Kurtis Robinson was sworn in as president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP on Monday evening, replacing Phil Tyler, who announced his resignation a month ago.
Robinson, a 52-year-old wildland firefighter, previously served as the NAACP’s criminal justice chairman. He takes the helm of an organization that has become increasingly active in the community with Tyler as its public face.
Robinson told attendees at Monday’s meeting he looks forward to building on that momentum.
“It’s time for solutions. It’s time for action,” he said. “I don’t want the next generation coming up behind me knowing that I did nothing, that all I did was complain.”
A major talking point at the meeting was the recent acquittal of Edward Bushnell, a white man who claimed self-defense in the 2015 shooting death of William Poindexter, a black man, in Spokane’s East Central neighborhood. Sandy Williams, publisher of the Black Lens newspaper, said she attended much of the trial and was astonished by the verdict, which came from an all-white jury.
“William Poindexter was shot in the back, he was 30 feet away and he was walking in the opposite direction,” Williams told meeting attendees. “That is not disputed by anyone.”
The acquittal also drew a strong response Saturday morning at a community meeting at Morning Star Baptist Church. At the NAACP meeting, the Rev. Walter Kendricks said Poindexter’s family is “devastated” by the jury’s decision.
“If the situation were reversed … if the shooter were black and the victim were white, we wouldn’t be having this discussion right now,” Kendricks told meeting attendees. “I know that, you know that, we all know that.”
Williams created an online fundraiser to pay for transcripts of Bushnell’s trial, which she said received “dismal” coverage from local media outlets including The Spokesman-Review. In just two days, the fundraiser surpassed its goal of $3,600.
“I think that’s a great testament to the collaborative spirit of our community, and how important these issues are,” Robinson said. But he stressed, “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”