I know many of you have already seen the sad and shocking news of Sandy Williams passing with her partner Patricia Hicks.
Here is the Spokesman Review Article on Sandy’s Passing.
We’re grieving her loss.
Sandy Williams was a role model as an organizer and leader. One of the people I most respect. She nurtured Black power, space, voice, and community in Spokane.
I first learned of her work in the 90s with People of Color Against AIDS Network. She told me later that in that job her director told her not to make any asks for the first year, just focus on real relationship-building. That ethos of authenticity and relationship was one of the reasons Sandy was so widely and deeply trusted and respected.
In 2009 when I started at PJALS, Sandy was the Interim Executive Director at Odyssey Youth Movement, where she had been a board member, making space for LGBTQ+ youth. Soon after that she was the Director of the Pride Center at EWU, and I remember her giving me a tour of the space and telling me stories of how she was supporting students as people and leaders.
I’m remembering her excitement about Bernie Sanders and her disgust and sense of betrayal after attending the Democratic Convention as a Bernie Delegate.
I remember the day she called me and said she needed protesters at a city event at East Central Community Center because the city was mucking up an important interview process for a new director for the center. My response was simply to ask “How many?”
I remember her keynoting our Action Conference in spring 2017 telling us the game was not boxing but rather chess: what’s the end game? What are the abilities and positions of the pieces on the board? What are you planning 2 moves after this one?
I remember her workshop at the same event, “A Lesson on Privilege for Progressives: Why are People of Color So Angry (at you)?” where she used a clip from “Hidden Figures” to illustrate how privilege creates ignorance and how, when people with privilege act as allies, they often get outsize credit. And she said she never wanted to be asked to advise decision-makers but rather wanted to be one of many directly impacted decision-makers.
And I remember her steady, quiet voice in so, so many community meetings asking a key question or making a point. She was a truth-teller. And I’m angry at how many times she was asked to tell the same truths to this city and county over and over when those in power chose not to listen.
She was the BEST to strategize with, and so much fun. She was a builder. Her depth of relationship, long term vision, focus on two moves ahead, and her ability to see people as they really were (strengths, weaknesses, and what they truly cared about – opponents, allies, and community members) … I have rarely known anyone with her brilliance, her down to earth-ness and her love. She was an amazing fighter but she was really, at heart, a creative builder.
I had lunch with her at Fresh Soul in June and I’m so glad we did. She was so proud of the Black Lens and the Carl Maxey Center. She loved her team of staff there. She loved her SCAR comrades. It was exciting to see all that she was building and had already built! She did lay very strong foundations. I’m heartbroken she won’t be here to see what happens next and what comes to fruition.
She loved and respected Jac Archer very much, and she strongly supported their voice, abilities, growth, and leadership in the community.
I miss her very much already. My love and condolences to her family and all who love her.
Executive Director, Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane