Q&A with Author and Social Justice Activist Grace Eagle Reed

In 2017 and 2018, Northwest Health Foundation convened the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative – a group of fourteen disabled people of color interested in deepening their understanding of disability justice and discussing visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of people with disabilities are centered in decision-making. Grace is one of the leaders who participated in the Collaborative.

 Grace Eagle Reed holds her fingers up in a “peace sign.”

Q. What communities do you consider yourself a part of?

A. I am part of several communities that address the issues raised by Black Lives Matter, gun violence, racism, alcoholism/addiction support, nonviolent communication, homeless/houseless street outreach, etc. I’m also on Multnomah County’s Disability Services Advisory Council.

Q. What leadership roles have you played?

A. I was part of the MLK Jr. marches in the U.S. South, Vietnam War protests, support for the Black Panthers, Native American Métis movement (bringing equality to mixed-blood Natives), the women's rights movement (yes, we did burn our bras) and Woodstock (peace through music and legalizing that MaryJane). I was able to enjoy Jimmy Hendricks, the Beatles, Janis Joplin and Bob Marley in LA, and I’ve been a social justice activist since then.

Last year I was awarded Senior Leader of the Year by the City of Portland. I step up for leadership roles in various places in my life, mostly as a supporter for leaders who are more front and center in creative art/poetry, religion, political and peace movement efforts. I prefer to be a cheerleader to those that are already doing good work daily in the social justice arena.

Q. What leadership roles do you hope to play in the future?

A. I am 75 with 40 years of sobriety and a published author/poet/dramatist with a B.A. in drama therapy and a M.A. in restorative justice/conflict resolution. I hope to do more work with organizations with my 'Friendship Table' project. I am also working on another book.

Q. What did you get out of participating in the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative? 

I enjoyed being a part of the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative and the people involved. There is much work to be done, and I admire people who step up with passion to bring justice and peace to the chaos and who look for more solutions. 

Q. What did you contribute that you hope others learned from?

A. Justice is needed in most areas of life, especially with marginalized and oppressed peoples. Restoration and balance in the broken systems of this world takes many people with much courage and vision, and I am grateful to be part of this movement. I addressed this in my book Negotiating Shadows and continue to work toward world peace. Our local region is doing much with housing issues, the Black Lives Matter movement, etc., and I am glad I am part of making life more wonderful for my city and community.

Willamette Workforce Partnership Improves Job Seekers' Mental Health

Economic opportunity and stability are key to good health. When families can afford quality housing, food, healthcare, childcare and other necessities, individuals and communities do better.

In 2012, our communities weren’t doing well. Families struggled to make ends meet, and nearly one out of 10 Oregonians was unemployed. Due to the Great Recession, many of these folks were unemployed long term, leading to depression and other mental health issues.

At the peak of unemployment in the United States and our region, researchers at the mid-Willamette Valley Worksource Center (then called Job Growers, now the Willamette Workforce Partnership) discovered that programs in Britain and Australia were successfully using cognitive-behavioral therapy to improve the mental health of the long-term unemployed and, thus, help them find jobs. Inspired by reading about these programs, Willamette Workforce Partnership created a series of workshops based on cognitive behavioral principles. Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded a small pilot. Results were positive, and the federal Department of Labor then funded a state-wide five-year project.

To date, more than 1,200 unemployed people have gone through the workshop series in WorkSource Centers around the state. The workshop runs for four weeks, with three two-hour session per week. Topics covered include: how thoughts and feelings affect behavior, risky thinking and how to counter it, increasing emotional awareness, managing negative emotions, building self-esteem, goal setting and maintaining momentum during a job search.

Willamette Workforce Partnership plans next to pilot test the workshop series with groups that historically face more barriers to employment. That includes job seekers with various disabilities, young adults with Autism, social service recipients, workers’ compensation participants, and folks being released from incarceration.

Beginning this September, Public Policy Associates will formally evaluate the five-year project. Preliminary results will be available in December.

Q&A with Pessoptimist Mohammed Usrof

In 2017 and 2018, Northwest Health Foundation convened the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative – a group of fourteen disabled people of color interested in deepening their understanding of disability justice and discussing visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of people with disabilities are centered in decision-making. Mohammed is one of the leaders who participated in the Collaborative.

 Mohammed sits cross-legged on top of a round picnic table, smiling.

What communities do you consider yourself a part of?

Muslim community, Arab community, Arab American community, the Palestine solidarity community. And people with disabilities.

What leadership roles have you played?

I’m not sure how to define leadership, but I was part of the Unite Oregon Pan-Immigrant Leadership Program. Through them I was able to participate in introducing bills and supporting bills to end profiling and supporting the housing for Section 8 and expanding it. Also, I was an activist on-campus when I was at PSU in regards of the Palestinian question and how to introduce people to what’s going on in Palestine in regards of occupation. And also further exploring the intersectionality between the Palestinian question and other issues that are facing our communities here in Oregon. How to tie both issues together in regards of advancing to find the best way to handle it.

What leadership roles do you hope to take on in the future?

I haven’t taken any leadership role in regards of disability specifically, so I would like to further advance my skills and my spectrum to go to that. You know, like currently, I’m facing some stuff relating to work and technology and how to introduce the workplace to the right technology. And that accessibility culture it’s not just like accessibility because we like to be progressive, but to be part of the culture itself. So that’s something I’m interested in. And also, in regards of what leadership stuff I did, is at work also we’re currently working on exploring what’s the best way to target the holidays. In regards of like marginalized people like holidays, like the Muslim holidays, Jewish holidays, the Hindu holidays and like how, for example, the county is recognizing only the mainstream Christian holidays and MLK and Presidents Day, but when it comes to the Eid Al-Fitr or Eid Al-Adha for Muslims you have to educate your supervisor about the holiday in order to be able to ask the day off. So we’re working on that and trying to find what’s going on, so we’re mobilizing, organizing, having meetings. So that’s one of the things that we’re doing, but in regards of advancing, I’d like to basically introduce myself more to disability and people of color in general.

Where do you work?

Multnomah County.

What’s most exciting to you about disability justice?

I’m excited that we’re exploring it in a group of non-white people, because there is this big thing about like, well, disability justice concept is being exploited, or like I mean being explored only, by white people. And when I see a group of us in the room talking about it and exploring it as people of color. I started reading the handout that we got that is actually like a Black vision, a Black lens of disability justice that actually makes me feel happy.

What do you hope to get out of being part of the Collaborative?

Well if I want to be realistic, I hope to be a friend of at least all of them. All of the people who are there. On a wider lens I hope to, you know, be connected to the work of disability justice just like after the Collaborative because, yes we did four days a year, but what’s after? How can we translate the concepts that we’re tackling into something visible on the ground?

What’s your vision for the future of our region?

I can’t see very well, but… [laughs] 

In regards of disability and accessibility, I’m skeptical in regards of if we’re going to the best. But I think I would like accessibility to become part of our culture, not something strange or something special. Or something like when you go to an employer or go to a FedEx store, not having to have help to use the printer. Like the printer to be all accessible printer for example. So I would like the vision to be something like that.

