Spokane, Wash. - On the corner of Stone and First avenue in east Spokane is a building that serves the Spokane community and has for the last 30 plus years.
That building is The East Central Community Center, which has been a social refuge for many families over the years. But recently many in the east-central community have wanted to change the name to the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.
City Council Woman Kate Burke was in favor, But the change was voted down by the planning commission that led to this exchange:
"This is shocking I'm disappointed, I find it offensive from an all-white board that there is a lack of respect to the community and the people running that facility," Burke said. The planning board quipped back saying, "It makes more sense to leave it the way it is because it identifies the community it serves. It has nothing to do with prejudice, and I really resent that," said Planning Commission Member Sylvia St. Clair. Other members also chimed in "I think your comments are out of line, personally," said planning board member Christopher Batten.
So, we caught up with the councilwoman and asked her what she meant during Wednesday night's meeting, "I think overall government has been set up for the white cisgender male. We can tell that through zoning, we can tell that through planning. We can tell that through all different forms of racist policies set in place," said Councilwoman Kate Burke.
Freda Gandy, the Executive Director of the Martin Luther King Family Outreach Center in Spokane, says she was disappointed with the board's decision to vote down the name change "It was just to me a slap in the face. It says to me that you're good enough to do the work. You're good enough to come in have an impact in this community, provide so many services for so many families that need them. Under your mission, your history and as an organization that embodies the life and legacy of Dr. King. You can do that, but his name shouldn't be on the building," said Freda.
Spokane NAACP President Kurtis Robinson spoke to us by phone, and he too says he's disappointed with the planning board's decision and thinks they should reconsider their decision, "I think it would be a great honor to Dr. King. I absolutely just affirm the centers and staff there and the people leading that work from the ground. They're right to have that honorary thing be something they're actually working with."
KHQ did reach out to the planning board for comment, but they did not get back to us. But when they do, we will update this article.