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March for Justice invites community to begin a ‘journey for justice’

The Spokane Minister’s Fellowship, Spokane Community Against Racism (SCAR) and Spokane NAACP held a March for Racial Justice June 17 at Liberty Park in the East Central neighborhood of Spokane, gathering speakers and nearly 300 people concerned about racial disparities in Spokane.

Randy Corradine

“We are on a journey for justice, said the Rev. Walter Kendricks, president of the Spokane Minister’s Fellowship and pastor at Morning Star Baptist Church, who helped organize the march.

The march was held to highlight the community’s displeasure with the May 11 verdict in the Edward Bushnell trial, to address ongoing racial disparities, and to demand justice and racial equity in the criminal justice system, he said.

A jury rejected first-degree murder, second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter charges for the 2015 shooting of William Poindexter and ruled it self-defense for Bushnell to shoot Poindexter in the back as he was walking away, he said.

“The Minister’s Fellowship and SCAR believe the verdict was not isolated, but part of a broken criminal justice system, riddled with racial disparities,” said Walter.

He and others summarized Spokane’s racial disparities:

• The Spokane Police Department’s Annual Use of Force Report said 33 percent of 2016 incidents involved African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic people.

• There is racial disparity in officer stops, searches and arrests, says the March 2017 report on Officer Contacts with Civilians and Race in the City of Spokane. African Americans, Native Americans, Middle Easterners and Pacific Islanders were stopped more than whites.

In Spokane, African Americans and Native Americans are significantly more likely to experience officer-initiated contacts, and to be searched or arrested, in contrast with other racial groups.

•  There are also racial disparities in jail confinement rates.

According to the W. Haywood Burns Institute SCLJC Presentation last July, in Spokane County, for every White adult detained, seven Blacks and six Native Americans were detained in 2014.

In Spokane County, 18 Whites, 130 Blacks and 30 Latinos per 1,000 people in the population were detained, Walter reported.

• There is also racial disparity in school arrests. In the 2016 to 2017 school year as of February, 52 percent of Spokane public school arrests were children of color.

Several other leaders spoke at the march.

Jackie Vaughn

Jackie Vaughn of Seattle called for letting those affected by violence, inequities and injustice lead. 

“If we create action it should be rooted with those affected,” she said. “The personal is political.  My father, like 60 percent of African American men since the 1960s, spent time in the prison industrial complex.”

Randy Corradine gave a rap on “Black Out,” which he wrote after an experience of being profiled by police, accused of running a stop sign. When he was told the conversation was recorded, he felt terrorized.

“What do I do in a moment when I am a victim of blackness?” he asked, beginning his rap:

“Blacking out in white spaces.  There are too many black faces dying, too many in prison, too many families broken, too many mothers crying, too many girls lost, too many missing, too many blacks in prison. ‘Stop killing us,’ is not a new plea,” he rapped.

While there may not be sheets and trees today, he said institutions internalize ways whites terrorize black lives, and “there are new slave chains chaining us to the old ways,” he rapped.

Kurtis Robinson, the new president of the Spokane NAACP, thanked the Poindexter family for “allowing us to use his killing and their pain as a platform to call people to work to change a broken system.

“It’s time to put aside our differences and learn how to come together to challenge what is rampant in our communities and government,” he said. “The Almighty is not pleased with what is happening.  Walking with Jesus, the Nazarene, we cannot shy away from entering places of power and holding people accountable.  Jesus spoke up and acted.  He expressed displeasure with people, organizations and institutions.

“We are about standing up for each other, for justice, for equity and for equality.  I will not stand aside any more.  Christians can’t afford to do that.  We owe it to the next generation,” Kurtis said.

“We can, will and must come together and continue to come together to move communities forward,” he said. “We need each other.  We need to stop letting the system derail us, separate us, segregate us.  We need to continue to step forward collectively. We cannot, must not and will not quit.”

Sandy Williams, editor of The Black Lens, said she had been overcome in the courtroom with the acquittal based on self-defense of a white man, who shot a black man in the back after trying to stop him from beating his girlfriend. She felt she could not speak at the march she helped organize, but she woke that day with a message.

“In Spokane we do not think we see color.  They might see color in communities that killed Trayvon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Eric Garner in Brooklyn, Franklin Gray and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castillo in Minnesota, or Sandra Brand in Waller County Jail,” she said.

People in Spokane may think Spokane does not see color—black, Native American, Latino—but people of color are stopped and detained more, police use force against them more, and schools discipline children of color more often, Sandra said.

Kitara Johnson

In Spokane County, blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans are more likely to live in poverty and have a higher mortality rate, she said. Spokane boards, elected officials, decision makers and courts are white, she said.

“When William Poindexter was shot in the back by a white man on a skate board carrying a gun and knives, and claiming self-defense, the jury did not see color,” said Sandra.

“Maybe Spokane needs to start to see color,” she said.

Kitara Johnson found it hard to sing in the face of injustice, but chose a 1964 civil rights song by Sam Cook, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” with the promise it would be “a long time coming, but change is gonna’ come.” Knowing that, she said, “makes us able to carry on.”

Marchers walked to 5th and Altamont, where the shooting occurred and returned to Liberty Park for a Juneteenth Barbecue.

For information, call 534-4878 or 209-2425 or email wkendricks@outlook.com.





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