Justice Journal~ 2 the story tree and positive anchors in my life and the power of the Creator and organizing. So before I continue with my thoughts from yesterday want to share with you how the story tree in my mind works. I am a visual learner- my thoughts become vision and then little reels of movies in my mind. I thought everyone’s brain works like that. So whatever you tell me I get a visual. So the story tree is the tree that grows with every journal entry which is to say if the title is the root and the trunk is the main idea then as I’m writing, visually in my mind branches of other ideas branch out of that truck of other thoughts I’m going to need before I finished and many times those points can be different So as I attempt to address this topic you will read branches that to a linear person make not seem to make sense. As it is a type of brain dump to create the tree it make go all over and for much of my life because I was unaware of my heritage due to Government policies I just thought I was different from everyone else and not in a good way. Many of us grow up not understanding that there has always been more than one way to effectively communication but dominant culture dictates only one right way of doing things. This has been a challenge most of my life. Ne cause in my mind many of these things didn’t make sense but I followed them blindly and discounted my own thought as inferior and I stayed quiet thinking there was something wrong with my logic.. So currently this tree is full of branches- let’s continue. WHEN THE STUDENT IS READY THE MASTER APPEARS I have been incredibly blessed to know many brilliant and incredible people in my life mentors and spiritual advisors. As one of them says “I have seen so many miracles people say I’m a liar.” (Apostle Mondaine) When I was ready to answer my call with Native people another mentor entered my life and blessed me with the statement “we are all ethnocentric, narrow-minded, with limited vision” (DR. Richard Twiss), this statement changed my whole way of thinking. Instead of being frustrated with those in power not understanding the other subcultures in the City live as somehow their fault, I had to admit that we all only know life from what we are exposed to. Everything else, others life experiences are what we see in the movies and for many cannot grasp the reality of how others suffer. I had to realize that even though Mayor Sam Adams and I probably got to work using the same streets that the lenses we looked through every day on that ride were not the same. I can’t know what he saw but he might have noticed the light rail and other things his life’s work built. On my daily rides to work my lenses gravitate to the increase of homeless people downtown. In my own neighborhoods I see people who have struggled since I came here 25 years ago out on the streets still. I watched the drug houses and blight and then I watch the gentrification moved friends and family out of the neighborhood. We saw the bike lanes and crosswalks come to this part of town where before there were none and you took your life into your own hands trying to cross the street. I’ve watched a new community step right out in the middle of the street with and attitude of entitlement as if to say “Don’t you know you have to stop for me?” But I digress. The point of the statement is that we know what we know because of what we were exposed to. I don’t know what it is like to own a home or be financially secure. Many people in office everywhere go home to a hot meal and a warm house at the end of the day, most the time neither in the hood nor in the newly created” numbers”. It not for me to blame anyone else for the environments we were raised in or what we know or don’t know. But in my mind I have a value statement or judgment that also says “to whom much is given, much is required.” I feel that if you hold a job that is paid for by your city’s taxes that while you may not understand other’s lifestyles that you must deliver equitable services to all and that the most effective way to do so is to be a lifelong learner to work to understand that which you do not understand. And this includes cultures as well. I don’t see this happening enough. I see most are satisfied with the status quo which is fine if you are part of the 87% dominant culture of Portland, Oregon. Most don’t know about all the unjust policies in the history of both the State of Oregon and the City of Portland since its inception. I worked with the office of Equity to gather these historical racist policies and practices into a PowerPoint they now have available. So I’m writing all this to say while we are all ethnocentric, narrow minded, with limited vision an cannot be individually blamed for our not knowing it is no excuse to attach yourself to policies or practices that harm others and for many of us it actually is your job by law to treat everyone with decency and gain some form of understanding of all those we are hired to serve. To be continued ~ The damage Paternalism causes.” We’re not cool and you’re not my Daddy!

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So before I continue with my thoughts from yesterday want to share with you how the story tree in my mind works. I am a visual learner- my thoughts become vision and then little reels of movies in my mind. I thought everyone’s brain works like that. So whatever you tell me I get a visual. So the story tree is the tree that grows with every journal entry which is to say if the title is the root and the trunk is the main idea then as I’m writing, visually in my mind branches of other ideas branch out of that truck of other thoughts I’m going to need before I finished and many times those points can be different So as I attempt to address this topic you will read branches that to a linear person make not seem to make sense. As it is a type of brain dump to create the tree it make go all over and for much of my life because I was unaware of my heritage due to Government policies I just thought I was different from everyone else and not in a good way. Many of us grow up not understanding that there has always been more than one way to effectively communication but dominant culture dictates only one right way of doing things. This has been a challenge most of my life. Ne cause in my mind many of these things didn’t make sense but I followed them blindly and discounted my own thought as inferior and I stayed quiet thinking there was something wrong with my logic.. So currently this tree is full of branches- let’s continue.

WHEN THE STUDENT IS READY THE MASTER APPEARS

               I have been incredibly blessed to know many brilliant and incredible people in my life mentors and spiritual advisors. As one of them says “I have seen so many miracles people say I’m a liar.” (Apostle Mondaine) When I was ready to answer my call with Native people another mentor entered my life and blessed me with the statement “we are all ethnocentric, narrow-minded, with limited vision” (DR. Richard Twiss), this statement changed my whole way of thinking. Instead of being frustrated with those in power not understanding the other subcultures in the City live as somehow their fault, I had to admit that we all only know life from what we are exposed to. Everything else, others life experiences are what we see in the movies and for many cannot grasp the reality of how others suffer.

               I had to realize that even though Mayor Sam Adams and I probably got to work using the same streets that the lenses we looked through every day on that ride were not the same. I can’t know what he saw but he might have noticed the light rail and other things his life’s work built. On my daily rides to work my lenses gravitate to the increase of homeless people downtown. In my own neighborhoods I see people who have struggled since I came here 25 years ago out on the streets still. I watched the drug houses and blight and then I watch the gentrification moved friends and family out of the neighborhood. We saw the bike lanes and crosswalks come to this part of town where before there were none and you took your life into your own hands trying to cross the street. I’ve watched a new community step right out in the middle of the street with and attitude of entitlement as if to say “Don’t you know you have to stop for me?”

               But I digress. The point of the statement is that we know what we know because of what we were exposed to. I don’t know what it is like to own a home or be financially secure. Many people in office everywhere go home to a hot meal and a warm house at the end of the day, most the time neither in the hood nor in the newly created” numbers”. It not for me to blame anyone else for the environments we were raised in or what we know or don’t know. But in my mind I have a value statement or judgment that also says “to whom much is given, much is required.” I feel that if you hold a job that is paid for by your city’s taxes that while you may not understand other’s lifestyles that you must deliver equitable services to all and that the most effective way to do so is to be a lifelong learner to work to understand that which you do not understand. And this includes cultures as well. I don’t see this happening enough. I see most are satisfied with the status quo which is fine if you are part of the 87% dominant culture of Portland, Oregon. Most don’t know about all the unjust policies in the history of both the State of Oregon and the City of Portland since its inception. I worked with the office of Equity to gather these historical racist policies and practices into a PowerPoint they now have available.

               So I’m writing all this to say while we are all ethnocentric, narrow minded, with limited vision an cannot be individually blamed for our not knowing it is no excuse to attach yourself to policies or practices that harm others and for many of us it actually is your job by law to treat everyone with decency and gain some form of understanding of all those we are hired to serve.

 

 

To be continued ~ The damage Paternalism causes.” We’re not cool and you’re not my Daddy!

