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New NAACP president raises expectations on human rights, equality

Voices across generations expressed the message that perseverance is needed to continue the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. in advocating for civil rights, human rights, equal rights and justice.

At the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration Sunday, Jan. 18, Freda Gandy emphasized the need for the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center she directs to build a new and larger building to assure that the community’s children have a place to go.

At the MLK Day Rally, she gave an opportunity for speakers to share perspectives.  Speakers were from Eastern Washington University, the Urban Poets Society, Grant School, plus singer Orenda Stone, the new Spokane NAACP President Rachel Dolezal and the Rev. Happy Watkins of New Hope Baptist Church.

In addition to appeals for state funding to build a new center, Freda announced the need to raise $500,000 locally through churches and community donations.

“When I was a single mother, I needed a place to go and the center was there, contributing to my success and my son’s,” Freda said.

“I can’t do it alone.  I need you to make sure the building is built,” she challenged those at the service.

Rachel Dolezal
Rachel Dolezal urges moving toward liberty and justice.

Rachel, who spoke at the commemorative service at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, on “The Urgency of Now: The New Call for Human Rights and Revival of MLK’s Dream,” shared insights from teaching since 2007 on the intersection of race, gender and class with Eastern Washington University’s Africana Studies Department.  A previous director of the Human Rights Education Institute in North Idaho, she taught art in K-12 schools and has displayed art at the United Nations headquarters.  Recently, she was elected chair of the OFfice of Police Omsbudsman Commission. 

Rachel said the new leaders of the Spokane NAACP will raise expectations on human rights.

She talked of the legacy of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech 52 years later, with the Voting Rights Act passed 50 years ago and the desegregation of schools 60 years ago.

“We continually see legislation and practices that seek to undo the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, and people who want to rewind back to the original U.S. Constitution in which we were deemed three-fifths the value of other human lives,” Rachel said.  “Even with a Black President in the Oval Office, national, state and local lawmakers have unraveled our liberties, and thousands of people have revealed their racist sentiments in derogatory and degrading images and statements about our First Family.”

“There is an urgency as we begin 2015, coming out of 2014 with so much pain and bloodshed from police brutality and economic inequality,” Rachel said.  “There is an urgency for a new call for civil and human rights.”

In 1963, King asked 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, “Are we free?” 

Rachel said the “Black Lives Matter” movement is about basic human rights—human dignity and value.  It’s about the right to life, to not be gunned down in the streets at the same rate as bodies hung from trees in earlier decades of lynchings.

She wonders if the civil rights marches, and the loss of lives and suffering of those like MLK, who spoke truth to power and stood up against injustice just “won a few scraps of legislation, put a few more groceries on our table, allowed our kids access to white schools and merely gave us the means to keep fighting.”

She is concerned that many have fallen asleep, thinking that the work has been done.

“MLK said 1963 was not the end.  It was just the beginning,” she said.  “MLK said that those who hoped black people needed just to blow steam in the civil rights movement and would be content, will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.”

He said there would not be tranquility in America until Black people were granted equal rights.

“What we see in Ferguson, in Staten Island and around the world in Shanghai, Palestine, India and elsewhere is this revolt and call for valuing Black lives until “justice flows down like waters.”

Rachel said that:

• “It’s not okay that there is not justice for the murders of Michael Brown or Eric Garner. 

• It’s not ok that George Zimmerman remains free to perpetrate continued violence on others.

• “It’s not okay that there is not equality in schools, and we do not have access to our own history even though Black American history predates many of our white classmates’ history on this continent..

• “It’s not okay that after desegregation, we lost many Black teachers, so there are fewer black teachers today in Spokane than there were 10 years ago.  On the state level, we do about the same or worse in hiring Black teachers as we did in the 1970s.”

She is upset by these realities as she raises her sons, 13 and 20, telling of the struggles of mothers of Black children to work to build up children’s self concept so they go to school, despite racial slurs and threats they may experience in Spokane schools.

“Until our children are treated fairly and equally, freedom will not ring in our hearts or theirs.  Until we can be sure of their equal safety in the streets and equal protection by law enforcement, our fight for freedom continues,” she said.  “Until we have equal pay for equal work, and equal opportunities for advancement in Spokane, our work must press on.  Until we are granted fair trials, quality legal representation and just sentencing from juvenile to superior courts, the struggle for liberty continues. Until our elders receive adequate health care and have means to live in dignity, until we no longer live like exiles in our own land, we march on.”

Rachel cited the 10-point platform of the Black Power Movement, calling for freedom, self-determination, full employment, an end to robbery by capitalists, decent housing, education that includes “our true history,” an end to police brutality, an end to wars of aggression, freedom for blacks and oppressed people in jails, trials by a jury of peers, and land, bread, clothing, justice, peace and community control of modern technology.

She called for Black children to pledge to develop their minds and bodies, to be free of drugs, to share knowledge, to direct energies positively, to be physically, psychologically and mentally strong.

The promise of 40 acres of land after emancipation was revoked within a year, “yet today we have more opportunities than our ancestors but the struggle to move forward to realize full and complete freedom, equity and opportunity for all our brothers and sisters must continue,” she said.

With the Black Lives Matter movement and “the rising tide of civil rights in Spokane” through the NAACP, she called people to join the cause and lend their talents, remembering that what MLK lived and died for was not an end but a beginning.

“Whatever you do, keep moving forward to the dream of liberty and justice for all,” she said.

The Rev. Lonnie Mitchell, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church where the service was held, called for the march to go on into the world.

“It’s time to go out and shout from the mountaintop about what is wrong and what needs to be better,” he said.  “I hope we will march to a different drum and bring progress and change, put out an agenda and be leaders in the community for progress for our children.”

The NAACP-Spokane recently moved to Suite 239 at the Community Building, 35 W. Main.

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Copyright © February 2015 - The Fig Tree