SCAR challenges racial disparities
By Mary Stamp
The Spokane Community Against Racism (SCAR) is celebrating five years of organizing the community and building relationships to identify and address racial disparities.
Its programs include policy, education, advocacy, research, writing, civic engagement, community engagement, book groups, and direct action.
For its fifth anniversary, SCAR will hold a gathering from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 6, at the Carl Maxey Center, 3114 E. Fifth Ave.
SCAR is run primarily by volunteer teams led by the SCAR Steering Committee:
Justice Forral—their name since birth—has worked with SCAR for two years and is SCAR's first employee. They are the operations director.
Jac Archer is part-time coordinator of the Platform for Change and also organizer with the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS).
Walter Kendricks, the pastor for nine years at Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church, who founded SCAR with the late Sandy Williams, coordinates efforts.
The other members of the SCAR Steering Committee are Scott Mueller, Curtis Hampton, Rick Matters and Pui-Yan Lam.
In May 2017, SCAR was formed at a meeting of 40 people in the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church basement after a white jury decided the white man who shot William Poindexter, a black man, in the back was not guilty based on self-defense.
Two weeks later, SCAR held a rally in Liberty Park, walking to Altamont St., where the shooting occurred.
"Without the Poindexter verdict there would be no Spokane Court Watch," Walter said. "Members of SCAR saw that the lack of presence of BIPOC or any court observers helped Poindexter's killer walk free."
Court Watch teams followed the next case, in which a 10-month-old black baby, Caiden, was killed in the care of a brother of the mother's co-worker. The baby died of blunt force trauma and a fractured skull, Walter said.
During that trial, five to 15 people came every day. The judge knew black people and people wearing SCAR buttons were present. The defendant was out on bail for the trial that took more than a year. In August 2019, he was sentenced to 28 years.
Court Watch attended the 2019 trial of a former policeman for the 1980s murder of a black prostitute. The semen sample, which had disappeared, was found. SCAR is still following this case.
SCAR, which started as a for-profit organization, is forming as a 501(c)(4) organization early next year. This will change SCAR's tax status, but will keep its political voice active. It will continue to be member driven, said Justice.
In the last political cycle, SCAR expanded to include a separate Political Action Committee, which sent mailers in the Spokane County Prosecutors race.
"Our mission is to address racial disparities in multiple ways, helping people educate themselves, each other and the community," Justice explained.
Walter, who is now chair of the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs, said SCAR confronts racism "in every shape and form, and facilitates addressing it as our bandwidth allows, bringing together churches, society and government."
"Wherever I sit, I am there on behalf of SCAR and as a pastor, advocating for civil rights for everyone," he said.
Building community is "essential to counter the ways white supremacy infiltrates society," Walter said.
"Having a strong, intergenerational community where people feel comfortable and welcome impedes efforts by the alt-right to recruit," Justice said.
Walter said SCAR expects volunteers to represent a community spirit with no sexism, racism or homophobia.
Through Burritos for the People, SCAR has given out 300 burritos from 9 to 10 a.m. every Sunday. Justice said they have served 19,093 since starting. Burritos for the People is now hosted at Compassionate Addiction Treatment, 168 S. Division St.
"It's both to build community and fight food insecurity," they said.
"It may seem strange for a civil rights organization to give out burritos, but we give them to people who may have no meals or homes but are part of our community," said Walter.
"SCAR values everyone. We try to be the change we want," he said. "Everyone is welcome at Burritos for the People, even racists, because anyone can grow, and we all need to eat. So we create opportunities and spaces for people to meet and learn from each other."
Justice said there are many ways to volunteer with SCAR.
- The Writers Room produces social media memes and blogs.
- The Research Team tracks Spokane city and county agendas and meetings
- Direct action teams work on tabling events, doing Burritos for the People, light projector activism and various forms of direct outreach.
- Others come to Game Nights, book groups and Sunday Dinners.
"Systems work can be exhausting, so we have activities to buoy people up," Justice said.
"We do both grassroots advocacy with neighbors and grasstops advocacy connecting organizations," they said. "We have held protests against gun violence, for Missing Murdered Indigenous Women, Indigenous People's Day, Pro-Choice and our unhoused community. We have held press conferences on police reform. We also train people how to plan actions."
"Our board is small, but our reach is wide," said Justice, "We support volunteers as peers to do actions they have passion to do."
"We try to make the community a better place," Walter added.
Justice, who grew up in San Diego, started activism in high school and internalized the need for it when working in minimum wage jobs and struggling with food and housing insecurity after graduating. Six years ago, when they were 24, they moved to Spokane where their sister had a restaurant. Justice began to study computer science but decided to switch to political science in 2019, when COVID interrupted their studies.
Justice's involvement with SCAR began with volunteering at events.
After George Floyd's murder, Justice was also involved in supporting the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and began connecting with other organizers and groups in Spokane.
At events and going door-to-door, they have listened to people's perspectives, sought common ground and left the door open, knowing people can change. They value a quote from Malcolm X: "Don't be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn't do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn't know what you know today."
That approach is important for the Platform for Change, Justice said.
At the Nov. 13 Peace Action Conference, Jac said the Platform for Change grew out of 2020 BLM protests that drew more than 15,000 people to Spokane streets.
SCAR realized people care and decided to use the energy from BLM events on the streets, Jac said. Adding to that, the recent national Mapping Police Violence Report ranked Spokane the second deadliest city per capita of 100 cities, and with 12 to 18 incidents a year, the 12th deadliest city.
"In Spokane County, we struggle against racial injustice in every part of our criminal-legal systems—with high rates of stops, arrests, court cases and convictions. We choose punishment in lieu of restoring victims," said Jac.
So SCAR invites people to re-examine crime and "criminalized" behavior, violence and the roots of harmful behavior—such as landlords raising rents in low-income housing and putting more people out on the streets.
To foster shared prosperity, SCAR has gathered agencies to develop the Platform for Change 2.0, to promote "holistic change" that envisions a community of safety and wellness with "robust, diversified, integrated, holistic and community-centered care."
"Integrated care" means if a doctor knows a patient is sick because of black mold, the doctor can ask the landlord to remove the mold so the renter can be healthy, work and pay rent.
"Holistic" means knowing homeless women may begin using meth to stay awake at night to avoid sexual assault and use downers to sleep in the day. When housed they stop using drugs.
"Politics are about how we treat each other," Jac said. "Government is about how we distribute power in society."
Jac said the Platform for Change 2.0—the latest version—is "a living document, subject to change based on growing needs, knowledge and wisdom to envision a community where all have needs met so all thrive."
The Platform for Change 1.0 and the list of supporting organizations are online at scarspokane.org.
SCAR seeks input from the cross-disciplinary coalition of agencies that brings different education, expertise, professional and lived experiences related to root causes of the inequity.
Organizers are gathering feedback on proposals in three areas:
• Transferring funds from police to invest in mental, behavioral and physical health care, addiction treatment, domestic/intimate partner violence intervention, homeless services, tenant protections, public schools, early childhood intervention and services for people in transition from incarceration, homelessness and foster care.
• Holding current policing structures accountable through civilian oversight, empowering the police ombuds office, holding independent investigations of police behavior, demilitarizing police, decertifying officers in extremist groups, and disciplining/firing police guilty of a crime, misconduct or abuse.
• Transforming the existing criminal-legal system to end policies that criminalize poverty, homelessness and addiction, ending cash bail, not building a new jail, reforming pretrial procedures, funding public defenders, releasing sentencing data on the judges' and defendants' demographics.
"We want the Platform for Change to be a springboard for social justice for the whole community," said Jac, inviting others to join in the process.