Welcome to the March 2018 edition of the Equity Lens! In this edition we recap a successful legislative session, profile CCC leaders, and highlight the work of our members, partners, and community leaders.
Here's a quick overview of this edition of the Equity Lens:
SAVE THE DATE: 2018 Summer Soirée
Final Legislative Wrap Up & Report
The PAALF People's Plan
CCC Portland Clean Energy Fund
Asian Allyship in Black Liberation
Metro Regional Housing Measure
PROFILE: Djimet Dogo
Welcome, Nakisha Nathan, CCC's New Leadership Development Director!
Bridges Convening 2018: A Meaningful & Informative Cross-Cultural Event
Coalition of Communities of Color
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
1300 SE Stark St.
Portland, OR 97214
About the Event
Together we’re building the power of our communities for racial justice across cultures. Summer Soirée is our chance to come together as one community for an evening of conversation, idea sharing and inspiration. Join us June 12 at Revolution Hall for a dynamic program, live auction and happy hour, and let us toast to the future of our collective action.
2018 Legislative Recap: How did racial equity fare at the 2018 Oregon Legislature?
The Legislature adjourned for 2018 on March 3, and while we saw significant progress for racial equity, there is much work to be done in 2019 and beyond. There were multiple victories in housing, along with important new legislation impacting the health and wellbeing of families.
Families are at the heart of our communities, and ensuring that children are not unnecessarily removed from their homes, and that families have a path to restoration, is critical to keeping our families strong. This session, Rep. Tawna Sanchez took action to support families as the chief sponsor of HB 4009. As introduced, HB 4009 would have required judicial authorization before a child could be removed by the state, meaning that kids would remain in their homes so long as they were safe. Currently, children of color are removed from their homes by child welfare services at far higher rates. The bill also created an opportunity for children who are waiting to be adopted to be reunified with their families by reinstating parental rights under certain circumstances when it is in the best interest of the child. The final version of the bill only included the second provision.
While we are very disappointed that the removal provision was eliminated from the bill, CCC is dedicated to continuing this conversation to ensure families have the support and resources to thrive. The amended bill passed out of the Legislature, meaning that children will have the chance to be reunified with their families, and we applaud Representative Sanchez’s leadership in passing this critical bill.
Victories in Housing and Health
All of our priorities in housing and health passed this session!
- Increasing resources for affordable housing: Stable homes are the foundation for strong families and communities. Affordable homes are scarce throughout our state, and families of color are some of the most impacted by rising housing costs. HB 4007 increased the document recording fee and will raise an additional $60 million for affordable homes, emergency rent assistance, and homeownership programs.
- Addressing racial disparities in homeownership: Homeownership is one of the most effective means to create housing stability and strong communities, and is also the main driver for wealth creation. Communities of color face dramatic disparities in homeownership rates, and the task force established by HB 4010 is a step toward increasing access to homeownership for these families. Thank you to Rep. Mark Meek for his work to advance racial equity in housing.
- Removing racist restrictive covenants: Restrictive covenants based on race exist in the titles to an untold number of Oregon homes, a stark reminder of our state’s history of legalized racism. While no longer enforceable, the process to remove these covenants is cumbersome. HB 4134 will ease the process to remove these covenants. The impact of these covenants and other ongoing inequities continue to this day.
- Advancing maternal health: The Legislature passed HB 4133 to establish a maternal mortality and morbidity review committee. African-American mothers face extreme disparities in maternal mortality rates, and this review committee is a step toward improving the health outcomes for mothers of color. Thank you to Representative Janelle Bynum for her work to pass this critical legislation.
Looking to 2019
We are disappointed that a number of priority items were left unfinished this session, and need to be at the top of the Legislature’s agenda for 2019.
- Early Childhood Equity Fund: HB 4066 would have established a fund to invest in culturally specific early learning programs with proven records of success. These highly effective programs have been left out of the early learning system long enough. Due to the Legislature’s failure to commit resources to these critical programs, children of color across our state will have to wait another year due to the Legislature’s failure to commit resources to these critical programs.
- Paid family and medical leave: Workers of color are disproportionately impacted by a lack of access to paid leave, and the Legislature must act in 2019 to ensure that workers’ income is protected when they need to care for family members or recover from a serious illness.
- Small donor elections: A small donor elections program would strengthen democracy by breaking down barriers to running for office and amplifying the voices of Oregonians, including communities of color who face systemic barriers to building wealth.
- Bold action on climate: This session ended with preliminary steps toward a Clean Energy Jobs program. CCC and its members will continue to push for environmental justice to be at the core of its climate policy.
