Black Lens editor Sandy Williams ascended to the stage at The Gathering House to the applause and cheers of close to 100 people Tuesday evening, during a five-year anniversary celebration for Spokane’s Black newspaper.
Kiantha Duncan, a Black Lens columnist and second vice president of the Spokane NAACP, asked the crowd to stand if they agreed with a number of statements, such as if an article in the paper touched their heart or helped them understand the perspective of a person of color or if they promised to continue supporting the Black Lens.
Those who stood included City Council Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson, Spokane NAACP President Kurtis Wilkerson, City Council President Breean Beggs and other community leaders.
People then took turns sharing their memories of the Black Lens and thanking Williams.
One young woman told Williams she wanted to be like her, since the Black Lens gave her a space to publish her writing and be heard. Another woman thanked Williams for being the only news outlet to cover a memorial dedication for Lt. Col. Jack D. Holsclaw, a Tuskegee Airman from Spokane. One person brought a message of gratitude from the Black Prisoners Caucus at Airway Heights Corrections Center.
“Representation in this town matters,” said Deva Bailey-Logan, owner of the event planning business Shades of Me, who thanked Williams for featuring her in the Black Lens.
Wilkerson told Williams that she changed her life by encouraging her to apply for the City Council seat she now holds.
The Rev. Walter Kendricks, of Morning Star Baptist Church, recalled how he got a call from Williams in 2014 asking to meet and how the ideas they discussed over coffee in West Central became the dream for the Carl Maxey Center.
Kendricks said Williams told him Spokane is “small enough where you can make a difference.”
“All of the people in Spokane, if no one has my back, she does,” Kendricks said. “And I have hers.”
A.J. McKinney, co-founder of Power 2 the Poetry, said Williams gave him an outlet to publish his poetry and remembered how he told her he had a big idea that turned into the spoken-word poetry movement he is a part of now.
Mary Stamp, editor of The Fig Tree, said she thought the first five years were the hardest.
“I’ll partner with you all the way, because I believe in what you’re doing,” Stamp said.
Robinson said the Spokane NAACP wouldn’t be where it is without Williams, who showed him the importance of letting the needs of the community dictate the actions to address them.
“You are the educator to those who think they’re educated,” Robinson said. “You’re a candleholder in a very, very dark time.”
Author, poet and KYRS host Stephen Pitters said there was silence after the African American Voice, Spokane’s previous Black newspaper, shuttered in 2000.
“Now the silence has risen to a roar because we have the Black Lens,” Pitters said.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.