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Three Black leaders in Spokane talk about how you can honor Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy

Spokane City Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson, Spokane NAACP Chapter President Kiantha Duncan, and MLK Center Executive Director Freda Gandy contribute their thoughts.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Monday, Jan. 18, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, and although some old standby events can't be held due to the coronavirus pandemic there are still plenty of ways to observe. 

Three Black leaders in the Spokane community came on Up with KREM this morning to share their thoughts about Dr. King's legacy, and how we can all contribute to making our city a better place. 

Spokane City Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson:

What is the importance of Martin Luther King Day for here in Spokane, of course nationally as well?

You know here in Spokane, we're a very unique city. I know every city says that, but we've had some challenges and some opportunities and to say that we can rally in different ways than we have done in the past lets me know we are open to doing things differently. This has gotten us past what we always do. We will do that, but now we will do more. And I think we can reach more people in the opportunities we have right now even in the midst of COVID. 

Of course, this week MLK Day falling on the same week as the first black woman will be inaugurated into the white house, what do you think that says about our country, and what do you think Dr. King would say about that?

Hallelujah! Would be one word he would use from the church but this just lets us know, we talked about time. It seems like a long time but look where we are today. This is powerful I'm excited, not that she's a woman of color, but that she is a woman and she will bring different life experiences, is that people can see themselves in Kamala. So opportunity. No it's not just for the dominant race, it's that we have the skillset and the abilities to do that. It is a light for our young people going forward.

If there's someone watching this morning wondering what can I do, how can I honor Dr. King today and in the future, what would you say to them?

You can honor Dr. King by starting with yourself, what is your commitment to social justice, what is your commitment to unity, what is your commitment to change? Start with yourself and start with your family, because that's where change really happens, and then it can spread out to the rest of our community. 

 Spokane NAACP Chapter President Kiantha Duncan: 

What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the past year in our community?

I'll tell you two of the biggest changes. The first has been the level of excitement that we are seeing from community members who are not the NAACP membership folks. So we are getting people who are concerned with the health and wellbeing of all people getting really excited about joining forces with us and becoming co conspirators in the work that we're doing for social justice at the NAACP. 

What do you think Dr. King would say about our world today, our community? How would he want to move forward? 

I believe Dr. King would say I told you all this was going to happen if you didn't get it together. I believe that's what he would say. he warned us of this. He told us about what could happen if we did not all commit to social justice and anti racism work, and in doing so together as a collective. He warned us about this very thing that we're seeing today. 

But I also think that there is another side of dr. king the one that we most connect with the one that is loving and accepting and is eager to join hands and join forces with our fellow mankind that part of Dr. King would be proud to see that we are working. there are so many people now who would not have been a part of these kinds of movements who are saying 'I'm in, I'm all the way in and I'm dedicated and let's start as of today,' So I think he'd be proud as well. 

What's an action step that we can take today to help move forward as a community? 

There's two things. The first and the easiest thing for you to do is search your own heart. Search your own heart and really question your own beliefs, question the role that you've played in getting our country, our world, to where we are right now. and if there are areas for you to be better then do better, if you've done a good job then pat yourself on the back and keep doing a good job. The second thing that I would invite everyone to do, and it's so simple. Go online and join your local NAACP. Spokane's NAACP is your organization and so go online and become a part of the work that we are doing. We are better together, we're stronger together, and if you are in the building then your voice can be heard, you can help to influence the work that we're doing. So those are two simple things 

Spokane MLK Center Executive Director Freda Gandy:

Can you tell us how the unity march will be different this year?

Yes unfortunately due to the pandemic we have to cancel the annual unity rally and march and the resource fair that we normally have every year downtown at the convention center

Tell us about how special the march is to Spokane, what does it mean to t his community?

It's our time to gather and recommit ourselves to racial and social justice. And it's our time to honor Dr. King who committed his life to racial and social justice and also serving others. So it's just a way for us to come together, a way for people to support their local MLK center in the process. We are a non profit social service agency and we provide a variety of social and educational programs to primarily low income people in Spokane - been in existence for over 50 years. 

How do we celebrate this year? What are some of the other ways that we can remember Dr. King? 

We've put together a list of service projects that are a litte more COVID friendly than us gathering at the convention center. So you can go to our website and there is a list of service projects, for example, there's an MLK day run for justice 5k virtual race that you can do. you can put together care packages for families that you can donate to the center. There is a children's booklet, donate a book to kids, there are diversity books, books we wouldn't normally have here. So there are several ways to get involved, I recommend checking out our website to learn more about those projects. 

What is the best way to remember Dr. King's legacy in 2021?

One way to remember is that we need to understand that we need to be recommitting ourselves to racial and social justice throughout the year. His holiday is a day for us to start but we need to continue on throughout the year.