Sandy Williams' words inspire commitment
Sandy Williams and her partner Patricia Hicks were among 10 who lost their lives in a plane crash Labor Day while they were visiting the San Juan Islands. The Fig Tree editor Mary Stamp shared her reflections and some of Sandy's words at a Celebration of Her Life on Sept. 13:
The Black Lens editor and Carl Maxey Center director Sandy Williams was a tireless, persistent visionary and advocate for equality, dignity, inclusion, justice, and human rights.
As a friend and journalism colleague, we collaborated in our newspaper and media literacy efforts, and in our challenge to all forms of bias.
I know how much effort it took for her to put together stories, photos, layouts, ads, and finances, deliver newspapers and build relationships.
Believing mainstream media news on diverse communities was inadequate, Sandy started The Black Lens in 2015. She wanted to cover positive stories and counter negative, narrow news that stereotyped blacks. Her idea was to uplift the accomplishments of Spokane's African Americans.
By the first issue, that changed, because she felt the Spokane Police Department Use of Force Report had not been covered accurately.
Sandy said: "The black community needs to know what is happening. Someone needs to speak up. The community needs a voice."
In a 2016 panel on media literacy, Sandy repeated her concerns:
• Media under report positive news and focus on negative news of blacks.
• Media often use problems to frame views of blacks.
• They miss stories about black people's lives and experiences.
She said: "Repeated exposure to unbalanced reporting reinforces cultural biases and creates a hostile environment."
Building credibility with The Black Lens, she has influenced coverage in the Spokesman-Review.
In a 2019 speech to Spokane's NAACP, she said
"People of color need strategies to fight racism, because there are strategies to keep up racial disparities that mean people of color have the lowest life expectancy in Spokane."
A "word wonk," Sandy looked up the word "war" in a Merriam Webster dictionary and found it is "a state of hostility, conflict or antagonism."
Then she said: "In this country, many are at war with people who do not look, act, believe, love or pray like them."
"We need to understand the strategies behind the conflicts."
When a jury acquitted the man who shot William Poindexter in the back, she didn't want her daughter to be resigned, believing there was nothing anyone could do.
Sandy said: "I decided that would not be my legacy for my child or anyone's child."
Sandy was willing to do the lonely work of being visible and speaking out to give voice to people of color and work to overcome racism.
She wanted people to understand strategies of those promoting racism—build fear of violence; imply resources are limited; assassinate a person's character and divide to conquer.
Sandy gathered folks to form the Carl Maxey Center to challenge those strategies in a neighborhood gathering place, a cultural and educational center and a place offering resources to improve lives.
Sandy said: "We seek to uplift, empower and transform our community to design solutions that address challenges and bring healing to the trauma of racism."
We need her voice and vision to continue!
Let's partner with The Black Lens and Carl Maxey Center to keep her legacy alive!
Mary Stamp – The Fig Tree editor.