My vision for the future in a more realistic way, a disability group that focuses on and is led by people of color.

What is your favorite book, movie or song, and why?

My favorite book is The Pessoptimist by Emile Habibi, and… It’s, you know, he’s a Palestinian and writer, and he’s exploring the regular person notion in regards of the question of Palestine from a person who’s on the ground, who’s basically, it was written when Oslo was like people starting talking about it, and the idea of two-state solution coming up. And somebody on the ground basically happy that there might be some good stuff coming out of it, but at the same time very disappointed at it wasn’t yet justice that we deserve as Palestinians or he deserve as Palestinian. That notion of not optimistic, but optimistic. I feel like it’s an ongoing book. Yes, maybe it’s written about the Palestinian question, but, you know, switch the Palestinian question and put Trump. Or like put accessibility, or put something. You find yourself as a person who’s living in this contemporary age basically cannot be optimistic and cannot be not optimistic. Or pessimistic. So it’s like in-between.

And songs, there’s so many. I like Fairuz. Fairuz is like one of the most famous singers in the Arab world. She’s almost eighty-three, and she’s singing. She just released an album this year, and she’s wonderful. The best time to listen to her is in the morning.

And movie. I’ve never answered that question before. The Lion King.

Anything else you want people to know?

I would just like to see us advancing, and what’s the role of Northwest Health Foundation after the Collaborative? One of the things is like the room that we’re meeting in. It’s one of the best rooms in regards of accommodating people with disability that I’ve ever been in. If there’s a way to make this room accessible for the community of people with disability, how is that would look like? In regards of like the access to the online, like how it’s very helpful in accommodating all types of wheelchairs. And how the tables are configured. So I think, yeah, that’s a question I have. And I think it would be very, very helpful. I remember in one of our email threads – I don’t think if any of the Northwest staff was on it – we were trying to do a meeting outside of the Collaborative, and the different type of accessibilities ended up being a barrier. So, I think that’s a need, and I think it would be nice if you can explore what to do as an organization. 

(c)3s and (c)4s and LLCs (oh my): EUVALCREE Finds New Ways to Support Community

A story with Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Eastern Oregon Latino Alliance for Children and Families.

 A dancer in a Jalisco dress and Sugar Skull mask performs at EUVALCREE's Day of the Dead celebration.

A dancer in a Jalisco dress and Sugar Skull mask performs at EUVALCREE's Day of the Dead celebration.

Communities need places and reasons to gather, to build relationships, celebrate together and support one another. When neighbors know each other and spend time together, neighborhoods are safer and stronger.

Strong community connections are even more important in rural communities, where resources are scarcer and services are farther away.

In eastern Oregon, the nonprofit EUVALCREE (a 501(c)3 organization) arose with the purpose of connecting Malheur County’s Latino residents with each other and with other eastern Oregon communities and institutions. They wanted to see more Latinos taking on leadership roles and influencing policies. By engaging and connecting community, and training and positioning leaders, they believe they can improve the lives of children, families and communities throughout Oregon and Idaho.

One way EUVALCREE seeks to accomplish these goals is by hosting large public events, bringing people together to relax and enjoy themselves. This strategy has had huge success. For one, it creates safe cultural environments, through which the Latino community in Malheur County has shared their culture with non-Latino community members and overcome negative stereotypes. It’s also resulted in many more community members expressing interest and becoming involved in EUVALCREE’s leadership trainings and other programs.

 Youth stand and smile beside a food cart at EUVALCREE's Day of the Dead celebration.

Youth stand and smile beside a food cart at EUVALCREE's Day of the Dead celebration.

EUVALCREE’s events attract thousands of community members a year. Their largest event so far, on Children’s Day 2018, drew over 3000 people. Not to mention, 94 volunteers committed 754 hours of their time to make it happen.

When EUVALCREE was founded in 2014, the infrastructure to support these events didn’t exist. So, EUVALCREE created the infrastructure. They gathered the people and learned the skills to provide sound systems, lighting, security, etc. Before long, other groups were asking for their help with non-EUVALCREE events.

As demand for their services grew, EUVALCREE’s leadership decided to form an LLC – an event production company – to meet the community’s needs and protect their nonprofit from liabilities. They also registered a second LLC – a security company – owned by the production company. All proceeds go to their 501(c)4 (EUVALCREE ACTIO), which owns the first LLC.

 Members of the Eastern Oregon Latino Alliance for Children and Families pose in front of the Oregon State Capitol building.

Members of the Eastern Oregon Latino Alliance for Children and Families pose in front of the Oregon State Capitol building.

EUVALCREE ACTIO was founded in 2018 to support and provide community members with additional tools and resources for civic engagement and community efforts.

Altogether, EUVALCREE, EUVALCREE ACTIO and the two LLCs are operated by and with 76 people and engage hundreds of volunteers and thousands of community members.

They continue to expand their work. In September of 2018, EUVALCREE will be opening an office in Hermiston. Their region has expanded to include 8 counties in Oregon and 5 in Idaho, and they hope to host events and support community in all these places.

If you’re ever in eastern Oregon, make sure to check out one of EUVALCREE’s events. If you’re interested in hosting an event in eastern Oregon, use their services! You’ll be supporting community and leadership development among Latino Oregonians.

Q&A with Environmental Justice & Immigrant Justice Leader Joel Iboa

In 2017 and 2018, Northwest Health Foundation convened the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative – a group of fourteen disabled people of color interested in deepening their understanding of disability justice and discussing visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of people with disabilities are centered in decision-making. Joel is one of the leaders participating in the Collaborative.

 Joel stands on stage smiling with a group of graduates in caps and gowns seated behind him, facing the stage.

Q. What communities do you consider yourself a part of?

A. I consider myself a first-generation Oregonian, a child of immigrants, Latino, Indigenous and disabled.

Q. What leadership roles have you played?

A. A bunch. In high school, I was captain of my water polo and swim teams. College, I had leadership positions in MEChA and the Coalition Against Environmental Racism. After college, the governor, Kate Brown, invited me to join the Governor’s Environmental Justice Task Force. I’m the chair of that now. Two years ago, I was chosen to be on the City of Eugene’s Human Rights Commission. I’m now the vice chair, and I was just elected to be the incoming chair next year. I’m also the oldest of three siblings. That was my first leadership role. My mom was the oldest of 14. And I’m the oldest cousin of about 30.

Q. What leadership roles do you hope to take on in the future?

A. Like I said, I’m going to be the chair of the Human Rights Commission in Eugene and the Governor’s Task Force. I want all my leadership roles to have a positive impact on the most vulnerable: disabled people, communities of color, elders, children. I want my leadership roles to get increasingly larger and more impactful as I get older, because leadership positions are where you can have the most, largest impact on a lot of people.

Q. What is most exciting to you about disability justice?

A. The people who participate in disability justice are some of the most vulnerable. One of the earliest things I worked on was the achievement gap between white students and students of color. I learned that when black boys do better, all students get better. When the most vulnerable are supported, everyone benefits.

Disability justice also affirms that all our bodies are unique, and all our bodies are essential. It welcomes people who haven’t been able to participate. It affirms that disabled bodies aren’t a detriment to the world. They’re an asset. The liberation of people with disabilities is crucial. The ADA and disability rights are also crucial, but DJ builds on that by transforming society to see people with disabilities as having inherent worth.

The movements I’ve been involved with – immigrant justice, anti-prison, environmental justice – some of the people most affected are people with disabilities, especially queer and trans people of color with disabilities. I see this as the last frontier in terms of my personal development.

Q. What do you hope to get out of being a part of the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative?

A. I’m hoping we can begin to make some noise around disability justice. We’re already starting. The people in the group are movers and shakers.

I want to see disability justice raised in the same way gender has been raised recently. We’ve realized men aren’t the only folks who can lead. Queer and trans folks need to be welcomed and centered. We’re dealing with double standards around sexual harassment. I’m hoping we can do the same thing with disability. For instance, access check-ins should be normalized. Aspects of disability justice are useful for everyone, especially people doing this strenuous, stressful, emotionally difficult work.

I also want to see us develop political power at a local and statewide level. 

Q. What is your vision for the future of our region?

A. I know it sounds cheesy, but life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A lot of people don’t have these things. For many of us, life itself is difficult. I want to live in a time and place where everyone who lives here can pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Q. What is your favorite book, movie or song, and why?

A. The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I love those movies. When I was really sick in middle school, and I spent three months in a hospital up in Portland – which is part of the reason I became disabled – one of the things that got me through was Lord of the Rings. It still helps me feel better, when I’m sick or having a bad day. All things Tolkien, actually. *laughs* That’s my vision for the future of our region. Hobbiton.

Q&A with Disability Justice Visionary Myrlaviani Perez-Rivier

In 2017 and 2018, Northwest Health Foundation convened the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative – a group of fourteen disabled people of color interested in deepening their understanding of disability justice and discussing visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of people with disabilities are centered in decision-making. Myrlaviani is one of the leaders participating in the Collaborative.

 photo portrait of Myrlaviani

What is your vision for the future of our region?

I envision Disabled People of Color winning political positions, influencing decisions, and deepening our overall capacity as a community.

What is most exciting to you about Disability Justice?

Disability Justice demands, by way of compassion and caring communities, systems change, institutional reform, and a new notion of private and public market performance defined, owned, operated, and valued by community members most impacted. Disability Justice is all about creativity and innovation. It’s invigorating and demanding. It means you have to show up and demonstrate radical self-love and compassion, which are founded on standards of quality caring and intimate connection. We account for the complex strata of universal access, intersectionality of race, disability, gender, and religion with the never-ending and always-loved question of “What am I missing here, right now? Do we have what we need?” We are the road builders and bridge architects we need. I feel we are ready for Us.

What do you hope to get out of being a part of the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative?

My goals include organizing a group of leaders holding conversations within and across urban-rural communities to discover and cultivate participants committed to policy and program change and implementation. Addressing current power dynamics will enhance collaboration across systems by way of generating ideas and building alternative solutions. Our community has the solutions and, through strategic partnerships, we can help lead and build the results we need.

For instance, this looks like rural and urban Oregon building relational bridges and, through a willingness to learn, adapt, and innovate, realizing opportunities for one another while addressing public problems. One which comes to mind is food deserts. We need effective policies whereby our Disabled community can readily access high-quality, nutritious food. There are solutions, but we need courage and support. At the same time, nothing happens without supportive housing, and who says passive-designed homes cannot also be designed within the universal design criteria? High-quality housing designed around collective access means building a new type of community—a community where people actively support one another. This is the vision I have of our reNew Oregon™—one where we support one another and build a meaningful future together. When enough of us make this decision, then we will see employment rates rising, especially for Disabled “People of Color.”

What leadership roles do you hope to take on in the future?

I am committed to becoming a better transformational leader: identifying, cultivating, and promoting leadership and leadership development in Disability communities. I am keen on improving the employment rates of individuals with disabilities and recognize this will require not only policy change but also changes in awareness and attitudes on the part of families, businesses, and civic leaders.

What communities do you consider yourself a part of?

Disability foremost, and all else follows. I come from a multicultural background. I grew up dancing flamenco, listening to Tejano music, being friends with Latins from Central America to South America to Spain, marching with Chicano Agricultural Workers (Cesar Chavez), listening to my Mother’s stories of her ancestors and, on my Father’s side, learning about poverty and oppression, or how the Mexican-American wars impacted the trajectory of his family’s development. The cultural extremes from both families provided a rich and textured playground of possibilities from which my curiosity and drive still develop.

What leadership roles have you played?

I have participated in local advisory boards or commissions, as well as community engagement work across Disability lines, especially with “People of Color.” I also started a community restorative listening circle. I have been particularly enthusiastic in volunteering for positions that work towards criminal justice reform, racial justice, and disability justice, across government and community-based organizations.

What is your favorite book, movie or song, and why?

The book I’m enjoying the most right now compels me to wonder and enjoy breathing, reading, imagining impossibilities and living, again. It is Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Artists lead the way for social change and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is wonderfully and refreshingly uncompromising.

Is there anything else you want people to know?

When you love something or someone, including yourself, you make a stand, define your standards, live with integrity and a willingness to self-assess. With that in mind, I’m curious about what is important to my fellow Disabled community members. I want to know what satisfies and, equally, what leaves them with discontent within our current system. Further, what improvements are they willing to invest their talents, energy, and time in to create and operate? If you are interested in developing dialogue around these and other questions, please contact me through NWHF.

Building Latinx Youth Leadership on Oregon's North Coast

A story with Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative La Voz de la Comunidad.

 A group of nine Latinx youth pose in front of a wooden bridge surrounded by trees and other greenery.

BYP100. Dreamers. The students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Youth are leaders. And, they will continue to lead as they grow older. We need to prepare them for future leadership roles, from committees and boards to elected office and everything in between.

Oregon and Southwest Washington become more and more racially and ethnically diverse every day. Unfortunately, there are few culturally-specific youth leadership programs, particularly beyond the I-5 corridor. Youth of color don’t see themselves represented at most leadership programs, and, often, they opt out.

A decade ago, Cispus Learning Center staff member Vincent Perez noticed few Latinxs participated in youth leadership programs in Washington. So, he convinced the Association of Washington School Principals to develop a leadership camp specifically for Latinx youth. That camp was La Cima, a bilingual leadership camp for Latinx youth with the goal of building their skills and improving school climates. Last year, noticing a similar need in their region, Lower Columbia Hispanic Council started La Cima Lower Columbia on Oregon’s North Coast.

La Cima Lower Columbia welcomes Latinx high school students from Astoria High School, Seaside High School, Warrenton High School, Tillamook High School and Taft High School in Lincoln City. In 2017, 19 students spent three days together at Camp Kiwanilong. This April, 36 students spent four days together. Both years, participants wished the camp went on longer.

 Participants and staff in the second La Cima Lower Columbia camp in 2018 pose together in rows. There are 48 people total.

At La Cima, everything is in English AND Spanish, and no one has to be proficient in both – campers or staff. Campers engage in hands-on activities, reflecting on experiences and issues, making goals for themselves, creating fun group presentations and solving problems together.    

