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Krystal Marx appointed interim executive director of Real Change

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Krystal Marx was the very first executive director of Seattle Pride, (2019-2022) — Courtesy photo
Krystal Marx was the very first executive director of Seattle Pride, (2019-2022) — Courtesy photo

A change in leadership is underway at Seattle's Real Change newspaper. May 13 was the first day for Krystal Marx as interim executive director while the publication's board conducts a national search for a permanent leader. Marx is in the running, and she is keen on landing the position.

"The board is conducting a very thoughtful process that incorporates staff and vendor input as well," she said. "While I am interim, my goal is to help keep everything stable."

Real Change vendor Matthew is among the more than 600 of the newspaper's vendors, with around $1 million going into their pockets every year — Real Change  

The vendors Marx mentions are the people who stand on sidewalks and street corners selling Real Change. With a new edition being published every Wednesday, the process works as follows: low-income and homeless vendors purchase copies of the paper for 60 cents each and sell them for $2 each, pocketing the $1.40 profit in cash or through the Venmo mobile payment service. Real Change serves over 600 vendors annually, with around $1 million going into vendors' pockets every year.

That Real Change grew to become an institution in Seattle is something that Marx intends to continue, and with great enthusiasm.

"It's about time that people remember that, and I look forward to helping jog that memory," she said.

Community and family
Marx has provided her leadership to Seattle's LGBTQ community as well. As an out and proud Queer woman, she was the very first executive director of Seattle Pride (2019—22).

"I loved it there. It was great," she said. "As a Queer woman, it was really important to me that I could work somewhere that would acknowledge my whole self and that it would be okay for me to live as exactly who I am. They took a chance on me, and with the help of the community, I was able to grow it into a four-person organization that operates year-round and with really good programs."

On the side, Marx provides free community-identified training to LGBTQ groups, such as bystander intervention and self-defense. She counts the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Abbey of St. Joan-Seattle, among her past students.

She is also quite proud of her Transgender son, who just turned 17 and officially had his legal name changed to Ethan on May 1 — the name he would have been given if he had been born biologically male.

"I'm so excited. He's stepping into himself and that's great," said his doting mom.

Personal experience
Real Change debuted in 1994, so it is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Marx was 10 years old that year; just two years prior to that, the eight-year-old was experiencing homelessness with her mom in Aberdeen, Washington. Marx said she will never forget the sense of danger she felt constantly. When she was taken to Bellevue to live with her dad, her eyes were opened to the great divide that exists between housed and unhoused people.

"There was this big culture shock, and I saw how different life was with just access to resources and basic things like food. That sparked something in me for the rest of my life," she said. "I will never forget how lucky I felt to move into a safe place to live."

This now contributes to her passion for Real Change and how the organization respects, listens to, and hears its vendors and all the people for whom the newspaper exists.

"I have always loved Real Change, because the focus is on vendor empowerment as led by vendors. There is an advocacy bent to everything we do. The three things we focus on are jobs, journalism, and justice," she said.

Marx is also appreciative that the paper is hyperlocal, focusing on issues and events happening every week.

"You're going to pick up a copy of Real Change and see something related to advocacy, housing and homelessness, arts and culture... It's a really nice thing to hold it in your hand and know that you are investing in Seattle every time you invest that $2."

Burien and homelessness
Marx served on the Burien City Council from 2018 to 2021 and as deputy mayor from 2019 to 2022. She did not win her reelection but maintains a close watch on the council regarding its treatment of the homeless. Earlier this year, it voted to create a 500-foot camping buffer zone around schools, daycare centers, senior centers, parks, libraries, and sidewalks that is in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The council has also banned unsheltered people from sleeping in any public spaces between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.; this includes any indication of camping clearly visible. The city has been roundly criticized for these actions and for not putting up additional shelter beds.

"It's horrible. They don't deserve a second of good press," Marx said. "It's clear, at least in Burien, that folks are wanting to try a different approach to a lot of the issues we're facing, and unfortunately, we're seeing what that approach looks like right now, with the three lawsuits against the city and encampments growing at a rapid pace."

While on the council, Marx served on the Seattle-King County Board of Health, where she helped to repeal the county's "helmet law," citing its discriminatory nature against the homeless, who are at risk of not having a bicycle helmet for legitimate reasons.

"Being ticketed for not having a helmet that could have easily been stolen or destroyed would be incredibly damaging and detrimental to so many people, not to mention Black and Brown communities that would get pulled over at disproportionate rates," she said.