Commentary: Youth reflection on 2023 Black Pillar Awards

By Madison Wade The Black Lens

On June 20, 2023, the Inland Northwest Juneteenth Coalition hosted the 10th-annual Black Pillar Awards. Here are my reflections as an attendee:

The choir sang jubilantly, the womens’ heads lifted high as their voices.

Lift every voice and sing, ‘Til earth and heaven ring,

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;

Their voices dropped deeply, channeling a thousand souls, intimate with the weight of this world and this country, and empowered by the freedom that was claimed, not given.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.

I watched, one by one, as nominees for the pillars of Spokane’s black community were listed and award winners and their categories named, everyone cheering along the way.

Women wore glittering dresses, boots and stilettos that shone under the beautiful spotlights, every girl and woman held as they walked up the steps to the stage. Afterward, they’d pose on the black carpet together, being photographed by the bantering, insistent photographer in his sharp suit and tie.

I went alone, but I didn’t feel alone, and graciously, I didn’t leave alone, either. I felt just as held and celebrated as the men and women who won that night, feeling welcomed, encouraged, empowered, inspired and hopeful, like the song deemed our “Black National Anthem” suggests to be.

Watching the singers belting their notes, standing against the Fox theatre’s beautiful blue velvet curtain, crystals on their dresses gleaming, made me feel like I was in one of Maya Angelou’s memoirs. Like I was in the Harlem Renaissance, witnessing history and, not only that, but joining the fray.

They are not the future, they are NOW, the host of the event kept saying of the youth in attendance, already doing great things and preparing to be of use to their community.

This experience has carried me through this past week. I have ate and slept amongst people who are different than me in more ways than they are from each other. I have shared my perspective with them, and laughed and played games, and drank with merry.

I have worked and been hit and been shocked and had school and had to advocate for myself and others, in various situations. I have been doubted. I have been praised. I have been asked questions. I have been lazy, I have been overworked. I have been everything. I have been nothing.

That weekend reminded me that it is all for something.

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, Let us march on ‘til victory is won.

Stony the road we trod, Bitter the chastening rod,

Felt in the days when hope unborn had died; Yet with a steady beat, Have not our weary feet come to the place for which our fathers sighed?