“[La Cima] is a great camp,” said 2018 participant Alma Bolaños Hinojosa. “Not only will you make friends, but you feel the atmosphere of a family. When you least expect it, at the end of the day, you are already known as a leader.”

 Six Latinx youth stand in a row, foot to foot, their legs spread wide. They're inside a wooden shelter with picnic tables.

This year, youth spent the last day of camp learning how to start clubs at their schools. That way, they’ll still have a little bit of La Cima with them throughout the year. So far, Astoria High School and Warrenton High School have both received funding for this purpose.

Lower Columbia Hispanic Council Executive Director Jorge Gutierrez wrote, “I have found this program to be unique, innovative and among the most rewarding and satisfying work I have been a part of as an executive director at LCHC.”

As the lead organization for La Voz de la Comunidad, one of Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities’ ten Community Collaboratives, LCHC is involved in a project to learn about leadership development programs across Oregon and Southwest Washington and create a resource bank of leadership development curriculum. La Cima Leadership Camp is an asset to our region, and will certainly help inform that resource bank.

Somali Families Need Somali Teachers

A story with Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Immigrant and Refugee Engage Project.

Every family and community wants their children to succeed in school. Oregon’s Somali community is no different.

 Three members of the Somali community sit on one side of a white tablecloth-covered table.

However, the Somali community faces some additional barriers to education in the United States. For one, there’s the language barrier. Even if a Somali student speaks English fluently, members of their family, including their parents, might not. That means it is challenging for parents to engage in their children’s school. (It’s been shown that parent involvement advances learning.) In addition, as Somali children lose their native language, it becomes harder and harder for them to communicate with older generations of their family and community.

There is also a cultural barrier to education for Somali families: most Somali Americans lived in refugee camps for years before they moved to the U.S., and the refugee camps did not have formal schools. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Somali children, youth and their families might have trouble understanding and navigating Oregon’s school system. As a result, many Somali students drop out.

Concerned Somali parents and community members met with Portland Public School District officials, hoping to solve these problems. At first, PPS offered money to the Somali community for afterschool problems. “Money is great,” said parent and community member Isgow Mohamed, “but that’s not the issue.” What they really needed was someone in the schools who spoke their language and understood their culture: a Somali teacher or administrator.

Thanks to the Somali community’s advocacy, PPS hired a Somali teacher to teach at Rosa Parks Elementary School, and occasionally visit other schools as well. And, they’re determined to place more Somali teachers in more schools across the district. That way, Somali children and youth will feel supported in the classroom. Parents will have someone they trust who they can bring questions to. Teachers will encourage students to speak Somali, as well as English. If all goes well, Somali students will thrive.

It is doubly difficult for immigrants and refugees from non-English speaking countries to advocate for themselves. They may not be comfortable speaking up for themselves in English. In addition, they may come from countries where civic and political engagement is discouraged, sometimes violently. The Immigrant and Refugee Engage Project, led by their Multiethnic Advisory Group, engages and supports immigrant and refugee community members to participate in storytelling and advocacy for systems change. Northwest Somali Community Organization is one of their core partners.

Q&A with Palestinian Rights Advocate and Basketball enthusiast Waddah Sofan

In 2017 and 2018, Northwest Health Foundation convened the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative – a group of fourteen disabled people of color interested in deepening their understanding of disability justice and discussing visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of people with disabilities are centered in decision-making. Waddah is one of the leaders participating in the Collaborative.

 Waddah sits in a wheelchair in front of picnic table and smiles.

Q. What communities do you consider yourself a part of?

A. I am part of Palestinian/American, Muslim, Middle Eastern, people of color and disabled communities. I am a very diverse individual who is lucky to belong to all of the above communities.

Q. What leadership roles have you played?

A. I was highly involved as a student government leader at Portland State University and community leader, community organizer and disabled rights advocate. I've also been involved with the following agencies:

  • Advisory chair for Multicultural Student Center, Portland State University

  • Student government leader, Portland State University

  • Head of disability advocacy cultural association student group, Portland State University

  • Outreach coordinator for Arab Persian Student Organization

  • Board member for Center for Intercultural Organizing (now known as Unite Oregon)

  • Wheelchair youth basketball coach for Oregon Disability Sports

  • Co-founder of Palestinian Federation for Disabled for Sport

  • Member of national wheelchair basketball team

  • Co-founder of Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, Portland State University

  • Member of Disability Power PDX, City of Portland

Q. What leadership roles do you hope to take on in the future?

A. I would like to improve my leadership skills to be able to serve the disabled community at large, to help create and change polices at the local and state level that impact disabled peoples' daily life. Also, I would like to share my experience and train disabled youth to become independent and take command of their lives.

Q. What is most exciting to you about disability justice?

A. Advocating for disabled individuals around the globe is something that excites me about disability justice. Also, what excites me is that we, the oppressed people, are uniting and moving together as one to bring justice and equity to those who seek it.

Q. What do you hope to get out of being a part of the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative?

A. I would like to be more familiar with policies and regulations that concern disability accessibility in our community, so I would be able to communicate them clearly to improve outcomes for people with disabilities.

Q. What is your vision for the future of our region?

A. In my simple opinion, I would like to see the disability rights and disability justice movements continue to grow and more people claim their own uniqueness or identity as people with disabilities or as an oppressed people. I would like for everyone to live in peace and harmony, and for our community to be very welcoming and understanding of those they don’t have common interested with.

Q. What is your favorite book, movie or song, and why?

A. My favorite movie is The Green Mile. It is a great story about forgiveness, kindness and love. The story was very uplifting and draws you into it most of the time. It was about an innocent man who has very soft heart on death row for a crime he did not commit. The man has nothing but hope and love for all people he came in touch with. He healed peoples' hurts on his own expense when either used his miracle of healing. He even healed those who were selfish and put him to death. It is a story of giving and making good in life despite knowing you won’t live long enough to see the goodness that impacted others.

Q&A with Healthcare and Housing Advocate Nico Serra

In 2017 and 2018, Northwest Health Foundation convened the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative – a group of fourteen disabled people of color interested in deepening their understanding of disability justice and discussing visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of people with disabilities are centered in decision-making. Nico is one of the leaders participating in the Collaborative.

 Nico sits in their GRIT Freedom Chair in the middle of a street and smiles. Behind them people wear rainbow flag capes and a unicorn hoodie.

Q. What communities do you consider yourself a part of?

A. The transgender community and the queer community. The disability justice community. The Black community. The healthcare advocacy community.

Q. What leadership roles have you played?

A. I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of speaking at events and rallies, and to give testimony at hearings. I’m on the Board of Directors at Real Choice Initiative and Health Care for All Oregon, and I organize with several other groups focused on justice for vulnerable people.

I spend a lot of time advocating for myself and other folks with serious health concerns. Many have shared resources with me, and I enjoy passing that knowledge on to others. I’m mostly focused on housing and healthcare. I strongly believe that housing is healthcare, because no matter how good someone’s healthcare is or how good their nutrition is, if they don’t have housing it doesn’t matter.