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Justice journal~ Chapter 1

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Waiting for Justice

 

  As some of you have seen, I posted that on July 9th, 2013 my son was beaten by the Portland Police. He was then charged with harassment by the Police officer for spitting on him. My son was spitting out blood after the officer struck him, busting open his lip. He was released at 1 in the afternoon the same day and walked the block and a half to my office in City Hall. His lip was swollen and bleeding, he had a knot and bruise on the left side of his head and when he lifted his shirt there were several contusions on his back, his arms, and his shoulders. He told me he was beaten while he was hogtied (the official police term now is “hobbled” – it still refers to how you treat an animal to control it, but I guess it is the “PC” term these days.

The City of Portland had been investigated by the Federal Department of Justice for their extreme acts of violence on people of color and the mentally ill for a couple of years. My son fits both of these categories. The DOJ said that the ppb have been using excessive use of force on the mentally ill but it was not determined that they did so with people of color. My son fits into both of those categories, he has very light skin and was marked as white on his police report.

In fact, here in Portland on February 18th the federal Judge will be here because he wants to hear from the community about their interactions with police where they were harmed.

  I know a lot of people in my life that live in this community have had these incidents happen. I know this has happened for a long time in North and Northeast Portland. Almost all of the people I know that were mistreated where either African American or Native American. They are young, they are old, they still live and some have past

. Recently, at a City Council meeting there was a presentation from the office of the Auditor in regards to the Independent Police review process. From the looks of the crowd of community and the Police there was a lot of interest in this topic. Through the comments that were spoken there was one that burns in my mind. A community leader was testifying about how violence had occurred so often in our community and how it needed to stop and that the proposal did not go far enough to keep our community from harm.

  When she was done with her testimony one of the Commissioners asked her a question. He said he was not aware of this issue about people of color and the Police. At first when I heard this comment I was in shock and then triggered back to my own situations in the past twenty years with the Police. I couldn’t believe he then asked “where are these people, how can we get to them?” I was further blown away by this question. There have been many times in my life here in Portland that comments similar to these would take me aback and anger me and at many times trigger my own PTSD.

On July 9th, this incident threw me back to a darker place then I had ever been, causing my brain to go back to an incredibly violent place that I had escaped a long time ago. I was once again in a dungeon of dark depression and deep hopelessness. I had to sign up for FMLA because I was missing so much work, I burned through all of my sick leave and vacation leave and started to stress more which added even more stress. I would wake up in the morning shaking so hard and asking myself how I could walk into this machines where policies and negotiated benefits would allow my coworkers to harm our families and friends in this community. Yes, the Police are my coworkers and some of them are my friends and respected colleagues, this is why it hurt even more.

November 2014 marks my 20th anniversary as a community organizer. For 14 of those years I worked in People of Color led organizations, for the last 7 I have been working with communities of color and immigrant refugee communities as well as the leaders in the 95 neighborhoods.

 

To be continued ~ The positive anchors in my life and the power of the Creator and organizing.

 

 

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Virgil Ortiz hat

Virgil Ortiz hat

Made in Native America

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I was asked how do you help someone escape a pimp

March 11, 2011 at 2:20pm

I was asked how do you help someone escape a pimp

You have to keep telling them they are not alone- because he’s telling them they are

You have to love them beyond their mistakes no matter how many times they fall

You have to acknowledge their existence- because they feel invisible

You have to never give up- because they may have.

You have to pray for them and for yourself for the wisdom

To bring the light to this dark place and not be consumed by it

Or afraid of it

You have to trust in something bigger than yourself to lead you

because it will occur when you least expect it.

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The road to Equity and the DCL project

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“We are all Ethnocentric, narrow minded, with limited vision.”- Richard Twiss, Lakota Sioux –Native Spiritual leader.

   These words ring in my head as I drive to my next appointment, a meeting with a Somali spiritual leader who like me has an organizers heart.

 I’m angry, angry after listening to people from dominant culture bombard a new equity program with their ethnocentric, narrow minded, with limited vision ways.

I’m also increasing proud of another advocate who stepped up and tried his best to advocate for the program and explain to someone from his own race historical discrimination that has created the problem in the first place. I’ve known this advocate for years and had no idea he has it in him. I run upstairs on my way to the meeting and thank him and ask him “Can I give you a hug?” He says yes. Momentarily I feel joy- somewhere along the line this man had a significant mind shift. He was always a good man but he allowed himself to learn about the struggle of others unlike himself and it made him a better person.

