In his article, Bruce Poinsette travels to meet Black Oregonians who call the remote eastern part of the state home. Along with providing a snapshot of life for these Eastern Oregonians, his piece considers the cultural stereotypes that persist—within Oregon and throughout the country—regarding race, geography, and identity. In what ways does Bruce’s story reflect or challenge your ideas about place and identity? What stereotypes or ideas exist about the people who make up your town or community—and who or what do you think is missing from these ideas?
In her conclusion, Ruby McConnell writes, “we are not passive victims of pollution, but conspirators in its creation.” What responsibilities do consumers have when it comes to the kind of environmental contamination described in the article? What can consumers do to mitigate or prevent soil and groundwater pollution? How much of the burden of cleanup should be placed on corporations that cause pollution, as opposed to their customers and the public at large?
Perrine writes, “Part of the effectiveness of residents’ advocacy came from their ability and willingness to share their personal stories and the ways that racial justice and environmental justice intersect in those stories.” When you think about racial justice and environmental justice in your neighborhood or community, what stories come to mind? Who is telling those stories? Are there opportunities for you to hear stories that might be different from your own? Do you think that personal stories have the power to spur meaningful change?
In “Purple Prairie,” Josephine Woolington interviews David Harrelson, the cultural resources manager for The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. “Our history isn’t written in books,” Harrelson says. “It’s written on the landscape. They remind you of all these lessons and all these things that give you a fuller way to live your life.” Do you see history in the landscape where you live? If so, whose history is it, and what lessons does it offer?
Widenhoft writes, “As gay, trans, and nonbinary people face backlash across the country, many drag kings are using their performances to explore issues that face their communities.” She lists several bills that have been passed across the country to limit the rights of trans and gender nonconforming people. She also mentions protests, in Oregon and elsewhere, that have targeted drag shows. Have you noticed an uptick in hostility to LGBTQ+ people in Oregon? Have drag shows become a vehicle for political expression in your community?
T. Nguyen writes, “Living below the surface has allowed my family and my ancestors to survive.” What do you think the author means by this? How did living (figuratively) underground continue after her family immigrated to the United States?
“My Heart Belongs Where the Trees Are”
Visit the Urban League of Portland’s State of Black Oregon project website.
Watch the OPB documentary, “Oregon’s Black Pioneers”, about the earliest African Americans who lived and worked in the state during the mid-1800s.
Learn about the organization Oregon Black Pioneers and attend an event.
Watch Walidah Imarisha’s lecture, “Why Aren’t There More Black People in Oregon? A Hidden History”.
The Toxins Beneath Us
There are several organizations working on issues related to soil and groundwater contamination in Oregon, including Beyond Toxics in Eugene and Phoenix and Portland Harbor Community Coalition in Portland.
“The Poison Papers” is a collection of government documents relating to pollution in the United States over the past hundred years.
In 2017, Julia Rosen wrote about efforts to clean up Portland Harbor in the Willamette River in Oregon Humanities: “A City’s Lifeblood”
Ruby McConnell wrote about the threat of erosion in coastal communities in Oregon Humanities in 2019: “Castles Made of Sand”
Find more writing from Ruby McConnell at rubymcconnell.com.
“We Are the Original Conservationists”
“Environmentalism’s Racist History” by Jedidiah Purdy, New Yorker (August 2015)
Green 2.0 Diversity report (2018)
From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement by Luke W. Cole and Sheila R. Foster (NYU Press, 2000)
This story is excerpted from Josephine Woolington’s book Where We Call Home: Lands, Seas, and Skies of the Pacific Northwest (Ooligan Press, 2022)
Long Live the Kings
“Drag Kings are Ready to Rule” by Frank DeCaro, the New York Times (March 5, 2021)
Stretching Toward the Sun
Vietnamese Portland, a community history project from Lewis & Clark College
Nailed It, a documentary about Vietnamese nail salon owners by Oregon filmmaker Adele Free Pham
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