The waitlist for accessible housing in the City of Portland is fifteen, eighteen years long. Folks are forced into nursing and group homes, where they control almost nothing about their lives. Recently, I heard a friend talking about how hard it is to be twenty years old and living in hospice care. They were trying to study for exams, but instead wound up hanging out with someone who was about to pass because that person’s family didn’t show up. People forced into these situations describe what sounds like imprisonment. They don’t get any privacy. They can’t choose what they want to eat or when to eat. They can’t come and go as they please. They don’t even get to choose when to bath or go to the bathroom. This and ending up on the street is everyone’s worst nightmare, and it's brought to you by your tax dollars. I’m doing my part and encouraging others to join in changing this problem.

Q. What leadership roles do you hope to take on in the future?

A. I want to organize with other People with Disabilities and serious health concerns, transgender people and people of color to find or create sustainable, accessible and affordable housing and healthcare.

I also want to focus on employment for the mentioned populations. Due to capitalism, eugenics and imperialism, I think people with health issues, transgender and non-binary people, and people of color have a harder time getting and keeping jobs. I want to organize folks struggling to find work to become personal care assistants. Then we’ll have someone who doesn’t just tolerate or respect our culture, but who are actual members of the same cultures and communities.

Q. What is most exciting to you about disability justice?

A. What’s most exciting to me is that it affects everybody. I agree with something a friend and fellow organizer said: “I’m less interested in breaking through the next glass ceiling and more interested in raising the floor.” With disability justice, everybody does better.

Q. What do you hope to get out of being a part of the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative?

A. I hope to have a more thorough understanding of where the disability justice movement came from and how I can continue the work. I’ve become disabled in my adult life, so I don’t have as deep of an understanding of it compared to folks that have had altered abilities since birth or childhood.

I’m excited about meeting more brown and Black people organizing around Disability Justice. These are all seriously resilient people who know how to survive almost impossible circumstances. These are people who get it and want to change the way things are, not just for us, but for elders and the people coming after us as well.

Q. What is your vision for the future of our region?

A. The system must undergo revolutionary reformation, because it’s not just a broken system, it’s a system that was built on the broken backs of brown and Black people and that continues to this day. 100 million indigenous people were killed when this land was colonized and 52 million people were killed in the TransAtlantic slave trade. Is it really any wonder why some people’s lives are more difficult than others? Being actively hunted in the streets and/or being thrown into institutions absolutely changes whether or not a person can reach self-actualization. I think We The People must throw capitalism out. In 2017, 82% of the wealth in the USA was in the hands of the top 1%. That means that the other 99% of us are expected to step on the throats of our loved ones and neighbors and fight over the leftover scraps. I, for one, am done with this dynamic, and I think many others are too.

I think unlearning the dangerous practice of consuming one thing or another to deal with big feelings is the place to start. Learning how to be in the center of our centers, in the eye of the storm, will help all of us emerge from our "trauma tunnels." From there, everyone learning how to think critically is a part of my vision. I think the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast are places where all this could actually change. I think there are enough people here who care and are actually doing real things to create these changes.

The way the Social Security Administration defines disability is all about functionality. If someone has an inability to hold down housing, that makes them functionally disabled, in my opinion. The folks stranded out on the street are on the front lines of a brutal class war, and We The People cannot wait for the State to solve this. We must create ways to meet our needs and the needs of those around us. If there is any place on this land where this could happen, it's Portland, the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast.

I envision everyone receiving holistic healthcare and being housed. Unfortunately, institutionalized oppression is real, and this crushes our bodies, minds and spirits. If we get locked out of healthcare and/or housing, it’s almost impossible to develop sustainable connections with those around you, get a job, and so many other things. When someone shows up and is deemed to have red flags – you’re a person of color, you don’t have insurance, you don’t have a place to live, you have depression, chronic pain, you’re trans, queer, you’ve been on opiates, you experience post-traumatic stress, etc. – unless you have a really good support network, advocates, and, in my case, help from my Congressional Representative, you get blown off and end up dead, on the streets or in prison. When I first sought treatment after being hit and dragged around a corner by a station wagon while riding my bicycle, I was blown off, yelled at, humiliated, among many other horrors. For example, it took three years to get a cast on my broken hand. So, it’s really important to me to pass Health Care for ALL Oregon and on the West Coast, while at the same time changing the way people think about healthcare. Many folks are taught to run to the doctor’s office for every piece of advice about how to take care of our bodies, but there’s so much people can do themselves just by changing what we put in our bodies and other daily habits.

Q. What is your favorite song, book or movie?

A. I’m really into this Beyonce song called “Freedom:” “Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move, freedom, cut me loose! Freedom! Freedom! Where are you? Cause I need freedom too! I break chains all by myself, won’t let my freedom rot in hell. Hey! Ima gonna keep running cause a winner don’t quit on themselves.”

Q. Is there anything else you want people to know?

A. Please join me in this work at RealChoiceOregon.com and HCAO.org (Health Care for ALL Oregon). Let go of the next glass ceiling, raise the floor and build from the ground up.

Q&A with Somali Refugee and Community Organizer Saara Hirsi

In 2017 and 2018, Northwest Health Foundation convened the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative – a group of fourteen disabled people of color interested in deepening their understanding of disability justice and discussing visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of people with disabilities are centered in decision-making. Saara is one of the leaders participating in the Collaborative.

 Saara sits with other members of her African immigrant/refugee community.

Q. What communities do you consider yourself a part of?

A. I’m from a lot of communities. I’m originally from Somalia, which is located in East Africa. I consider myself part of the immigrant/refugee community. I’m also part of the advocacy and social justice communities and the disability community.

Q. What leadership roles have you played?

A. I’m an activist and community organizer. I created a program called Health Care and People with Disabilities within the African Youth and Community Organization (AYCO). This program empowers individuals with disabilities to get education and employment when they are ready. This program gives resources and information to family, adults and parents who have children with disabilities. We have English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, Personal Support Worker training and community education about disabilities. I introduced the AYCO organization to what people with disabilities can do and how they can get resources in this country. Refugees with disabilities are often socially isolated their home. This project is about educating the community to change beliefs and attitudes about disabilities.

I’m also part of REAL: Reject Economic Ablest Limits. REAL is about understanding leadership, systems change, and learning and working on employment. We advocated for two positions with the City of Portland. We've also done leadership trainings, and we used the ten principles of disability justice.

Q. What leadership roles do you hope to take on in the future?

A. I want to be a part of policymaking. I am interested in participating in advocacy and policy change, because our voice is not there. When we put more people who experience the problem in decision-making positions, we’ll get more solutions to fix the problem.

Q. What is most exciting to you about disability justice?

A. I really appreciate this opportunity, because I was fighting for this on my own. Disability justice gives me the opportunity to learn social justice language, build confidence and give me hope to make change. Before disability justice training, I thought no one understood my challenges. I learned that there are activists who are working to change these problems. I appreciate seeing other people working on these issues. I look forward to becoming a better leader and learning more, so I can help more people to become leaders in the future.