   I hug my friends who work for the staff under fire and we hug – I tell the new Director “Welcome to Portland!” He made it through his first big initiation moment in Portland and survived. He indicates he too now wants a hug. He is now family.

  Today was a day we sat down together and committed to writing the story of the DCL program. The story is so much longer than five years and yet we need to turn this history of efforts to create a program that would find a way to get more people of color and immigrant and refugee communities to have a voice in the civic engagement processes in our city.

  My first involvement was around 1997 when I was an organizer for the Workers’ Organizing Committee. At that time I went wherever my boss told me to go so when he said I was going to go talk to white folks in the neighborhood system about how to get people of color to their meetings I went. I was a radicalized believer that organizing changed lives (still am). I remember talking to a group of people basically about door knocking 101. About the only other thing I remember was someone in this group said “We’re volunteers, we don’t have time to do that!”

   I remember thinking, “then it’s not gonna get done.”

 Also in 1997, WOC marched to the MHRC to pass the Workers’ Bill of Rights.

I remember Lowen Berman and others supporting us and yet wondering if the passing of this bill would have any teeth. But it was clear – we had someone supporting us in what seemed to us at the time quasi-government. Not too long after that the MHRC was abolished. . “We are all ethnocentric, narrow minded with limited vision.”

  In a few year while organizing parking lot attendants to gather data on the City’s living wage ordinance I would be sitting in a City Council meeting reporting on the data we had collected, no the workers in the Smartpark lots were not being paid what they were supposed. I remember Jim Francesconi declaring from then on everything that went out from the City of Portland would be translated into at least five languages. I remember how Bob Kieta and Kevin Jeans-Gail managed our little grant and fought for us to get the money so we could get the money to do the translation. I think we paid IRCO for the translation.

   It was at that time that I first heard Francesconi admonish the Neighborhood system for “NOT representing everyone, and they needed to do a better job.” At this time, you understand I was operating off of what I was told; these folks were all volunteers and couldn’t do it. With the exception of the WOC staff everyone we organized were volunteers- hard working people many with kids and more than one job but they organized. We did it because our life depended on it because it did.

  In 2000, I was working two jobs. I had left WOC to run EJAG and then got pulled back to organize non-city lots, Diamond parking lot attendants. This group was 98% men from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Tigria . They had to teach me their history of the wars and why I would have to accommodate their ways in order to organize them. Honestly, I fell in love with these men and the women they eventually brought in as well. We won an election and a contract all within a year. They affiliated with the Teamsters. After the hard win and the promises this good old boys team the Urban Worker’s Union was disbanded when Diamond sold out to someone else. “We are all ethnocentric, narrow minded with limited vision.”

  In the same year WOC won the union, EJAG defeated the expansion of the freeway and Environmental Justice principles were now a hard won part of process for Portlanders. After doing an EJ training for the I-5 Task Force , I took my seat next to Mayor Vera Katz and she whispered “After an argument like that , you could prevent anything from ever being built in Portland.” I don’t know if she meant it as a compliment but I totally received it as one.

   EJAG, with a few good wins in brownfields and transportation was at the top of its game. I was being flown all over the United States, getting fed well and sleeping in expensive hotels praising the Gospel of incorporating EJ principles into everyday Government institutions. Directors of State Health Organizations were carefully listening and taking advice on how to implement these ideas on working with people of color to deal with the rising evidence that their practices may in some way have created the alarming disparity reports coming out about communities of color and low income communities. We are working with the Federal agencies most.

 We had also organized the I-5 project so well that we’ve won a million dollar Community Enhancement Fund for our community. The problem was that ODOT brought the neighborhoods to the table to decide how to spend the money. They explain how “Nothing could be done without the neighborhoods.” Here we are radicalized EJ activists mostly African American fought for this and now the neighborhoods get to sit at the table (with me) to decide how the money will be spent. . “We are all ethnocentric, narrow minded with limited vision.”

