Palouse CORE strives for racial equity

Palouse CORE provides a safe, private space for people to talk about their experiences



Juneteenth 2022 celebration in the Elson Floyd Center.

ALISA VOLZ, Evergreen reporter

Born out of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, Palouse Council on Racial Equity (CORE) is an organization of Palouse locals who advocate for racial equality in their community.

Anthony Haynes, a participant in Palouse CORE said that the organization first formed on June 12, 2020 when they organized a Black Lives Matter march in downtown Pullman.

“We met at the biggest Black Lives Matter march here in town,” he said. “Another organizer of that march talked about his aspiration to put the Black Lives Matter mural on the street, so we organized and presented it to the City Council. It seemed like everything was gonna run smoothly, but no, it was a struggle. But the beautiful part of it was that that’s what brought us together. I think that was the origin of Palouse CORE.”

In their vision statement, Palouse CORE describes themselves as “a group of citizens from many walks of life who meet, discuss, and actively work to improve, uphold, and maintain equity in the community’s institutional, governmental, educational, and social spheres.”

Haynes described the group as concerned citizens who strive for racial equity on the Palouse.

“It’s a leaderless group,” he said. “I don’t even know if you can say we are members necessarily.”

Palouse CORE logo

Carol Ndambuki, another Palouse CORE participant, said after they organized at the Black Lives Matter march, Palouse CORE aimed to create a display about Thomas Jefferson at Neill Public Library in downtown Pullman.

“What we were going to do was do a display and write a couple paragraphs about Jefferson as a Founding Father, but also as a slave owner to sort of flesh out a more complete picture of who he was and what his lifestyle was,” Ndambuki said. 

She said that project did not come to fruition as Palouse CORE switched gears when Juneteenth became a national holiday in 2021

Palouse CORE worked to organize the first annual Juneteenth celebration in Pullman on June 19, 2022. The event was held at the Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center and featured an open forum with former Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins.

Jesse Hagopian, an educator, author, and activist came to CCUCC (Community Congregational United Church of Christ) and spoke about the book he co-edited, Black Lives Matter at School. Palouse CORE organized the event.

Ndambuki said the forum resulted from a misunderstanding of a memo Jenkins sent out.

“It grew out of a misunderstanding from the march because he wrote a memo to the department directors in town,” she said. “It got released and people were kind of offended by it.”

Ndambuki said Palouse Core then worked with the League of Women Voters to organize the forum.

When Jenkins retired, Ndambuki said her youngest daughter made him a cake decorated to look like a police badge. 

“He thanked us and said that we have been very helpful and have broadened his perspective,” she said.

Haynes said Palouse CORE’s community has been extremely valuable. The community rallied to support Ndambuki’s husband after he experienced a hate crime, he said. 

“My husband runs all over town. There’s all kinds of routes around here and he doesn’t do the same route every time he runs,” Ndambuki said.

She said a man harassed her husband while he ran. 

In the summer of 2021, her husband encountered the harasser three times, Ndambuki said.

She said the man followed her husband, yelled, and called him the N-word. 

On the third encounter with the perpetrator, Ndambuki said her husband memorized a description of the man’s vehicle and relayed it to her. 

“I was just driving around apartment land until I found the car,” she said. “I took a picture of it, took a picture of the apartment building, and then we went and we reported the harassment to the police.” 

Ndambuki that over 30 community members attended a hearing to obtain a restraining order in support of her husband. 

“The judge told us—  he admonished us—  ‘they have to be quiet,’” Ndambuki said. “But it was just a show of solidarity.”

She said Palouse CORE has provided a community in many other ways, including through the listening sessions they host, in which Palouse CORE provides a safe, private space for people to talk about their experiences. 

Haynes said he encourages community members to commit to being anti-racist. 

“It feels like a lot of people just check the box, and it can’t be that way,” he said. “It’s got to be constant work. It’s a lifetime commitment, I think.”