Since the end of May, millions of people have taken to the streets in Oregon, across the nation, and around the world to demand justice: justice for the killing of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Dave McAtee and Quanice Hayes and Aaron Campbell and Keaton Otis and Kendra James and Tony McDade and Layleen Polanco and James Jahar Perez and many other Black Americans who have died at the hands of law enforcement officers, and for the centuries of violence and oppression perpetrated against Black people in this country.
At Oregon Humanities, as we try to respond to the call of the moment, we’ve been challenging each other to consider and reconsider what our role is and should be. The vision that drives our work is an Oregon that strives for just communities. We see that striving happening all over the state. We believe and affirm that Black lives matter. And we struggle with what racial justice looks like and how it can be achieved, both within our organization and in our programming. We’ve struggled with what to say in this note. We’ve questioned what an institution with forty-nine years of white executive leadership, an institution that has benefited from oppressive systems built on white supremacy, can say that is helpful. We’ve questioned how an organization that prioritizes reflection, conversation, and learning can best contribute in a time that calls for action.
We’ve been working to embed equity, inclusion, and racial justice in everything we do, and we know that there is more that we can and should be doing to eradicate anti-Black racism and white supremacy in our organization and in Oregon. We will keep using the tools we have, and we will keep asking how we can do better, while taking ownership of our failures. We are asking what is ours to do at this time, and what is not. As we do this, we’ve compiled some of the actions our staff are taking, organizations we are looking to, and things we are reading and watching as we examine our individual and collective responsibilities. If you are questioning your role in fighting anti-Black racism or are looking for ways to contribute, we invite you to join us in learning from these resources below.
If you have questions or suggestions about what Oregon Humanities is doing or should be doing, please get in touch with Adam Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support the actions called for nationally by The Movement for Black Lives and in Oregon by Black Lives Matter PDX, Don’t Shoot PDX, and the Portland African American Leadership Forum.
Support organizations that work to benefit and celebrate Black people in Oregon, such as African American Health Coalition, African American Alliance for Homeownership, African Youth and Community Organization, Albina Headstart, Beyond Black CDC, Black Food Sovereignty Coalition, Black Educational Achievement Movement, Black Parent Initiative, Black United Fund, Confrontation Theatre, Kairos PDX, Maxville Heritage Center, NAACP Corvallis/Albany, Eugene Springfield NAACP, NAACP Portland, NAACP Salem-Keizer, North by Northeast Community Health Center, Oregon Black Pioneers, PassinArt Theatre Company, The Red Door Project, Self Enhancement, Inc., Unite Oregon, Urban League of Portland, and Vanport Mosaic.
Start an ongoing monthly contribution to one or more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color)-led organizations working for racial justice.
Be informed about law enforcement funding in your local government budgets and contact local leaders to amplify the voices of BIPOC leaders demanding change. As new fiscal years approach July 1 for the state, municipalities, and counties, this is an important time to weigh in.
The Rural Organizing Project is sharing protests happening all over Oregon.
If you want to support the protests but are not able to be out in crowds, you can donate to the PDX Protest Bail Fund administered by the Portland General Defense Committee. The fund pays for bail, legal fees and fines, lawyers, and other costs for people arrested at the protests, with priority given to members of marginalized communities. Look for and support similar local bail funds in your region. The National Bail Fund Network is a place to start.
Set time aside each week or month for learning about the ways racism and white supremacy show up in your life and community and to plan the actions that make sense for you using some of the tools that follow.
Erik K. Ward, executive director of Western States Center, suggests 21 things you can do right now.
Watch conversations about racial justice in Oregon with Rukaiyah Adams and Eric K. Ward; Walidah Imarisha; Gwen Carr, Rhea Combs, and Melissa Lowery; Rene Denfeld, David Rogers, and Bobbin Singh; Danielle Allen; and Desmond Meade.
Explore the work of trans and queer artists of color at Ori Gallery.
Read about the history of whiteness, white supremacy, and resistance in Oregon in Oregon Historical Quarterly. Or check out this timeline of resistance and resilience by African American communities in Oregon.
Watch Local Color, Oregon Public Broadcasting’s documentary on racism and resistance in Oregon history. Other Oregon documentaries include Oregon’s Black Pioneers, Portland Civil Rights: Lift Ev’ry Voice, and Vanport.
Watch Jodi Darby’s documentary Arresting Power: Resisting Police Violence in Portland, Oregon.
Read Layla F. Saad’s Seeing White Supremacy, which includes prompts for writing and reflection.
Read How Nonviolence Protects the State by Peter Gelderloos, which interrogates myths and fallacies about nonviolence, "property," and social movement.
Watch Angela Davis speak about her life of activism and the need to hold complexity and build an intersectional movement.
Learn how slavery and white supremacy are embedded in US institutions in The 1619 Project.
Embrace Race offers book lists, articles, and other resources to help parents raise children who are thoughtful, informed, and brave about race. Your local library may, too—here are resource and book lists from the Multnomah County library system.
Read Michael Harriot’s “A Timeline of Events That Led to the 2020 'Fed Up'-rising,” Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “The Case for Reparations,” Osagie K. Obasogie’s “The Bad Apple Myth of Policing,” and Eula Biss’s “White Debt.”
Read Jericho Brown’s poem “Bullet Points.”
For Asian Americans, learn about our accountability to Black folks via this starting guide.