March 1, 2022

Black History Month 2022

February is Black History Month. As we wrap up the month and dive into March, we want to take a moment to emphasize the importance of honoring the contributions of the Black individuals to our nation, states, and communities. This celebration isn’t something that only comes up once a month, uplifting the powerful work of those in our community and celebrating pathways forward is what we seek to do everyday.


Big Names in Spokane’s History

As we think about Black history in Spokane a few key names come to mind, Eleanor Barrow Chase, the first Black woman to serve on the board at EWU and an influential social worker; James Chase, our first Black mayor; Carl Maxey, a powerful lawyer and civil rights activist; Jerrelene Williamson, Black historian and writer. All of these names are powerful to our City’s history, bringing lasting awareness to the need for racial equity and creating legal, and social change.


Powerful Names in the Present

There are many names we hear frequently, of established Black leaders in our community, such as Kiantha Duncan, Sandy Williams, Freda Gandy, and Betsy Wilkerson. Many of us might be familiar with these names because these are individuals who have created a platform to make change, and have been making it happen for quite a while.

Kiantha Duncan currently serves as NAACP Spokane president, leading one of the strongest civil rights organizations with grace and compassion, calling the Spokane community in. Sandy Williams serves the community as an organizer and entrepreneur, bravely venturing into new opportunities to uplift her city at every turn. Freda Gandy has used her passion to uplift families and build equity in the community to create impactful programs as director of the MLK Center. Betsy Wilkerson makes change as a City Council Member, helping our city succeed by advocating for the needs of our communities.

In creating their platform, these four women alongside many others help build a pathway for other Black women to step into leadership. They continually show up and make great strides in the community, strengthening it with their leadership and mentoring the next generation.


The Future of Black History in Spokane

Christina Kamkosi

With all of the amazing young Black leaders in Spokane, it’s hard to narrow down just who we should recognize, but a great place to start is with Christina Kamkosi. Christina is a member of our YWCA Racial & Social Justice Committee and leads efforts for diversity, equity, and inclusion across the board as a program manager at Providence St. Joseph Health. Listed as one of the top 20 professionals under 40 by Inland Business Catalyst Magazine, she is no doubt a leader in our community, paving pathways for other women of color to find themselves in senior leadership. And at the same time her work in creating supportive and welcoming community and work spaces, helps provide a supportive and affirming workplace for those who follow her lead.


Latrice Williams

Another influential Black leader in our community is Latrice Williams. One of the amazing things about Latrice is that she does so much, it’s hard to pinpoint what her main thing is. She serves as a mentor to young women in Spokane, working with court-involved girls through her position with Spokane Public Schools. She is also a real estate agent, helping those she meets navigate housing and financial systems to find stability and build wealth for the long-term. In addition to this work, she stays in touch with her passion to sing, recently putting on a Jazzeasy at Montvale Event Center to uplift Black voices and people through music.


Inga Laurent

Inga Laurent is another great name that comes to mind when we think of the future of Black history in Spokane. As she teaches about law and justice through her work at Gonzaga and the Inlander, she centers restorative justice and community-based solutions. Her wealth of experience and knowledge, inspired by global systems and learning about our own systems here, has led her to the conclusion that restorative and traditional justice processes must work together to find individualized solutions to each person’s case. Inga opens hearts and minds with the amazing work she does in educating our community.

 


Natasha Hill

Last but certainly not least, we want to recognize Natasha Hill as she is building the future of Black history in Spokane. As a lawyer she works to help uplift families, businesses, and the community as a whole. She is passionate about serving families and holding systems and businesses accountable. Natasha is also a great advocate for low-voting communities, encouraging civic engagement and working to open opportunities for all to participate. We can’t wait to see what she does next in her journey to uplift the Spokane community.


As we look forward to the future of Black history in Spokane, we recognize that this is an ongoing story that we are watching unfold every day. As individuals and organizations come together to build unity and community, we will continue to watch our area blossom into a supportive and loving space, led by the women in this story and the many more to come.

By: Rachel Dannen

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