FigTree Header 10.14


Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Speakers value the influence of the Spokane’s MLK Center in their lives


Two Pride Prep students, Jada Richardson and Amari Troutt, and digital ad executive David Osei recently told how the Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. Family Outreach Center and Dr. King have influenced their lives.

Amari Troutt and Jada Richardson

They spoke at the Spokane Ministers’ Fellowship Jan. 9 benefit breakfast for the center.

Jada found 2016 an emotional, hectic year with the election, shootings and police brutality shaking U.S. history.

She attributes this country’s disunity to people who face the same struggles competing with each other. Instead, she believes people need to stand united, speak out and be people others can lean on during their trials and tribulations.

“We can’t just stick up for our own cultural groups. We have to stick up for all who experience discrimination and mistreatment. We become part of the problem the day we let those with power bully those without power,” Jada continued. 

When MLK had a dream, it was not just for black Americans.  It was for anyone who was not being treated like a human being, she said. 

Her hope for 2017 is that people unite to lift their voices and fight for the changes they would like to see in the community and country. She concluded, quoting Psalms 133:1: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

Amari has gone to the MLK Center since she was three years old, participating in ECEAP (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program), the FAME (Fulfillment Achievement Maturity Enrichment) after-school program, the summer program and now the teen program.

Raised in Calvary Baptist Church and involved with choir, dance and reading prayers, she said, “if I hadn’t been raised in that environment, I don’t know where I’d be, because God has always been an arrow pointing towards the right decision.  Giving back to those in need has always been a passion for me.”

When Amari was six years old, she began volunteering at the church’s soup kitchen that her grandmother, Peggie Troutt, started. 

“I have been volunteering eight years and I just can’t get enough,” she said.

By her example, Freda Gandy, executive director of the MLK Center, has also inspired her to give to people in need.

“I love helping someone in need,” she said.  “When I volunteer, I do it because I love seeing someone smile.”

Amari thinks volunteering is something that should come naturally, because everyone needs help.

“We should all be able to help others,” she said, quoting Proverbs 28:27: “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.”

David Osei

David’s volunteering as a teen counselor at the MLK Center, beginning at the age of 13, introduced him to the working world.

He said it has had impact on his success not only in advertising, but also as a songwriter and recording artist now living in Los Angeles.

David, 26, who graduated in sociology in 2013 from Washington State University, said that few knew how long it would take to bring about Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of freedom, equality and peace.

“This dream requires work from each and every one of us with each day, week, month and year,” he said.

As he sought to bring the civil rights leader’s message to life, he looked at his summer of volunteering.

“It was one of the many things in my childhood that my mother (Denise Osei) plotted for me to do, for which I am now grateful,” he said, glad he worked with childhood friends and had “a bit of authority over younger counterparts.”

He arrived early to set up for breakfast and stayed to clean up.

“We did what we were told and felt honored to work with people we looked up to,” David said.

“Today, people are often disconnected from the work done for us to have basic liberties and the pain those before us went through just to get a job,” he said.  “People often saw African Americans as less, because they have never been privy to the rich history of our people from the scholars of Africa to the black history of this country.”

David feels lucky to have been raised in an era of respect for elders, community and the reality that it takes a village to raise a child.  Those who have succeeded have been an example for each other.

When he moved to Los Angeles a few years ago, he was afraid, but knew he was destined for more.

David said it has been tough there.  He has run into people who do a double take when they meet him. It didn’t matter whether he wore a suit or jeans and a hoody, he said people seemed afraid because of his height, size and race.

“When I walked into a board room with co-workers in the not-so-diverse TV advertising industry, some had big eyes and gasped.  I could tell they were nervous,” David said.

After conversing, they realize he is a knowledgeable young professional, from humble, hard-working beginnings.  He has gained their trust.

Now, David said, they “judge me by the content of my character, not the color of my skin.” 

Despite that, he finds his answers to questions are often taken as a generalization about all African Americans.

“Each day, we are trusted with a sacred mission,” he said, commenting on the role of the MLK Center.

To a few of the children and youth who frequent the MLK Center, it may just be day care, but for parents it’s a safe place for their children where they have care and the fun that help shape their futures, David said.

“While there are children of all races and this is a place where all are accepted, for the African-American youth of our community, this is a chance to be in a group setting where we aren’t the only ones,” he said.

Not until high school did he have a teacher who looked like him.

“It’s important to see people like yourself in positions of authority, to have role models in whom we see ourselves,” he said.  “The MLK center fills this void.”

David said he came to speak to thank people who had an impact of his success.

The recent vandalism at the outreach center disturbed him, making him realize that “after so long, our work has not neared its halfway point,” he said.

His mother told of growing up in the civil rights era, marching with MLK, challenging segregation and Jim Crow laws.

“So what do we do when we have come so far, yet still are belittled?  We must lead by example,” he said.

He cited Gal. 5:13’s call for people to use their freedom to love and serve one another. 

He quoted Gal. 6:9, 10: “Love your enemies and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.”

“Expecting nothing in return is the key,” David said. “We are not to look for admiration or thanks, but simply give out of the goodness of our hearts, knowing we may have had a positive impact on the future.

For youth to be uplifted and have the foundation to become examples to lead the change for the future, he said places like the MLK center are important.

“A few moments and few words of encouragement can change lives,” David said, noting that young men he worked with as a teen still reach out to him and come to him for advice. 

“This life is a gift,” David said.  “The purpose of life is to learn from as many people as we can, to give to as many as we can and to lay a foundation for those to follow so that this place is better off than when we started.

“We need to be beacons of light, act as brothers and sisters, as children of God chosen to make our mark on this world by leading by example,” David said.

For information, call 455-8722 or visit

Copyright © February 2017 - The Fig Tree