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Sandy Williams, publisher of Black Lens, presumed dead in Western Washington plane crash

Sandy Williams speaks to Northwest Public Broadcasting's Sueann Ramela in 2021.
Northwest Public Broadcasting
Sandy Williams speaks to Northwest Public Broadcasting's Sueann Ramela in 2021.

Sandy Williams, a Spokane racial justice activist who published Eastern Washington’s only Black newspaper, is presumed dead after her flight was involved in crash in the Puget Sound Labor Day weekend.

Williams was known for the Black Lens, and her work to launch the Carl Maxey Center. She also worked alongside many other non-profits to promote equity and racial justice, or during the pandemic, to encourage Spokane’s Black community to get vaccinated.

Williams was also foundational to launching a Pride center at EWU, and an advocate for LGBTQ rights in Spokane.

In an interview with KSPS in 2019, Williams said her initial hope for the Black Lens was as a source of positive news, but said that changed as she started writing the first issue.

“I set out to do that and then there was a report that was produced by the Spokane Police Department, it said that the people of color, particularly African Americans and Native Americans were disproportionately impacted by use of force, and that wasn't really communicated in the media,” she said, “so I went, ‘man, if I don't tell that story, that it’s not going to get out there.' So that was the first article of the very first issue, and so there went my happy news.”

She said since then, its been a way for her to highlight issues, especially around race and justice, that aren’t talked about in national, or other local media outlets.

In an interview with Northwest Public Broadcasting’s Sueann Ramella last year, Williams recalled the challenges of growing up in a predominately white community, and the need for safe spaces for Black people.

She says that need eventually led to the Carl Maxey Center.

“There was a building that was vacant, in the neighborhood, the area of East Central, that has a significance for Black people, and what we figured out was missing was a place,” she said, “You need to have a space, like you were asking earlier, where do you go to be safe? There's not a lot of that here, so we figured that we needed that. we needed to create a space that's specifically safe for Black people. It’s not that other people can't come, but the intention of it is to be a safe space for Black people.”

Williams is mourned by friends and family, but also many non-profits and local leaders in Spokane, who have released statements over the last several days thanking her for her work in the community.