With the adjournment of the 2018 session, it’s time to begin planning for next year and building power to advance racial equity. Legislators of color took action on urgent issues impacting communities of color and helped center conversations around racial justice. 2018 saw the most diverse group of legislators yet, and we look forward to next year’s long session with legislators of color leading the way to find solutions that will lead to a better Oregon for all of our communities.
The PAALF People's Plan
The PAALF People's Plan lays out a vision of a thriving, empowered Black community and asserts the right of Black people to be in and shape community no matter our neighborhood -- from the North to the Numbers. The plan frames a Black community policy agenda and advances community-initiated projects as a powerful tool for organizing, advocacy, and implementation. The Plan is a result of twenty-six community events, which engaged over 400 Black community members using varied engagement approaches. PAALF People's Plan is strengths-focused, moving from simply naming issues to collectively building solutions for our community. This represents an empowering transformation in the community engagement process. Learn more at https://www.paalf.org/paalf-peoples-plan/.
The Gordly-Burch Family House
PAALF also launched a successful project to purchase and preserve the 113-year-old Gordly-Burch family home located at 4511 N. Williams Ave in Portland, Oregon, and establish a cultural center honoring the historic heart of Oregon’s largest African American/Black community.
The property has remained in the Gordly-Burch family since its purchase in 1949. At that time uncensored racial prejudice and antisemitism were pervasive, including racist property laws that prevented African Americans from purchasing homes and redlining that prevented lending to purchase homes. The Gordly family, however, was able to purchase the home from the Jewish residents willing to help root the family in the neighborhood. The home remains an important piece of the family’s history and an important artifact of the racial justice movement from the 1950s to present day. The family members included Mrs. Beatrice and Mr. Fay Gordly, their children-- Avel Gordly, Faye (Gordly) Burch and Tyrone Gordly.
The Gordly-Burch family continues to be a symbol of self-determination in the Black community. The family has a long history of helping to advance community empowerment. Mr. Fay was a railroad worker with the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Maids labor group a Mason and active with the A Phillip Randolph movement, and Mrs. Beatrice was a long-time member of Mt. Olivet Baptist church and a Grand Worthy Matron of the Eastern Star.
Faye Burch, previously Governor Barbara Roberts’ Senior Policy Advisor and later serving as the Advocate for Minority and Women- Businesses, She was a co-owner of five gift shops and a small food service restaurant at the Portland International Airport for twelve years while building her business as a Project Development consultant, business leader, public policy advisor, community activist. In that role, Ms. Burch has coordinated over a Billions of Dollars of opportunities for Minority and Women Businesses and job training programs. Ms. Burch received a Congressional appointment and served on a National Small Business Commission holding hearings in Alaska, Washington, California, and Virginia. Her business has received several U.S. Small Business Administration awards and recognition in the field of construction as a Woman of Vision and a Newsmaker.
The Honorable Avel Gordly was the first African American woman elected to the Oregon State Senate, representing a geographic area that included the predominantly Black area of North and Northeast Portland from 1991 until her retirement in 2009. Her legislative record included initiatives that focus on cultural competency in education, physical and mental health, and the administration of justice and the development of legislation that continues to benefit low-income communities of color, young children, the elderly, and other vulnerable Oregonians. She served on state committees including Joint Ways and Means, Education Policy, Trade and Economic Development, and Environmental Quality. She advocated for and then co-chaired former Governor John Kitzhaber’s Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Health and established the nationally recognized Governor’s Environmental Justice Task Force.
CCC Portland Clean Energy Fund
Climate justice and energy democracy has been lifted up as a key priority for our members. For this reason, the Coalition of Communities of Color has endorsed the Portland Clean Energy Fund after serving a key leadership role in its design.
The Portland Clean Energy Fund will provide job training, apprenticeships, and minority contractor support to weatherize and solarize Portland homes and businesses, make energy efficiency upgrades for affordable housing, build clean energy infrastructure, and increase local food production. Funding and initiatives are targeted to ensure opportunities for communities historically left out of the economic engine.
Funding for this work will come from a 1% Business License Surcharge on billion-dollar retail corporations operating in Portland. We are asking for just 1% from the top 1% to address the pressing issues of racial inequities, growing economic inequality and climate change.
At a time when so many of us have to say NO far too often, this initiative is an opportunity for Portlanders to say YES in a big way. We can serve as a national model in responding to climate change and economic inequities by creating a Just Energy Transition.
Please sign up here to learn more about the Portland Clean Energy Fund!