Q. What is your vision for the future of our region?

A. I would like to see the people affected by problems in leadership role: young people with disabilities, immigrants, refugees and people of color. When these people become leaders everyone will benefit. We will all walk together and achieve our goals.

Q. What is your favorite song, book or movie?

A. Actually, I love poetry, because I love the idea behind it. I come from a poetry culture.

Q. Is there anything else you want people to know?

A. I am a good listener and love to learn. I love meeting new people and learning something different. And I’m open-minded to learn about other people. I would like to travel if I could.

Q&A with PSU Student and Advocate Arlene Amaya

In 2017 and 2018, Northwest Health Foundation convened the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative – a group of fourteen disabled people of color interested in deepening their understanding of disability justice and discussing visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of people with disabilities are centered in decision-making. Arlene is one of the leaders participating in the Collaborative.

 Arlene smiles, standing in front of an industrial background.

Q. What leadership roles have you played?

A. Currently, I'm the cultural sustainability coordinator for Portland State University’s Student Sustainability Center and the community engagement coordinator for Green Lents. I also hold leadership positions through PSU’s accessibility committee, universal design subcommittee and environmental club.

Q. What leadership roles do you hope to take on in the future?

A. I’m not entirely sure what my future leadership roles will look like, but I'll be graduating from Portland State in Spring 2018, so they'll likely be significantly different.  Right now I'm more focused on the process of shaping what principles I want to apply to my current and future work. 

Q. What is most exciting to you about disability justice?

A. I think it’s another opportunity to recognize the inherent value and dignity of everyone, which conflicts with the ways many of our systems and institutions currently operate. It’s also a chance to recognize the strength in our differences. Validating one another’s accessibility needs is crucial, and it requires that we are part of a community that holds itself accountable to a dynamic learning process. In these ways, disability justice feels like truly exciting and revolutionary work to me.

Q. What do you hope to get out of being a part of the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative?

A. I decided to apply for the DJLC, because I wanted to gain a better understanding of ableism, my own accessibility needs and how to apply these principles to my work. I wanted to do so as part of a community, and then work within that community to build collective power. 

Additionally, my identity as someone who's disabled doesn't exist separately from my identities as a queer, working-class Latina (from Salvadoran parents). In many spaces that focus on disability rights, we're not able to explore the significance and influence of our other identities and that comes at a huge cost. The DJLC is a unique and special space, because it really mobilizes those important conversations. Its leading principles should be part of all justice movements. 

Q. What is your favorite book, movie or song, and why?

A. I have many favorites in each category, but the last book I read was Corazón by Yesika Salgado, the last movie I watched was Black Panther, and the last song I listened to was "Sound & Color" by Alabama Shakes. 

Q&A with Veteran and Community Health Worker Tamyca Branam Phillips

In 2017 and 2018, Northwest Health Foundation convened the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative – a group of fourteen disabled people of color interested in deepening their understanding of disability justice and discussing visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of people with disabilities are centered in decision-making. Tamyca is one of the leaders participating in the Collaborative.

 Tamyca Branam Phillips

Tamyca Branam Phillips

Q. What communities do you consider yourself a part of?

A. African American, Native American, veterans, military, grandparents, community activists, community health workers, community education workers.

Q. What leadership roles have you played?

A. Currently head of the Urban League of Portland's morale committee, as well as facilitator for parent empowerment workshops in the Urban League's community health worker program.

Q. What leadership roles do you hope to take on in the future?

A. I would love to work up the chain to management and executive management positions within the Urban League. I also want to be highly active in roles of systemic change within broken systems hurting our communities.

Q. What is most exciting to you about disability justice?

A. Being a part of a team that is addressing the inequities placed upon individuals with disabilities. Being part of the solution in fixing the systemic oppression and discrimination.

Q. What do you hope to get out of being a part of the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative?

Additional resources, networking, ideas and language to help educate and empower the many communities that I am a part of.  Knowledge is power, so I will take the knowledge learned and share it.

Q. What is your vision for the future of our region?

I don’t know. The running joke amongst family, friends and my community is, when am I going to run for any number of offices… commissioner, mayor, senator, congresswoman, president. I want to finish my B.S. in public health with a minor in civic engagement. Then, of course, move forward up the education ladder.

Q. What is your favorite book, movie and/or song, and why?

A. Book: don’t have one, but I do enjoy Where The Side Walk Ends. Movies: Legend, Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, Matilda and any Tim Burton movie. Song: Christina Aguilera's "Fighter" (inspired my fighter tattoo on my right shoulder). It represents that, no matter what, I will get back up. You can never hold this girl down.

Q. Is there anything else you want people to know? 

A. I am veteran of two military services: Navy and Coast Guard. I'm a former EMT Basic and firefighter. I have multiple invisible disabilities. I don’t show them, because I am determined not to let them hold me down.

I was born to serve my community. From 16-years-old to the present, you can find me serving my community in a variety of ways. So much so that a coworker published a story about me giving my all without thinking. You can read the story here.

Learn more about the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative here.

Western States Center & CAPACES Network: Winning with Reproductive Justice

 A woman sits on the floor holding her child. He looks over her shoulder, smiling. She is laughing. 

According to Western States Center’s Gender Justice Program Director Amy Casso, when you lead with Reproductive Justice you can win. Why? Because Reproductive Justice is intersectional and inclusive; everyone can see themselves in it. It also has the ability to shift narrative and culture in communities.

The CAPACES Network organizations, a group of primarily Latino-led and serving organizations in Oregon, saw an opportunity in Reproductive Justice. After participating in Western States Center’s We are BRAVE Cohort, CAPACES Network staff wanted to bring a Gender Justice and Reproductive Justice lens to all their work. They partnered with Western States Center to guide them through the process.

Over the last year, CAPACES Network executive directors and staff participated in monthly trainings and discussions around building and integrating a Gender and Reproductive Justice lens into their organizations’ program work. A pivotal moment came in August when many of them participated in Activists Mobilizing for Power 2017 workshops like “Talking About Abortion in the Latinx Community” and “Over-policed and Undervalued: reproductive justice, prison-abolition and birthing” to deepen their understanding.

 A person stands in front of a row of gray boxes, visible from the waist down. Each box has a  statistic painted on it. The closest one reads, "In 2011, 1 in 13 white Oregonians were uninsured and 1 in 6 people of color were uninsured."

CAPACES Network members also participated in the campaign to pass the Reproductive Health Equity Act, advocating for all Oregonians, regardless of income, citizenship status, gender identity or type of insurance, to have access to the full range of preventative reproductive health services.

Over the next year, Western States Center and CAPACES Network will conduct a community assessment in order to better understand the community’s concerns and needs, as well as identify opportunities for policy shifts. They’re working closely with several organizations, including both of the Network’s youth organizations, Latinos Unidos Siempre (LUS) and Talento Universitario Regresando a Nuestros Orígenes (TURNO).

It’s clear the partnership is already impacting community members. Western States Center recently hosted an event with Mujeres Luchadoras Progresistas, unrelated to their partnership with CAPACES Network. At the event, Amy Casso asked community members if they’d heard about the Reproductive Health Equity Act and what it could do for them. All of them had.

