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Community reacts to loss of Spokane Civil Rights Activist Sandy Williams

Williams was reportedly celebrating her 61st birthday before the plane crashed.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Reports have been confirmed that Spokane Civil Rights Activist Sandy Williams was among the nine passengers lost in the seaplane crash on Puget Sound in Seattle.

According to Spokane City Councilmember Betsy Wilkerson, Williams was on vacation celebrating her 61st birthday a week beforehand with friends before the plane crashed. Wilkerson also said that Williams was preparing to come back to Spokane to celebrate the re-opening of the Carl Maxey Center.

People in the community knew Sandy Williams as determined, strong and an advocate for social and civil rights justice. 

“She worked on so many levels, it’s hard for the average person to understand,” Bevan Maxey, son of the late Carl Maxey, said.  

She was a driving force for the start and success of many African American resources Spokane can see today. 

She was a founding member of Spokane Community Against Racism (SCAR), creator of The Black Lens, a seven year old local black news publication, and executive director of the Carl Maxey Center. 

Maxey said the center in his father’s name was in good hands with Williams. 

“There wouldn’t have been a Carl Maxey Center without her," Maxey said. "She was the catalyst and the person who kept it going when it seemed like the idea would flounder or not happen. It was all her vision. She deserves all the credit. It was good to know it was in the hands of such a wonderful person.” 

Just across the street from the center, owner of Fresh Soul, Michael Brown said he had trouble sleeping after hearing the news of her passing. 

“I was struggling all night to rest,” Brown said. 

Brown said Williams was a person who looked for ways to unify communities and people were stronger because of her. 

“She did bring Black people together, to bring all people together and for us to support each other," Brown explained. "Because when we can come together as a people we have a beginning. And when we can stay together as a people, we have progress. And when we can work together as a people, we have progress. And that’s what she was about.” 

Many figures in the Spokane community are sharing their grief over the news online. In a Facebook post, the Spokane County Human Rights Task Force said:

Together, with all of Spokane, we mourn the loss of Sandy Williams. Sandy was a voice for the voiceless, a tireless advocate for marginalized people in Spokane, a journalist unafraid to speak truth to power, a builder of hope in her vision for the Carl Maxey Center, and a beloved friend to countless members of our community. Our hearts go out to Sandy’s family. While she may be gone, her legacy is assured.

Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh took to Twitter to pay respects to the civil rights activist:

Williams served the Spokane community as a community organizer, filmmaker and entrepreneur with an extensive background focusing on discrimination, equity and social justice. She was the publisher and editor of THE BLACK LENS, Eastern Washington's only African-American focused newspaper. Williams also served as the executive director of the Carl Maxey Center.

On Tuesday morning the Coast Guard released the names of all passengers and crew on board the seaplane:

Brown said he knew Patricia Hicks through Williams. She was Williams's partner and they came by the restaurant often.

"Patricia was also a beautiful person," Brown expressed. "So we didn’t lose just one. We lost two important community members here.”  

Staff members at the Carl Maxey Center said they are working on organizing a ceremony that celebrates Williams's life.

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