'Humanity Over Politics.' Tri-Cities MLK Award Winners Working for Healing
Posted Date: January 18, 2021Pasco, WA
By: Cameron Probert
For Daishaundra Loving-Hearne, the Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Award carries a special
Growing up in the Tri-Cities, her family attended the annual celebration at Columbia
Basin College in Pasco. And her aunts, Elouise Sparks and Susan Sparks, have both
earned the honor.
“I was really shocked. I cried actually,” Loving-Hearne said. “This is an award that
my family acknowledges and celebrates every year. I have a really big family here
and they all go out to the bell-ringing ceremony.”
She and her husband Bryan Hearne are receiving this year’s award in a virtual celebration
The couple are at the heart of the Black Lives Matter Coalition: Tri-Cities, the Urban
Poets Society and other efforts to empower and educate Black Tri-Citians and the community.
They organized a Juneteenth art celebration in Kurtzman Park and are working with
Pasco schools to introduce more Black history lessons. At their hearts, they want
Daishaundra, 32, grew up in the Tri-Cities and discovered a passion for dance and
teaching. Her first job was as a hip hop instructor at the Tri-Cities Academy of Ballet.
She continued teaching and dance after moving to Atlanta and later in Los Angeles.
That’s where she met her future husband, literally bumping into him.
Bryan, 32, had moved to LA from New York. He was child actor in the Keanu Reeves’
movie “Hardball” and for several years in the Nickelodeon sketch comedy show “All
But he dreamed of teaching others to share their voices.
“The future is our children, so I always had a mindset to employ our youth in poetry
and acting and music,” he said.
Daishaundra decided she wanted to return to the Tri-Cities because she wanted her
daughter to have a solid foundation with her family.
Urban Poets Society
When they arrived in the Tri-Cities in 2019, they talked of starting a spoken word
company. They were encouraged to meet Jordan Chaney, a motivational speaker and poet
who already was organizing a youth-leadership program promoting public speaking and
“We sat down with Jordan, and Jordan was like, ‘You guys are the exact people that
I’ve dreamed of working with,” Daishaundra said.
Bryan and Daishaundra already had seen how spoken word events gave youth the power
to vocalize their feelings.
“It was putting a child in a position where they were allowed to express themselves,”
Bryan said. “They were allowed to say how they felt.”
“Personally, I feel like poetry has saved my life so many times,” Daishaundra said.
“I just want to give that to someone, especially the youth.”
They took over the Urban Poets Society in 2019 but the COVID-19 pandemic sidelined
events in 2020.
“My dream is to have hundreds and hundreds, maybe even thousands of youth to grow
up and have found a different avenue through poetry and spoken word,” Daishaundra
said. “I want kids to understand how to respect themselves. I want kids to find healing.”
Black Lives Matter
What the COVID outbreak couldn’t silence was the world’s attention on the killing
of George Floyd on May 25.
The outrage over the injustice motivated the couple to join Black Lives Matter protests
in the Tri-Cities.
“Like many Black families all over the United States, we were activated in that moment
and said, ‘I’m not going to sit through this anymore,” she said.
Daishaundra described growing up in the Tri-Cities as a 50-50 childhood.
She could tell people about what she enjoyed like running through sprinklers, big
family reunions and eating dinner at her grandmother’s house.
“But there is definitely an undertone of racism here in the Tri-Cities that I have
experienced my whole life,” she said. “As a child, I didn’t know how to put those
things into words ... Now I have a 1-year-old daughter and I had this fiery energy
that if I was going to be here, I was going to have to work for it to change.”
She still hears many stories similar to her own experiences from children currently
in school now, and she said it makes her angry.
They took over the lead of the protests from Jaime Torres, who had previously organized
protests in Richland and Pasco. They felt like the movement needed a Black voice leading
They organized a protest on Columbia Center Boulevard in front of Target and another
crossing the cable bridge in support of Joe Thornton.
“Black Lives Matter is a movement. It’s not an organization,” she said. “Black Lives
Matter is about your neighbor. It’s about your co-worker. It’s about the people who
are just like you and people need to understand and be aware of and open their eyes
to the injustices that happen to Black people.”
She sees a difference since this summer. More people are trying to make changes, and
are working with the movement.
“Now we as a Black community, we know who stand for us,” she said. “I feel like a
lot of change has happened.”
While Daishaundra and Bryan participated in the protest, the Black Lives Matters Coalition
has been at the center of trying to make other changes in Pasco.
Along with Reka Robinson, formerly with Power 99.1, they organized voter registration
drive. They also organized a Juneteenth Art Show.
“Protests are not necessarily something you do for longevity,” she said. “Protests
are something that you do to bring attention to the heart of the matter when it’s
happening. Right now, we’re trying to enact things in the community. Protests won’t
make people change their policies on antiracism and discrimination.”
Since this summer, they have been working with Pasco schools to include more Black
history and equity. They’re also working on a scholarship program that is expected
to be revealed on Monday.
Bryan also is leading a nationwide men’s mental health group, Black Radical Underground
“We’re not going anywhere and this town belongs to everyone,” she said. “I like to
say humanity over politics. Right now, we’re working on the humanity portion.”
They said they feel determined to make a change in the community. Along with Torres,
Chaney and Robinson, they also credited Naima Chambers-Smith and Joel Nunn-Sparks
for their help with those efforts.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Award feels like a validation of their work, Daishaundra
“We’re doing this work from our hearts. You don’t really expect to be recognized for
it. .... I feel like I have to do this because it’s for my daughter and I don’t believe
in sitting by and not saying anything anymore,” she said.
“To be recognized for it and to be voted on and to have people say, ‘We choose these
people because to me they are like Martin Luther King Jr.,’ it makes me emotional