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Spokane NAACP President Kiantha Duncan to host W.E.B. DuBois great-grandson in “Descendants” talk for Northwest African American Museum discussion series

UPDATED: Sat., Aug. 28, 2021

Kiantha Duncan, president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, will host a conversation on Sunday with Arthur McFarlane II, the great-grandson of W.E.B. DuBois sponsored by the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Kiantha Duncan, president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, will host a conversation on Sunday with Arthur McFarlane II, the great-grandson of W.E.B. DuBois sponsored by the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

For a couple years, the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle has hosted a series of conversations with descendants of legendary Black Americans as a way of expanding the region’s knowledge of African American history.

On Sunday, the program will feature Spokane NAACP chapter president Kiantha Duncan in conversation with Arthur McFarlane II, great-grandson of W.E.B. DuBois. The program will be streamed for free at 3 p.m.

DuBois, one of the founders of the NAACP in 1909, was not only a civil rights activist. He was an author, writer and historian of African American history and culture. He died Aug. 27, 1963, the day before Martin Luther King Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream Speech” during the March on Washington D.C.

LaNesha DeBardelaben, president of the Seattle museum, said she chose Duncan for her work in and out of the NAACP . Duncan hosts “Conversations with Kiantha” a communications platform that produced live discussions with The Black Lens, Spokane’s Black-owned newspaper.

“We seek a moderator who is a thought leader and able to inspire and form activism through their example,” said DeBardelaben, who has been at the museum’s helm since 2017. “We felt that there was no other moderator who could engage with the descendants of these national luminaries like Kiantha Duncan.”

The Seattle museum launched “The Descendants” series as a quarterly program in 2019 to “educate viewers on Black history by engaging in conversation with Black history luminaries.” Duncan called her role in the event an honor and thinks its a “telling and interesting” opportunity for how early civil rights activists knew the fight for equality would be an ongoing bout centuries later.

“(Activists from the 1800’s) knew that these systems would still be inequitable and still not offer the same opportunities to people of color,” Duncan said. “They knew then that it wasn’t going to be ready now. We’re all cooking this cake and it is a very slow bake. I certainly don’t hope the work I’m doing in 2021 is still just a seed planted from something problematic 200 years from now.”

She will also be hosting a “Descendants” conversation with Tina Wyatt, Harriet Tubman’s grand-niece, on Oct. 17.

McFarlane lives in Colorado, where he works as a population health analyst at Children’s Hospital of Colorado. Before that, he spent 25 years with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The event Sunday will feature representatives of Northwest NAACP chapters, as well as a performance by Walter Hobbs, a ballet dancer who will perform a dance interpretation of “Lift Every Voice & Sing,” a song commonly regarded as the Black National Anthem.

DeBardelaben said the program may receive some national exposure as well.

“We have been contacted by C-SPAN to see if they can broadcast it nationally,” DeBardelaben said. “Officials will examine the series to determine whether it fits within C-SPAN’s fall scheduling programming.”

Duncan hopes that the virtual event will help Spokane’s historic entities such as the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture lift up diverse narratives. Washingtonians complete surveys about diversity, equity and inclusion for programs and educational experiences like the Descendants series.

“What I think this does is create a precedence to do these kind of partnerships (in Spokane),” Duncan said. “This sets up an opportunity to do this and bring more culturally diverse programming to the museums here and I’d love to be a part of that.”

{%%note} {/%%note}Those interested in viewing the virtual discussion can register for the streaming event at www.naamnw.org.

Amber D. Dodd's work as the Carl Maxey Racial and Social Inequity reporter for Eastern Washington and North Idaho primarily appears in both The Spokesman-Review and The Black Lens newspapers, and is funded in part by the Michael Conley Charitable Fund, the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, the Innovia Foundation and other local donors from across our community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper's managing editor.

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