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Sold-out NAACP fundraiser banquet to offer art, interactive keynote speaker and poetry

Nov. 8, 2022 Updated Tue., Nov. 8, 2022 at 7:53 p.m.

 (Emma Epperly / The Spokesman-Review)
(Emma Epperly / The Spokesman-Review)

NAACP Spokane Branch President Kiantha Duncan is reimagining the annual Freedom Fund Banquet when it returns Saturday night after a three-year hiatus.

Instead of just raising money, Duncan wanted to give attendees a community-building experience.

“I don’t have a fundraising goal for the night,” Duncan said. “But I do have a community-raising goal for the night.”

The banquet is typically the NAACP Spokane Branch’s only annual fundraiser. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Duncan opted not to host the banquet, instead encouraging people to donate to organizations providing direct services to people during the difficult time, she said. The 2022 banquet, which will be held at the Davenport Grand Hotel, will be the 101st annual for the longtime NAACP chapter.

Political beliefs, social beliefs, age, party affiliation and other issues are dividing people, Duncan said.

“For me, I want to show and am going to show on that day that all of those different pieces of the pie can come together and laugh together and experience sorrow or sadness and compassion together,” Duncan said. “And when I show that we can do it on that day, that is then to me going to show the proof that we can do it outside of that gala setting.”

The banquet will be a community experience, Duncan said, with art, poetry, music and other experiences. It should feel like more of a “gallery showing” than a typical fundraising event.

The keynote speaker, author and journalist Roland Martin, will share his experience in conversation with Duncan and take questions from the audience, rather than give a typical address.

Martin, a longtime TV commentator and author, released a book in September titled “White Fear: How the Browning of America Is Making White Folks Lose Their Minds” about the fear white people experience and how it affects society as they become a racial minority in the U.S.

While Martin will discuss the book, Duncan hopes to direct the conversation to Martin’s work on the Black experience. He has written several books on the topic.

Understanding the Black experience is the first step to understanding the barriers Black people face, Duncan said.

“Once you understand how Black people move in this world, what our true barriers are … barriers to education, barriers to health outcomes, barriers to creating legacies in our families,” Duncan said. “Then you can make that choice yourself if you will contribute to those barriers or contribute to those barriers being removed.”

The event and Martin’s address come months after the death of Black Lens founder and publisher Sandy Williams.

“I really think that he’s coming at a great time; with the largest Black voice in this community, Sandy, being gone, we still need to hear that,” Duncan said.

By providing this community-building experience, Duncan hopes to motivate people to consider new perspectives and engage with different communities than usual. She also hopes people have a great time.

“It’s the biggest dinner party I’ve ever thrown,” Duncan said with a chuckle.

While the banquet is sold out, there are ongoing opportunities to support the NAACP either financially or by becoming a member.

“The NAACP is everybody. It’s not just for the Black community,” Duncan said. “It is for everyone.”

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