Ultimately, CAPACES Network hopes this partnership will result in a healthier community and healthier families.

Oregon Active Schools: Hillside Elementary School

This blog is the eighth in a series of posts written with staff and students at Oregon Active Schools elementary schools. Oregon Active Schools supports programs that inspire a lifelong love of physical activity and its many benefits for every child in Oregon through opportunities to be active before, during and after school.

 Two students hug each other and smile on a field full of students playing.

HERE'S WHAT HILLSIDE ELEMENTARY STUDENTS HAD TO SAY ABOUT EXERCISE AND PLAY AT THEIR SCHOOL:

Q. What makes your school special?

Friends and teachers.

We can earn student of the month.

We have lots of friends.

We get to learn.

 

Q. What is your favorite part of recess or PE?

I like to do cartwheels with my friends.

You can play on the playground.

We get exercise, and we get to learn.

You get to enjoy the sun.

 

Q. Why are exercise and play important?

To get you fit.

You get strong.

You can play with your friends.

 
 A large group of Hillside Elementary School students pose in front of a playground.

HERE'S WHAT HILLSIDE ELEMENTARY STAFF HAD TO SAY ABOUT EXERCISE AND PLAY AT THEIR SCHOOL:

Q. What makes your school and students special?

Hillside Elementary School is a modern school in a beautiful mountainside setting. Something special about our school is we have electives three days a week. Students get to choose which elective they would like to participate in. Electives change every four to six weeks, allowing students exposure to multiple active activities. Some of the current elective options are nature hikes, 80s aerobics, rock climbing, obstacle course, dance party, relay races and soccer. Students look forward to their electives and value the choice.

 

Q. How did your school use your Oregon Active Schools grant?

Finding opportunities for more Hillside students and families to become active was an important goal for our school. This year, Hillside participated in the Mayor’s Cup Fun Run. We promoted the event through emails, presentations and social media. The grant allowed us to assist families who were unable to pay the entry fee. We look forward to this becoming an annual tradition.

Our student leadership team served as the planning committee for our second goal: creating a walk or bike to school day. They connected with community businesses, mapped out walking routes and worked with our local police officers to create a day where students and families could walk or bike to school. They also created advertisements and fliers. The walk or bike was followed by an outdoor party with music, granola bars, bracelets and water. We believe that by providing a special day for students to walk or bike to school, we will encourage families to walk or bike more often, instead of driving.

 

Q. What changes have you seen in your school since it became an "Active School?"

Both of our events were successful and will now be part of our annual Hillside events. The student leadership team felt empowered by the opportunity to facilitate such a large event.

 

Q. Why do you believe physical activity in schools is important?

Research is clear about the correlation of physical activity with better academic results. At Hillside, we strive to include physical activity throughout the day. Often it will be a quick moving activity, such as a Go Noodle movement video or crossing the center line stretching activity. With our recess time and electives we keep our students moving.

 

Hillside Elementary School is in Jackson County School District.

Oregon Active Schools: Parkdale Elementary School

This blog is the seventh in a series of posts written with staff and students at Oregon Active Schools elementary schools. Oregon Active Schools supports programs that inspire a lifelong love of physical activity and its many benefits for every child in Oregon through opportunities to be active before, during and after school.

 Parkdale students stand scattered around a field. One student holds a yellow ball.

HERE'S WHAT PARKDALE ELEMENTARY STUDENTS HAD TO SAY ABOUT EXERCISE AND PLAY AT THEIR SCHOOL:

Q. What is your favorite part of recess or PE?

I like to play and have fun with my friends when I’m in PE and at recess.

The best thing about PE is when we learned how to jump rope.

I like to play tag in PE and at recess.

My favorite part of recess is getting to run.

My favorite part of PE is when we get to play tag games.

 
 Parkdale students jump rope in a gym. A rainbow and dragon are painted on the wall above the basketball hoops.

Q. Why are exercise and play important?

Play is important, because it is fun!

Exercise helps you grow up to be healthy and strong.

Exercise helps you grow big strong muscles, and it is fun.

I think exercise is important, because it makes you sweat.

 

HERE'S WHAT PARKDALE ELEMENTARY STAFF HAD TO SAY ABOUT EXERCISE AND PLAY AT THEIR SCHOOL:

 Parkdale students play indoor soccer.

Q. What makes your school and students special?

Our school is special because we are located in a small rural community. Our students and families know each other very well, and it is like a large family.

A little more than fifty percent of our students are English Language Learners. Students come in at all different language levels, but our school is awesome about meeting the needs of each of our students.

Parkdale is special because of the people who work here and the kids we serve. Having worked in multiple schools before this one, I have found that Parkdale is incredibly unique thanks to the autonomy of the teachers in regards to their belief that all students truly can learn, as well as the hard work I see teachers putting in on a daily basis in order to promote this learning.

 

Q. How did your school use your Oregon Active Schools grant?

Parkdale used the Oregon Active Schools (OAS) grant in several ways. Our first priority was buying much needed basic physical education equipment in order to provide a varied and standards-based PE class to all students at Parkdale. We bought jump ropes, several types of balls/beanbags and other basic supplies. These purchases allowed us to eliminate wait time for our students in PE by putting the appropriate equipment into each student’s hands. 

The OAS grant also allowed us to offer “non-traditional” opportunities for our students in their PE class. With new equipment, we were able to teach a wide variety of activities students had not previously been exposed to, such as team building skills and racket sports. This gives our program the opportunity to engage all students and to give them the confidence to participate in a variety of physical activities as they continue to grow.

We also used the OAS grant to purchase some new technology for our students to use in PE. We bought a tripod to hold an iPod so that students can begin to self assess their own skills through recording and observation. We are also getting ready to roll out pedometers that can be uploaded with individual student data at the end of each class. This will allow students to track their steps taken and activity time while in class. The data will be used to help assess the effectiveness of lessons and to encourage students to be fully engaged in class.

Finally, the OAS grant was used to help overhaul the whiteboard in the gym. Students are now using the area to self assess their performance in class. This area is helping the students become more aware of themselves and take control of their own learning.

 

 Three Parkdale students play on a balance beam. More students sit on swings behind them.

Q. What changes have you seen in your school since it became an "Active School?"

The biggest change I have seen is at recess. Students are now participating in activities at recess that they learned in PE. I like to think that good PE is contagious and not limited to the four walls of the gym. When students are able to take something they learned in class, make it their own and use it outside the classroom, that shows that it is important to them. I also have parents telling me that their students are introducing activities that we are doing in class at home. It makes me smile when a parent tells me, “I played Man in the Mirror with my daughter last night before we went to bed." As the physical education program continues to grow at Parkdale, I will continue to look for ways to make natural changes. For example, some of the staff that supervise recess have been approaching me about the recess equipment. We are already brainstorming about how we can use some of our OAS grant funds from next year to improve our recess program. The OAS grant was the catalyst we needed to start this positive shift in our students.

Coach Hassell continues to come up with new ideas to teach the kids and new tools to use during PE time. The kids love the fast pace and the new, fun activities they are presented with. He also provides teachers with games and activities we can incorporate in the classroom. This saves us enormous amounts of time, because we don't have to teach the students the activities, and we can get them moving in our own classrooms.