Asian Allyship in Black Liberation
What is the role of non-Black communities of color as in the movement to dismantle anti-Black racism? How do we organize ourselves and how do we build a new model as comrades and co-strugglers that is different from white model of allyship? Hyejin Shim poses a series of questions for the Asian and Asian American communities that pushes us to think beyond the ‘model minority myth’ to how we understand ourselves and the stories we tell in the context of the movement for Black liberation.
“As discourse on Asian American collusion in anti-blackness & American racism has grown in visibility, I’ve felt glad that more people are talking about Asian American antiblackness & racism, thankful that it’s pushing some more holistic organizing, and also, confused by how it seems that many Asian Americans are shaping their racial justice work through the model of white allyship (which I think many of us agree is ineffective and often more about white people’s feelings than about any substantive challenge to racism).”
Metro Regional Housing Measure
Metro, with assistance from community advisory committees, is developing a potential framework for a housing bond to increase housing stability and affordability throughout the region. After a community engagement process, Metro Council will decide in June whether to refer the bond for the November ballot. The Coalition of Communities of Color has been sitting at the community stakeholder advisory committee, along with a number of CCC members. We are working with our member organizations to ensure that racial equity is at the center of Metro's bond framework.
PROFILE: Djimet Dogo
A few months back, The Washington Post ran an article entitled, “The effects of climate change will force millions to migrate. Here’s what this means for human security,” in brief, the article highlights the effects of environmental consequences from climate change on human migration and life. To many, climate change and its effects are a very biological phenomena, affecting plants and animals, ice caps, extinction rates and carbon-storing, to name a few, but for Djimet Dogo, Director of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) Africa House, climate change has always been about people, and it is personal. Djimet himself is a refugee, having arrived in the United States from Chad nearly 20 years ago, but he also works with African immigrants and refugees every day at Africa House and sees similarities in their experiences. He explains the role of climate change in driving human migration as such:
“In my country [Chad], for instance, there is a progression of desert that is destroying all the farm-land. As nomads move their herds away from the advancing desert they move into the little farmland that is left. This creates conflict between tribes, between groups, and that's how people take sides, become divided; it leads to civil war and people end up as refugees. Climate change has caused drought and desertification and then the economic instability, conflict, and displacement that follows.”
Climate change can be a strong migration force. It drives conflicts around water scarcity due to desertification, disputes over control of (scarce) natural resources, and causes famine and disease. Though climate change can be the driver of larger conflict, it is often invisible, as much to us as to the refugees themselves. Djimet continues, “These conflicts [climate change driven] generate a lot of refugees who end up here [Oregon], but most of them don’t see themselves as being here due to climate change or due to the scarcity of natural resources driven by climate change.”
Djimet explains that there is often minimal discussion around climate change, let alone climate justice, at national levels in many African countries, and that many African immigrants and refugees arrive unfamiliar with U.S climate change rhetoric. This leads to an important solution for Djimet, education.
In 2017, Africa House and the Portland African American Leadership (PAALF) were awarded a grant through Meyer Memorial trust to conduct environmental justice strategic planning, community education and engagement, and advocacy agenda development through their “Afro-Ecology Series.” This process (to be completed in Spring 2018) will result in a strategic environmental justice plan prioritizing actions that reduce and eliminate environmental disparities and ensure the equitable distribution of benefits, including increased economic opportunity and investments. This collaborative effort will result in building and supporting leadership to identify and implement climate solutions. This is the first step to increasing opportunities for Africans and African Americans to build a base and have access to decision-making processes. Africa House, through a Gray Family Foundation grant, has also developed a multigenerational curriculum about climate change to share with African immigrants and refugees and to incorporate into the African Leadership Development Institute, one of CCC’s culturally specific leadership development programs. Africa House hopes to break down perceptions of environment and climate, which are often framed as political rather than spiritual and social. The environmental movement, Africa House found, should be rooted in self-determination, justice and spiritual connection to mother earth.
Climate (in)justices not only drive displacement from home countries but also affect African immigrants and refugees in Portland and around the State of Oregon. Frontline communities—communities of color, low-income communities, tribes, rural communities, immigrants, and refugees—are hit first and hardest by climate change and the pollutants that cause it. Climate change effects like drought, famine, heat waves, storms, polluted air, and water, expanding deserts, flash floods, etc, dictate so much of what African immigrants and refugees experience. Because climate change impacts immigrants and refugees first and hardest, their voices must be amplified and included in climate change efforts that have long excluded communities of color.
