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Progress Report 

Breathing new life into the Spokane NAACP

click to enlarge CALEB WALSH ILLUSTRATION
  • Caleb Walsh illustration

In the wake of fierce opposition to our work this year, there has been an encouraging groundswell of support for the NAACP. Combating the extremism of local hate groups, the Spokane community and leaders across the nation banded together to visualize unity in the face of adversity. The Spokane NAACP is grateful for all those who rallied, stood in the trenches of online commentary, spoke eloquently to city council and joined as new members in the month of March. These are tenuous times, and we are working to develop a support base that reaches critical mass to offset the isolation often felt by communities of color in Spokane.

click to enlarge dolezal.jpg

Beyond the public display of camaraderie, there were some ways our local branch grew beneath the surface tension. We added two new active committees, with stellar chairs at the helm of each, and grew to 112 members. Our Economic Development Committee, under the direction of Ben Cabildo, is focused on developing a usable directory of black-owned businesses in Spokane and forging a strong allegiance between black professionals and allies in the area. Founder of AHANA (African American, Hispanic, Asian & Native American), a local business development organization, Ben has been working for more than a decade to support and expand access to capital, contract acquisition and strong economic strategies for minority-owned businesses in Spokane. He is joined by committee members who are doing academic research in economics, as well as business owners and retired professionals. With a wealth of expertise, this committee promises to support financial empowerment in big ways.

Another important committee, kick-started in February with the voter registration drive at the screening of Selma, worked hard to expand in March. Chaired by political veteran Jan Baker, the Political Action Committee has gained members and is supporting initiatives that further the NAACP mission and vision. Connecting local with state and national issues, this committee addresses voter registration and access and is working toward recruiting local political candidates who represent communities of color. Through limited lobbying, this committee is dedicated to supporting civil rights through the challenging posture of nonpartisan activism.

The Spokane NAACP seeks to advance life chances and opportunities for people of color while preserving civil rights and racial justice in our region. With a strong base of eight active committees (Education, Health, Criminal Justice, Political Action, Membership, Economic Development, Communications, and Freedom Fund), we are ahead of schedule in our plan to grow the branch from zero to eight active committees by the six-month mark this year. With committee chairs serving alongside officers, this growth has expanded our decision-making board to 16 members on the Executive Committee. This large team means sustainable leadership for Spokane's NAACP and support for other NAACP units across the state, like the newly formed Pasco branch. It is my distinct honor to serve within such a stellar inner circle amid strong, collaborative arms surrounding the work we do. ♦

Rachel Dolezal, formerly of the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d'Alene, is president of NAACP Spokane and teaches courses in Africana history and culture at area universities.

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