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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Northwest Passages hosting its third annual Spokane Black Voices Symposium Thursday

At the Spokane Black Stories Symposium, Shadle Park High School student Tajari Jones, 15, talks about her perspectives of the Black experience today in Spokane with Spokesman-Review Racial-Equity reporter Amber Dodd during a Northwest Passages event held on Feb. 16, 2022, in the Montvale Event Center.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

In light of Black History Month and the Sunday relaunch of the Black Lens newspaper, the Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages is hosting its third annual Spokane Black Voices Symposium Thursday night.

At Gonzaga’s Myrtle Woldson Theater, 16 area students will present their art, poetry and written work centered around this year’s theme, “Black Joy: An Aspirational Mindset.” Black Lens Editor Natasha Hill will moderate a discussion among participating high school students.

“This is an opportunity to hear from kids who are the future and really hear what they’re going through,” said Kristi Burns, Northwest Passages community events director.

When the symposium debuted in 2022, “the idea behind it was being able to empower the students of Spokane who are African American to speak their truth and to have a platform,” Burns said.

Only about 3% of Spokane’s population is African American, Burns said, but “they still have a voice, and they matter.”

Kendra Egly teaches African American Literature at Rogers High School, a College in the High School course through Eastern Washington University. Three of her students will be featured at the event.

Egly said her students were excited when she told them about Spokane Black Voices.

“Their eyes, they kind of lit up. They felt chosen,” she said. “They liked the topic, that it was about Black joy, and there were several different ideas on there that I could tell just got their brains going on some different ideas.”

Egly was able to see her students’ submissions before the event.

“They really just wrote from their hearts. I think they took a lot of images and ideas and thoughts that have been just working in their minds throughout the school year through some of the readings we’ve done in class, but also just their own experiences,” she said. “They were all beautiful.”

Burns encouraged all to attend.

“(These students) need to realize that they’re supported not just by the African American community here in Spokane, but by all of the people of Spokane,” she said.

Egly agreed.

“I think that to celebrate these students, and let them have the stage and show them that we care about who they are and what they have to say and the way they see the world, I think that alone is a good reason to attend and support them and see what they have to say,” she said.

Student submissions featured at the event will be printed in the first edition of the Black Lens.

Spokane Black Voices will take place at 7 p.m. Tickets to the event are free and information can be found at

Roberta Simonson's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.