Sandy Williams, a Spokane civil rights activist and champion of equity and inclusion, was among 10 people aboard a floatplane that crashed in the Puget Sound over Labor Day weekend. U.S. Coast Guard officials announced that everyone on the plane is presumed dead. (Read The Spokesman-Review’s article detailing the accident and Williams’ inspiring legacy.)
Williams was the founder, editor and publisher of The Black Lens newspaper, and founder and executive director of the Carl Maxey Center in East Central Spokane. She also left her mark on Eastern Washington University. As part-time coordinator of the Pride Center, Williams helped open the center in 2010 and created foundational programming that continues to this day.
In a message to the EWU campus community, Shari Clarke, vice president for diversity and senior diversity officer for EWU, said Williams was a bright light whenever racism, sexism, homophobia, and other inequities surfaced.
“Sandy was a force, a phenom, a steady and influential presence that provided hope for so many people in the City of Spokane and beyond. Beneath her calm, brilliant demeanor Sandy worked diligently for fairness and recognition for diverse people,” said Clarke, who was also a personal friend of Williams.
During her five years of working at EWU, Williams established two of the university’s longest-running diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. One of these, the annual Lavender Graduation which honors the academic achievements of LGBTQ+ students — along with the faculty, staff and students who support them — has become a cherished annual tradition. Another, the Welcoming Project Advocate Training program, continues to advance equity and inclusion by helping faculty, staff and students to become visible advocates for EWU’s LGBTQ+ communities.
Nick Franco, associate vice president of student equity, belonging, and voice for EWU Student Affairs, said that alumni and students who were impacted by Williams have reached out to express their sadness over the loss of the cherished community leader.
“The success of the Pride Center would not have been possible without her,” Franco said. “We are saddened to learn of her passing and send our deepest sympathies to her family.”