   This was my path to finding a voice for people of color in Portland. We then worked hard with the community to build the Diversity and Civic Leadership program. By the time we coined “DCL” it was already outdated. The voice of the Diversity was crying out for repair from years of historical racist policies and practices experiences by these groups. We moved beyond diversity which many times felt like some backward affirmative action throwback to crying out for “EQUITY”. Equity embraces a deeper commitment to everyone and from everyone that we are going farther in our understanding AND actions to ensure the City of Portland is giving ALL Portlanders the opportunity for a safe healthy and prosperous life, even if . “We are all ethnocentric, narrow minded with limited vision.” JS Williams – Program coordinator – DCL

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Who gets to label you?

I recently read a Mercury article titled “The good fight” by Dirk VanderHart that is describing the increase in gangs this summer here in Portland where he interviews one of Portland’s finest about profiling young black males and the officer says “It’s not racial profiling it’s just profiling – we all do it.”

I’ve lived as a person of color in Portland for 24 years and am a Native Native Oregonian. Escaping from a severe domestic violence on the East coast with two children I was trafficked on 82nd avenue and jumped into a gang as an affiliate.

To the Police my label was gang affiliate/prostitute, drug addict and dealer and because they first arrested me under a false name the PPB for years insisted that my alias was my real name and my real name was my alias.

Years later, as an advocate for Victims of Human Trafficking we helped to change the conversation police were giving to underage girls they arrested. They would tell them “you’re a victim if you tell on your pimp and you’re a criminal if you don’t.” Actually underage girls who have been raped and beaten are victims no matter what and because there is no witness protection program for them it is not always in their best interest to tell.

While I spent the first 28 ears as a model citizen, the 5 years I spent trying to get out of trouble are for the system my most memorable. In 1993, after serving time for someone else, and losing my 4.0 education, my kids, my home and everything in it I decided there was nothing about gang affiliation that benefited me and I struggled through  the all the red tape of systems to make it back to my original self and purpose and as a part of that I also wanted to encourage others to do the same..

 

So I tend to cringe every time I see stories in Portland that try to address race problems written by white folks about black folks- or in my case brown folks. I just know as I read them that I’m probably going to feel extremely agitated by the end of the story because of the total lack of race analysis on the part of the writer. The message I always get is “White people good ~ all others are dangerous and need to be feared so whatever happens to them – they deserved it.”

In this particular article the mention my nephew , may he rest in peace, Andreas Jones~Dixon. After being shot to death the news shows his mom totally losing it. Depending on who you are you saw the story differently. As a mom , you may have felt her pain and shock and realized that its was a nightmare of all moms. As a resident who doesn’t live around this type of action or a young person who has seen too much of it you may be numbed by what you hear either because you’ve seen too much of it or you don’t live close enough to you to care. As long as the action is concentrated into a pocket of poverty in East Portland it’s OK because it’s not touching you. It only happens to “Those other people”While the news said it had not YET been determined to be a gang-related the article in the Mercury states Dre was a gang member.

At his memorial on the corner of where he took his last breathe -people talked about how he had gotten away from the life and how he was doing better. He came from a deeply spiritual home life with a mother that took care not only of her own but many others. And for a while he had fallen off the path. But when I saw him by PCC two weeks before he was shot he came up and gave me a hug and told me how he was happy and doing well. He knew how I would feel about that because I am a first hand believer in change.

So I ask you again, who gets to label you because you will be labeled and those that label you may not know you. Clearly the writer on some level believed the police and didn’t bother to ask anyone else.

My next piece I will write is about whether or not their is redemption for past faults or is it only for certain people. It’s been brewing in my mind for a long time and is going to be good.

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A Disquieting Legacy: LULI Reflects on Race, Privilege, and Oregon\’s Future

A Disquieting Legacy: LULI Reflects on Race, Privilege, and Oregon\’s Future.

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