NAACP increases participation to address emerging, ongoing racism
As president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Spokane since 2017, Kurtis Robinson has implemented changes that have increased participation, resulting in record meeting attendance on numerous occasions.
The organization's membership and executive committee membership have grown.
"People are hungry for champions who will get out in front on issues," said Kurtis, who calls members to be the change that is needed. "We have set in motion 'boots on the ground' advocacy, moving people into spaces so those in power may no longer be comfortable to have conversations about us without us."
The history of Spokane is full of disparities in access socially, economically, politically, educationally and in health.
"We do not want to continue that historic trend. We need to be consulted before decisions are made, not after," he said.
Kurtis said NAACP Spokane represents multiple communities of color interested in addressing police accountability, criminal justice, transparency and accountability in addressing racial disparities in health care, political, private and educational systems.
"People are ready to participate in real work," he said, adding that NAACP Spokane is connecting with other community of color organizations, like the Spokane Coalition of Color, the Hispanic Business and Professional Association, the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition and the Muslims for Community Action.
"We see who our allies are," he said. "We may disagree on philosophy, but by working together there can be real solutions."
Kurtis calls for challenging power structures that maintain systemic and institutional racism because what happened historically and still goes on is harmful to communities of color.
"Some are so embedded in the system that even though they voice opposition, they may be inept or inert to challenge or change it. It has been clear with protests of George Floyd's murder and COVID-19," he said.
"Just because you stand next to me does not make you my ally. Just because I don't agree with something you have done, does not make you my enemy. People's actions are the marker to show where they are at in the struggle for racial equity and justice for our communities of color," he said.
One effort in motion is the push for an Office for Civil Rights for the city and county.
For now, Kurtis said NAACP Spokane is working with the Human Rights Commission to submit a proposal to the city and county by the end of the year. Included are a list of 136 civil rights complaints made to the task force since 2019, in addition to the 100 letters and phone calls related to concerns at the Spokane County Jail, Kurtis said.
"Systemic racism is real here, and Spokane has made significant progress in exposing that reality through organizing to draw more media coverage, and through stronger relationships among the Native, Asian, Pacific Islander, Latinx and black communities," he said. "We are poised to address historic trends that have gone on for too long."
Kurtis said NAACP Spokane is in a better financial position than in previous years. It is also on the verge of drawing in new leaders.
He attributes that to more visibility gained through sustained meaningful engagement and recent virtual forums as part of their monthly General Membership Meetings on third Mondays.
The virtual gatherings have included panels and education on mass incarceration, native issues, police accountability, racism in the American church and mentoring youth.
"We will continue to carry on meaningful conversations and high level community engagement," he said. "The forums give voice to multiple community members sharing their institutional expertise, lived experiences and organizational programs."
The September meeting program was conversations about NAACP Spokane's mission and organization.
The meeting at 7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 19, will continue the focus on 2020 branch elections.
While the fall convention will not be held, the branch will award the Michael P. Anderson scholarship and a new scholarship for finance and business majors.
Before school started, NAACP Spokane administered COVID funds to provide internet access and IT support for students and families of color in collaboration with Spokane Public Schools.
It also entered into a cultural audit of the sheriff's office with Eastern Washington University.
Its mission is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of all citizens, engaging youth, removing barriers to voting and political representation, addressing environmental and climate justice, and seeking enactment of laws securing civil rights.
For information, call 209-2425 x 1141, email firstname.lastname@example.org or message on Facebook.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, October, 2020