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New NAACP Spokane president connects to community

President of the NAACP Spokane for just a few months, Phil Tyler has been making the NAACP visible on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and its website to interest younger people to come to membership meetings.

Floyd Rhodes, Dave and Faye Baptiste, Phil Tyler, Meg Demand, Karen Boone and Dorene Hagen.

Often Phil’s postings on social media show him in the community, meeting with different people.

“We are going to people to talk with them, rather than talking at people trying to draw them to us,” he said.  “We want to work on reconnecting with people or establishing new relationships.  We need to nurture relationships to expand our outreach.”

Along with showing himself meeting with community leaders, Phil offers Facebook messages, like recent comments related to Unity in the Community:

“We need to fix the broken relationships that have been damaged as a result of partisan politics. We can do it and events like this prove it. We do it through ‘Unity.’ We do it by coming together, celebrating our diversity, finding and binding those things that bring us together. Thank you to all who showed up, in person and in spirit, to show that we can do it together!”

Membership in the NAACP Spokane is growing.  So is attendance at meetings, Phil said.

“I see room for expansion locally in the national NAACP’s growth model for involving more people—young and old, Democrat and Republican, and more than blacks and whites,” he said.

“We want the knowledge and values of the NAACP to be carried on to the next generation,” he said.

“My role is bridge building, finding common ground, rather than dwelling on conflict, and working in partnership, not being partisan,” he said.  “What we do is about the right of all citizens to human rights.”

Phil has been involved with the Spokane NAACP for two years.  He knew about it from his mother’s involvement.  He saw it as existing to bring about equality during the civil rights movement, and then, for him, it seemed to be silent.

As a military child, Phil grew up around the world and United States—Japan, the Philippines, Montana, Oregon, California and Washington.  His parents divorced, and he grew up on public assistance with his mother in Spokane, graduating from Ferris High School.  He entered the Air Force and served in California, Korea, Kentucky and Washington, leaving the military in 1993.

He then worked with the sheriff’s office jail division for many years, and now works in security at Gonzaga University and has his own communication consulting business, Wisdom and Words.

“I seek to serve the community in various capacities,” he said.

Recently board members Dorothy Webster and Faye Baptiste attended the national convention.

They brought back a poster that shows a tapestry of the founders.

“It may be a surprise to some that the founders were not all African American.  We need to share that message, so Spokane does not divide on black and white racial lines, but also involves Asian Americans, Native American, Hispanic Americans and Muslim Americans in the community,” Phil said.

“We are still fighting for rights, equality and ending discrimination.  We need to reach the broader community so more come together to work on those issues.  We will be more powerful the more members we have,” he said.

He reported that at Unity in the Community, the NAACP had signed up six more people.

At a recent meeting a new young man came on his birthday.  He gave $40, his birthday money—$30 for membership and another $10 as a donation.

Until recently, membership meetings drew about 40 people, but the last few meetings, 80 have been coming, Phil said.

The five “game changers” that are the basic priorities of the NAACP work both locally and nationally are 1) economic stability, 2) education, 3) health, 4) public safety and criminal justice, and 5) voting registration and political representation.

The national has also been emphasizing that to accomplish those, the NAACP must expand to engage youth and young adults. 

The NAACP is organized to have committees responsible for each of those five priorities.  With more people involved with the NAACP, he knows that everyone together can do what needs to be done to help the city move forward and heal.

On education, for example, the local chapter is working with the District #81 school superintendent, Shelley Redinger, to address the disproportional expulsion and discipline of minority students, as one issue.

Related to criminal justice, Spokane recently received a Mac-Arthur grant for law and justice.  The NAACP is part of efforts to reduce the jail population, particularly the large minority population in jails by promoting community courts and diversion of those arrested who need mental health treatment, so they do not end up in the criminal justice system.

The NAACP is also registering and educating voters.  Part of that effort is to inform felons who have served their terms and are off probation that they can vote.  That has been the case in Washington for many years, but many think that once they have been imprisoned for a felony they can never vote again.

Phil feels he has “big shoes to fill” as NAACP chapter president, but he noted that, just as he as a child was able to walk down the hall wearing his mother’s shoes, he can “make it down the hall through obstacles” with the city and community.

To do that work, he believes, means operating with a measure of discipline, not responding emotionally on issues.  It’s not about pushing with the loudest or most frequent voices but maintaining the consistent voice of the NAACP’s core message for social justice and civil rights.

“I’m motivated by a desire for fairness, equality and justice for all,” he said.  “That includes gender equity, instilled in me being raised by a single mother with three sisters, and modeled every day by the women who make up the NAACP Spokane Executive Committee.”

Phil also said hate motivates me, not that “I hate” but that “I hate hate.”

He wants to eradicate hate so people can have discussions and disagree without anger and fear turning to hate.

“Every struggle is worth the endeavor,” he said.  “For me the journey is the reward.”

For information, call 954-8392 or email

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