery and help set the course for the next phases of the County's anti-racism work.

“There is still much more to do to reach our True North here in Martin Luther King Jr. County – 'a welcoming community where every person can thrive’ – and a beloved King County community where Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and all marginalized people live in power, peace, and prosperity,” said Executive Constantine. “The guidance and leadership from Ms. Echo-Hawk and Dr. Danielson as co-chairs of the Racism is a Public Health Crisis community oversight committee will advance equity, racial and social justice for everyone in King County.”

Abigail Echo-Hawk is the Executive Vice President of the Seattle Indian Health Board, and a citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. Dr. Ben Danielson is a clinical professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington and chairs the Governor's Interagency Council on Health Disparities.

“Racism in all its forms has created and continues to perpetuate health and socioeconomic disparities in our BIPOC communities, and I am honored to co-chair a committee that recognizes racism as a public health crisis and is dedicated to addressing root causes,” said Echo-Hawk. “I am looking forward to working with Dr. Ben Danielson and King County Executive Dow Constantine to build solutions by BIPOC communities, for BIPOC communities.”

"Racism and its odious kin harm bodies, minds, communities and futures. Racism measurably takes lives, erases dignity, and robs us of the kind of society we would all benefit from. I cherish the opportunity to join in this effort. This effort represents earnest labor to take on the deeply rooted and constant flow of racism," said Danielson. "This can only happen if this process is driven by the voices of those most impacted by racism. I see this as a significant down payment in truly making anti-racism an action term in King County. Financial resource alone won't do it and short timelines are short-sighted when it comes to this work. An investment like this, along with the best possible community-centering co-creation process affords a unique chance to assure that the aspirational words on paper actually become meaningful change."

King County is investing and realigning itself to be an anti-racist and pro-equity government, ranging from transforming policing and the criminal legal system to making down-payments towards economic and racial justice. This includes co-creating change in partnership with communities, in attempts to disrupt systemic racism at its roots.

  • Executive Constantine and the committee co-chairs will work to form the community oversight committee which will serve three important functions:
  • Strengthen the County's relationship with communities most negatively harmed by systemic racism
  • Provide accountability and guidance on the County's Racism is a Public Health Crisis 2021 – 22 budget and policy priorities
  • Co-create with communities a vision, long-term goals, and strategies for racial equity and social justice, including allocation of the $25 million fund to support the economic recovery of communities most negatively impacted by systemic racism and COVID-19

Building on long-standing community work and wisdom, the three co-chairs will work to advance trustworthiness on the part of King County, which is crucial to this community led process. The co-chairs are working with King County staff to develop a timeline for the project which will center community partnership and reflect community's direction to King County to be bold, creative and to respond with urgency to address the public health crisis of racism.

Relevant links


Quotes

No one in King County can thrive until every person of color is able to thrive, and the guidance from these community leaders will help fulfil that mission for all of us in Martin Luther King Jr. County. Coordinating and representing our communities’ priorities and aligning the County’s actions with our values, Ms. Echo-Hawk and Dr. Danielson's service as co-chairs of the Racism is a Public Health Crisis community oversight committee will help advance our commitment to equity, racial and social justice for everyone in King County.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

Racism in all its forms has created and continues to perpetuate health and socioeconomic disparities in our BIPOC communities, and I am honored to co-chair a committee that recognizes racism as a public health crisis and is dedicated to addressing root causes. I am looking forward to working with Dr. Ben Danielson and King County Executive Dow Constantine to build solutions by BIPOC communities, for BIPOC communities.

Abigail Echo-Hawk, Committee Co-Chair

Racism and its odious kin harm bodies, minds, communities and futures. Racism measurably takes lives, erases dignity, and robs us of the kind of society we would all benefit from. I cherish the opportunity to join in this effort. This effort represents earnest labor to take on the deeply rooted and constant flow of racism. This can only happen if this process is driven by the voices of those most impacted by racism. I see this as a significant down payment in truly making anti-racism an action term in King County. Financial resource alone won't do it and short timelines are short-sighted when it comes to this work. An investment like this, along with the best possible community-centering co-creation process affords a unique chance to assure that the aspirational words on paper actually become meaningful change.

Dr. Ben Danielson, Committee Co-Chair

For more information, contact:

Chase Gallagher, Executive Office, 206-263-8537


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography