The Black Lens is back

The Black Lens is back

New publisher Natasha Hill leads the return of the Inland Northwest’s only Black-led newspaper. “When we're talking about social issues, being able to hear it from a Black perspective I think changes things,” Hill said.


In a media landscape that struggles to make good on calls for diverse voices, Spokane is fortunate to see the return of a homegrown publication that elevates Black perspectives and experiences. The Black Lens is back — this time with a new editor-in-chief leading the charge.

Natasha Hill, attorney, community organizer, former congressional candidate, and current state representative candidate, is taking the helm of the Inland Northwest’s only Black-led newspaper. She’s carrying on the legacy established by the paper’s founder and visionary, Sandy Williams. It’s a responsibility she doesn’t take lightly.

“When they approached me [for the position], I was a little nervous,” Hill said. “But I wanted to really protect that legacy that Sandy had built.”

Founded by Sandy Williams in 2015, The Black Lens is an independent community publication featuring news by and for the Black community throughout the greater Spokane area. Following William’s untimely passing, the fate of The Black Lens was uncertain as communities statewide mourned such a prolific leader. 

The return of paper has been long anticipated, and with Hill at its helm the excitement is palpable.

“There's so many people who are just so damn excited. In a way it's overwhelming, but a good kind of overwhelming,” Hill said. 

While there is a lot of excitement, Hill is committed to honoring the goodwill Williams established for The Black Lens as a trusted resource by and for the Black community. Hill is adamant that she will honor Williams’ intent, by continuing to center the Black perspective. 

“The Black Lens is about Blackness,” she said. 

The Black perspective of the publication adds tremendous value to the whole community. With a refreshed website,, and its monthly circulation through The Spokesman Review, The Black Lens serves as a connector. This kind of reach is one way Hill says The Black Lens is moving the needle on social issues important to Spokane’s Black community. 

“The Black Lens is going out once a month to 60,000 subscribers with The Spokesman. But, they're not all Black,” she said. “When we're talking about social issues, being able to hear it from a Black perspective I think changes things.”

While the partnership with The Spokesman Review has been critical to the relaunch of The Black Lens, Hill is focused on ensuring The Black Lens stays independent and community-owned as a continuation of Williams’ vision.

“One of the things that Sandy did express to me was her concern of turning the paper over to someone else to publish. And so that was something I got to hear from her directly, and it really stuck with me coming into this role. I made it really clear that that would be my intention,” Hill said.

Building up community capacity to contribute content is also a focus for Hill. The Black Lens team hosts contributor training to teach the broader public reporting skills such as interviewing techniques, researching, fact checking and ethical guidelines. 

“There are folks who have skills and talent that don't always get the opportunity to get the piece of paper, the degree,” she said. “So what we're saying here is if you aren't there yet, we'll help you get there. I think that's a reinvestment back into the community to ensure that we're building up the resources that we need.”

Hill does not come from a journalism background, but her journey to the editor’s desk was all the training she needed. 

Hill’s path included facing housing and food insecurity as a first-generation college student obtaining a law degree, grassroots organizing in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, serving on the Spokane County Independent Redistricting Committee, and campaigning to represent Washington’s 5th Congressional District. Hill says these experiences as an advocate for herself and her community have prepared her for this role.

“I want to tell my story so people know that it's not too late to get involved and that your level of education does not dictate what you know and how you can be involved civically in your community,” she said.

Hill underscored that the effort to relaunch The Black Lens has not been a solo venture. 

“I want everybody to know that I am not doing this on my own by any means,” Hill said. “It has taken a lot of people coming together and seeing a vision bigger than themselves that doesn't necessarily align with what they do and how they've operated. But they are willing to put some of that ego aside, maybe even some of the profit aside, and see that there's so much more value in having a stronger, healthier, more diverse community where there is more joy.”

The future of The Black Lens is bright, and at its shining core is Hill’s commitment to continuing to publish Black stories by Black writers for Black and non-Black readers alike.

The best way the greater Spokane community can support The Black Lens is by subscribing, Hill said. “Now that the website is up and it's live, there is a subscribe button. You can get The Black Lens delivered to your email box with a click of a button every month.”

The next best ways to support are to like and follow The Black Lens on social media and donate, she said.

“We can all look toward community owned journalism here in Spokane, and creating a model where we can have other community papers, like The Black Lens, that can be supported and funded through community dollars and foundations,” Hill said.

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