'Humanity Over Politics.' Tri-Cities MLK Award Winners Working for Healing
Posted Date: January 18, 2021
By: Cameron Probert
For Daishaundra Loving-Hearne, the Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Award carries a special significance.
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 Monday morning.
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 to teach.
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 That.”
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 performance arts.
“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 it.
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 Healers.
“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 said.
“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 right now.”