Emerging Leader Michael Adams (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Emerging Leader Michael Adams (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Michael Adams: promoting race equity, inclusion and justice

“There is so much work to be done.” Adams hopes to help build a community based on respect.

This is one of 12 finalists for The Herald Business Journal’s annual Emerging Leaders awards for 2023. The winner will be named at an event on April 13.

Michael Adams, 35

Founder and executive director, Change the Narrative Granite Falls

Michael Adams’ passion for social work led him to a decade-long career as a corrections officer.

“I saw the inequities of the criminal justice system and had a desire to try to the change the system from within,” Adams said of his 2008 career choice.

Adams is a returning Emerging Leader candidate who made the Top 12 list last year, too.

As a corrections officer, he lobbied for changes that would allow inmates to organize a Juneteenth celebration. The June 19 event, a federal holiday, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

His voice was heard and prisoners were allowed to celebrate the event, Adams said.

A few years later, Adams attended Central Washington University, earning a bachelor’s degree in 2017. After graduating, he joined the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County. Today, he is assistant manager of transportation at Community Transit.

His convictions and mettle were put to the test in May 2020. That month, Tempers and unrest flared after George Floyd, a Black man, was killed in police custody in Minneapolis.

The Granite Falls resident suddenly found himself a target for racial slurs.

“When I was called the N-word the day after George Floyd was murdered, I looked around and saw several people who simply did nothing,” Adams said.

“I had to push for a day where if that were to happen to my kids or their peers, community members would stand up for them. Or even better, they wouldn’t have to experience a moment like that at all.”

With that goal in mind, he organized Change the Narrative Granite Falls, a nonprofit that promotes race equity, inclusion and justice.

“I wanted to be able to change the world one person at a time through the lens of my immediate world,” Adams said.

He organized sign-waving events in Granite Falls in hopes of sparking conversation and healing divisions.

“There is so much work to be done, and so many good people who can be a part of making an impact,” he said.

“Michael has already emerged as one of our community leaders,” wrote an Emerging Leaders nominator with the Granite Falls School District. His input “was key to organizing the school district’s Equity and Diversity Committee,”the nominator wrote.

Another nominator described Adams as” driven and organized … someone who wants to help shape a system that allows every student access to opportunities.”

“If we as community members can build relationships as friends and neighbors, then we can begin to look past the differences of race, gender, ability, age and more, so that we can truly connect based on character and actions,” Adams said.

Adams is a member of the Sno-Isle Libraries Board of Trustees and board member at Second Chance Outreach, which assists those marginalized by gang affiliation.

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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