Second black man in history elected to Tacoma City Council

Keith Blocker was recently elected to represent District 3 in Tacoma: a racially and economically diverse district with low voter turnout.

It was 45 years ago that Harold Moss made history in Tacoma. After being the first black man appointed to city council in 1970, he was elected the following year and eventually became the first black mayor of Tacoma in 1994.

"Leadership is something you take. It's not something bestowed on you," said Moss at his kitchen table in Tacoma Tuesday afternoon.

But after the recent November election, Mr. Moss no longer holds the title as the only black man elected to Tacoma city council. Keith Blocker was recently elected to represent District 3 in Tacoma: a racially and economically diverse district with low voter turnout.

"I'm so happy that he is elected that the 45 years just kind of melted away. It's a big deal because of the difficulty. I think people are still hesitant about voting for a black person unless they really get to know them," said Moss.

Moss is a mentor to Blocker who came to Tacoma by way of Philadelphia. Blocker says he came from humble beginnings and wants to connect more people to government.

"How can we get people more engaged how can we get people to understand that the city has a tremendous amount of impact on their everyday life," said Blocker.

Local education leaders such as Dexter Gordon a professor of political science at the University of Puget Sound Professor Dexter Gordon said the election is significant because representation matters. Since Blacks and Latinos represent 22 percent of the population in Tacoma Professor Gordon believes Tacoma political leaders should be more racially diverse.

"They don't vote. They don't participate in the electoral process because they do not believe that their votes matter. They've seen year after year a recycling of people who don't look like them and often do not represent them."

That used to be the case for Terrance Hamilton. A young African American voter in Tacoma who said he wants his leaders to reflect his community.

"Who are you to speak on any issues that we're facing when you don't live in these communities and you don't understand the people that live in these communities," said Hamilton.

Local leaders say Tacoma has made advancement in political racial diversity. With a black mayor, a black city manager and a black councilwoman local leaders say Tacoma has a more racially diverse political landscape than neighboring cities.

In the recent election black leaders were also elected to other positions in the city of Tacoma including Jessie Baines who was elected to Metro Parks. Andrea Cobb was elected to the Tacoma School Board and Janis Martin at the Pierce County Charter Review.


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