**Africa House, founded in 2006, serves about 5,600 community members from 22 ethnic and cultural backgrounds each year and is staffed by a multicultural team representing 17 ethnicities and speaking 10 languages. Africa House is the only culturally and linguistically specific one-stop center targeting the increasingly diverse and rapidly growing number of African immigrants and refugees living in Oregon. Africa House has received national attention for moving beyond intercultural strife to be the only center serving Africans from every country in the continent.
Welcome, Nakisha Nathan, CCC's New Leadership Development Director!
Nakisha believes that our communities flourish when we work together in mutuality, celebrate our diversity and highlight the development of our leaders as they self-organize, build power, and implement strategies for self-determination, wellness, justice, and prosperity.
Nakisha’s commitment to advancing social justice stem from spending her formative years living in Panama, Canada, Texas and throughout the United States. Her exposure to a variety of cultures, injustices, and ecological degradation contributed to her desire to facilitate transformational leadership that honors and celebrates individuals, communities and our natural and built environment.
A few years after graduating from Texas A&M University with a degree in bioenvironmental science, Nakisha began her leadership development journey as a community organizer with Texas Campaign for the Environment, where she and her colleagues generated statewide pressure that helped convince Dell and Apple Computers to establish a free Computer TakeBack program. Later, as a legal assistant for an environmental law firm, she continued to support community leaders who seek to protect their neighborhoods from polluting industries.
In the Summer of 2012, Nakisha moved to Portland and began her studies toward earning a Master of Science degree in Education, with a specialization in Leadership for Sustainability Education from Portland State University. During her time at PSU, she worked as a STEAM Garden Educator, cultivating students’ curiosity and facilitating experiential learning opportunities.
Nakisha joins us after working as a Climate Justice Organizer at Oregon Sierra Club Chapter, as a Community and Environmental Justice Organizer with Neighbors for Clean Air, and as the Program Coordinator for the Organizer-in-Training program at OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon. Nakisha serves as the co-chair of the Portland African American Leadership Forum’s Environmental Justice Committee, and continues to work with OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and Neighbors for Clean Air as a member of each organizations’ Board of Directors.
When she’s not at work, Nakisha can be found playing a variety of games with her friends and family; camping with her partner and two dogs; photographing Oregon’s natural landscapes, flora and fauna; or, gleefully pursuing her quest to find every member of the Araucaria Araucana species (Monkey Puzzle Tree) in Portland.
Gender Pronouns: She/Her/Hers and They/Them/Their
Bridges Convening 2019: A Meaningful and Informative Cross-Cultural Event
On Saturday, March 10th, leaders from six culturally specific leadership development programs came together and learned about each other’s values, perspectives, and experiences at CCC’s 4th Annual Bridges Convening. Our keynote speaker and workshop facilitator, Robin Johnson, with the Center for Equity and Inclusion was the highlight of the event. Robin’s presentation balanced insightful information with personal storytelling to illustrate how people recognize the impacts of racism and privilege on their values and become empowered to begin collaborating in coalition with one another. Hopefully, those who were in attendance at the end of the program have had a chance to reflect further on the questions Robin posed at the close of the convening: How has the cycle of empowerment shaped your cross-cultural values? How do you intend to advance social justice or dismantle oppression through your personal work and your collective work?
Participants were thrilled to hear from guest panelists Becca Uherbelau, Laura Vinson, and Mary Moller who joined us from Metro, Lane County, and the Governor Kate Brown’s Office. Panelists spoke and answered questions about how our leaders can take advantage of opportunities and partnerships to increase their influence and access to more decision-making spaces for greater impact.
Over fifty Bridges Directory profiles were updated, and we received valued input from folks about how the directory can further support our leaders. This year’s convening also provided space for people to hear about and provide thoughts on how we lead the way in the creation of a clean energy future for our communities. The discussion included details about the ballot initiative for a Portland Clean Energy Fund that would raise $30 million per year to create solutions for climate justice.
Alumni and current leaders were invited to share their stories and values all throughout the event and the energy felt during these moments of cross-cultural learning and understanding was tangible! We’ve since heard from numerous participants how meaningful it was to hear from leaders in other programs and look forward to creating space for more cross-cultural collaboration. We were all further energized by a brief but joyful performance by Leonid Nosov who played the bayan (accordion) between the two-afternoon sessions. And a dozen of our leaders became spontaneous dancers and musicians during Chata Addy’s comedic, instructional and interactive performance!
Stay tuned to find out more about how this convening will continue to inform our work, and the work of our new Leadership Development Director, Nakisha Nathan. In the meantime, we encourage folks who haven’t done so to update their Bridges Directory Profile!