‘There is certainly opportunity and work to be done’: Black History Month, a conversation with Kiantha Duncan

SPOKANE, Wash. — Even though the Spokane NAACP was founded more than a century ago, the organization is still fighting for racial justice and equity in Spokane.

This is according to its current president, Kiantha Duncan.

From 4 News Now’s Destiny Richards:

Going into the interview with her, I thought of Duncan as a “pillar” in the Spokane community.

But she considers herself more of a “guest” with a love for humanity and a desire to make Spokane a better place for everyone.

Kiantha: The Spokane NAACP has been in this city for 102 years.

That to me says we’re invested in this community, the NAACP is invested in the people that we serve and invested in serving this city. So not just the people, but serving the city.

So that we can provide support around racial justice, around education, we can provide support around civic engagement, around healthcare and health disparities.

Those are the things that we focus on.

Destiny: Do you feel like you’ve made progress on that mission since you’ve been president?

Kiantha: I think we’re making progress. Every bit of movement is progress.

There is certainly opportunity and work to be done. I don’t know that there is a destination that we will ever get to.

Destiny: How would you define “work to be done?”

Kiantha: Until we live in a community where every single person — not taking away anyone — can be confident that they are safe, that they will be treated fairly in the event that they have interaction with law enforcement or the criminal justice system. Until every person knows that their children will be treated safely and that the educational system isn’t doing any harm to them but instead helping them to be whole people, we got work to do.

Destiny: You’re also recently a columnist for the Spokesman-Review. Why do you think it’s important that your voice is in that and that you’re involved in that?

Kiantha: To have a columnist, an advice columnist that is a person of color that brings a whole set of diverse experiences, not just experiences, but also challenges to the table to give support to people who are anywhere everywhere around the world. That is critical.

Destiny: Well, I want to ask a question as if I’m someone reaching out to you, a columnist.

Recently I wrote a story about a Black-owned business. It got a lot of response because some people thought it was offensive to call it a “Black-owned” business in the headline.

If you were talking to the same people in these comments. What would you say to that?

Kiantha: Relax. Relax first and get very honest about why you’re uncomfortable hearing that.

Black people in particular, but I would say this about people of color, period — we have had to exist in the United States of America sometimes being, as my grandmother used to say, being “seen but not heard”.

So all of a sudden it’s like no, we’re saying this is a Black-owned business.

We’re saying look at this, see this, we are here and we are vocal and we get to celebrate and we get to mourn, we get to do all of the things you get do.

Destiny: Yeah I feel like that as well as part of Black History Month is about reflecting on how far we’ve come and where we’re going still even to this day.

There was a time when a Black person couldn’t open businesses in this region at all.

Kiantha: Absolutely. Well we’re still in that time apparently if people are still questioning why.

We’re closer to that time than we are away from it if people still say that. So we just have work to do.

Destiny: What do you think of when you think of Black History Month? For people who didn’t even know it was Black History Month, how do you feel that they should reflect or celebrate Black History Month?

Kiantha: It’s OK first if you didn’t even know that there was a Black History Month, if you’re a person that is not a person of color, that’s OK that you didn’t know that.

Now if you didn’t know that Black people were important, that’s another issue. That’s not OK.

Get to a point where you are inquisitive.

If you take the time to get to know a little more about America’s full history, if you do that then I think you would be remiss not fall in love with Black people in the same ways that I am.

Not to fall in love with people of color, not to fall in love with Indigenous folks, Native folks, everybody.

You would be remiss because everyone has contributed some amazing things to this country.

For more stories and conversations about Black History Month in Spokane, see kxly.com/blackhistorymonth.

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