We’re in These Streets: The “Magic” of the Urban League

By United Way of King County, on December 6, 2022 | In News, Racial Equity

United Way of King County is out and about in your community! We’re keeping an eye and a pulse on happenings, events, organizations and activities throughout King County as we work toward a racially just community where all people have homes, students graduate and families are financially stable.

We’re in These Streets is an occasional blog post that highlights your community. Today, we highlight the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle’s 21st Annual Breakfast, held recently at the Westin Hotel. The event’s guest speaker: NBA legend Ervin “Magic” Johnson, now chair and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, an investment conglomerate that provides high-quality products and services that focus primarily on ethnically diverse and underserved urban communities.

United Way of King County has been a long-time partner and supporter of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, and Urban League president and CEO Michelle Y. Merriweather is a United Way board member.

As amazing as Magic Johnson was on the basketball hardwood—and if you never saw him play live, you’ve missed something special—he has been equally impressive in his post pro career.

Since retiring in 1991, Johnson built an investment company that owns fast food restaurants, health clubs, professional sports teams and more than 120 franchises of Seattle-based Starbucks. Yet for all the businesses and companies he’s built, he deserves many plaudits for the ones he’s saved.

Speaking at the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle’s 21st Annual Breakfast recently, Johnson said that his firm invested $300 million to help keep afloat Black, Latino and women-owned small businesses that did not benefit from Paycheck Protection Program loans. Altogether, he saved more than 30,000 businesses from closing their doors for good.

United Way board member Michelle Merriweather, president and CEO of Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle

“I’m not just standing here talking; I’m a man of action in my community,” Johnson told the assembled audience that, according to Seattle Urban League president and CEO Michelle Merriweather, was the signature hotel’s largest since 2019.

“What I’m about is how can I affect the Black community financially and socially,” said Johnson. “It’s about making an impact and working with Michelle and the work she’s doing here; she’s doing the same thing. That’s why we’re all packed in this beautiful ballroom, because you feel the same way about making a difference in the beautiful community you have. Continue to go on that journey and be about that.”

Johnson appearance in Seattle has come less than two months after the Urban League announced its $97 million deal with local developer SRM, announced in October, that will permanently preserve 354 units across six apartment buildings for affordable housing.

United Way of King County president & CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr., with United Way board member Sean Goode, executive director of Choose 180

Johnson, who retired from the NBA after announcing he was HIV positive and retired again after a short return, lauded the Urban League’s efforts and said to Merriweather, “Just keep on the journey; God’s got you, just like he had me 31 years ago when I announced I had HIV. It was a death sentence; I’m still standing.”

Said United Way CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr. about the Seattle Urban League: “We have a strong partnership going back many years, touching every area that United Way has focused on in the community. They have been a go-to partner when we’re trying to have a big impact (such as with rental assistance) or when we do something new. We appreciate their leadership, their focus on the Black community and their dedication to serving our neighbors in need.”


All comments are approved before they are posted to the site.