 

Q. Why do you believe physical activity in schools is important?

My kindergarten students look forward to seeing Coach Hassell and going to PE every school day (even when PE is not scheduled). Coach's straight-talking, developmentally appropriate teaching captivates my students. They happily go to PE and return to me as sweaty, red-faced, physically-spent and euphoric kinders! After PE, we have 35 more minutes of school. Some days this is a difficult time because my students are tired and looking forward to going home. On PE days, the last part of the day provides a time for focused learning for most of my students. I think this focus comes from the physical activity they just experienced in PE. While I give my students brain and movement breaks throughout my instruction, there is nothing like 40 minutes of physical activity to fire up the brain synapses.

PE is hands down the majority of my students' favorite part of the day. It is a place where they are so engaged mentally and physically. At the end of the day students write memories from their day on slips of paper that go into our memory jar. Every PE day they are excited to write down and remember the game they played, the skills they learned and their successes. We have PE early in the day, and on those days students come back ready to focus and engage in academic content. 

 

Parkdale Elementary School is one of Hood River County School District's eight schools.

 

Three Success Stories from Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon

Royalty Spirits

 Chaunci sits at a desk, her hands folded. A laptop and a bottle of Miru Vodka sit on the table in front of her.

Chaunci King founded Royalty Spirits in 2013, distilling and selling Miru Vodka: high-quality pear-flavored vodka made locally in the Pacific Northwest. The name Miru is appropriate, because Miru is a dominating Sea Goddess, and Chaunci plans for her company "to dominate the world of flavored vodkas." She's determined to succeed in a white, male-dominated industry.

Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon provided Chaunci with business development services, MarketLink research, an Individual Development Account and financing. Thanks to MESO's support, Chaunci has been able to launch two new products: non-flavored vodka and whiskey.

Previously, Chaunci was unable to access capital to grow her business. She lacked strong cash flow, collateral and time spent in business. Chaunci was about to sign up with an online lender whose loans had predatory rates, because she had pending orders and needed to fill them. Fortunately, MESO provided Chaunci with a $30,000 loan just in time. 

"You know I'm a bartender by trade; I noticed most flavored vodkas that are catered towards women are super sweet and missing the vodka bang! So I decided I wanted to create a vodka that was for us by us, less sugar, delicious pear flavor and natural vodka essence! Whiskey was an automatic second product with a trending rise as a drink of choice with millennials and my preferred sipper." - Chaunci King

 

Big Body Towing

 Ron Brown leaps into the air in front of his tow truck.

Ron Brown came to Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon in 2007 for help with his first business, Big Body Towing. His excitement was contagious. MESO matched his enthusiasm with their support, setting achievable goals and mapping out strategic plans to help with his vision of growth. Over the years, Ron has gone through numerous challenges, but he has faced them head ­on with a positive attitude. Ron’s customer service is top notch, and his humor gets him through the daily challenges of owning a business.

Last year, Les Schwab offered Ron the opportunity to buy the property he was renting. Ron had difficulty raising the needed capital and returned to MESO for advice. As 2015 drew to a close, MESO asked their longtime supporter, United Fund Advisors, if they could place loan capital they'd allocated to MESO to help Ron purchase the commercial property. With United Fund Advisor's consent, MESO provided the $70,000 necessary to purchase the property, currently valued at $225,000.

Several individuals and companies came together to help create long­-term financial security for Ron and his family. Because Les Schwab was willing to share their excess property, Ron will have a more sustainable livelihood.

 

Modern Human Instruments

 Jessica Chan gives a thumbs-up.

Jessica Chan is an industrial designer and the founder of Modern Human Instruments LLC. She has a diverse background, from teaching martial arts and personal training to customer service, construction, freelance art and design. Jessica's parents, immigrants from China, hoped their daughter would become a doctor. However, Jessica's passion lay with entrepreneurship and design. With all her zeal and stubbornness, she began making her mark in the industry.

Jessica's first product, an innovative writing instrument called the WinkPen, is built to write with wine, coffee or tea, and it is already sold out. Jessica's vision with WinkPen was to create a sustainable alternative to the everyday writing utensil. She wanted to provide "a high­-end innovative writing instrument for artists and collectors alike."

"As with any startup company, the journey can be crazy and very unexpected. I quickly learned that the support system and people you choose to surround yourself with was key to making it and becoming successful. There's always an answer if you look hard enough." - Jessica Chan

Jessica secured seed funding through Portland Development Commission's Startup PDX Challenge. She also participated in the Streetwise MBA program through PDC and MESO; and she accessed an IDA, MarketLink market research, credit building and financing.

"MESO has been an absolutely wonderful experience. The community within the program is beyond words, and the individualized support and resources— invaluable. MESO not only is a place of knowledge and resources, but also hope and encouragement." - Jessica Chan

 

Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon is one of Northwest Health Foundation's Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partners.

Cambios Micro-Development Program helps Latino families become business owners and community leaders

 Three generations of a family stick their hands in a big pot of soil. They're learning about propagation.

Three generations of a family stick their hands in a big pot of soil. They're learning about propagation.

Every family should have the opportunity to strive for a healthier, happier and more stable future. When families can support themselves in ways that are meaningful to them, our communities become stronger and we all benefit. That’s why Huerto de la Familia, a community-led organization in Eugene, Oregon, provides the means for Latino families in Lane County to improve their health and economic self-sufficiency.

One way Huerto de la Familia does this is through their Cambios Micro-Development Program. Every year, Latino families in Lane County who want to start their own small businesses, or take small businesses they’ve already started to the next level, sign up for weekly classes, participate in one-on-one business counseling sessions and create their business plans.

 A student works out watering calculations on the whiteboard at farm business class.

A student works out watering calculations on the whiteboard at farm business class.

Over the last year, Cambios Micro-Development Program has expanded and evolved to better meet the needs of community members. Previously, the weekly class ran for ten weeks. Now it runs for twenty. On top of that, participants planning to start farm businesses can sign up for an additional eight weeks of specialized training through a curriculum designed, and taught, by staff from Oregon State University’s Small Farms Program. They practice their new skills for large-scale planting on land donated by Two Rivers and Love Farms. Other participants, who plan to start restaurants, have the chance to test their businesses and earn money in Huerto de la Familia’s food booth incubator.

The partnership doesn’t stop there. Huerto de la Familia’s executive director, Marissa Garcia, emphasizes that this work doesn’t result in instant gratification. Huerto de la Famila works with families for years, until they can sustain their businesses on their own.

 The family behind Tikal Latin Cuisine showcases their Guatemalan food. 

The family behind Tikal Latin Cuisine showcases their Guatemalan food. 

Cambios Micro-Development Program allows Latino families to make a living doing work they love and believe in. As a result, community members benefit through access to healthy, local and culturally significant food. For instance, one man who recently graduated from the twenty-week training will raise livestock humanely, with an emphasis on providing meat for specific Mexican cultural dishes, such as birria. Another participant will start a farming nonprofit with the aim of growing healthy food for people who can’t afford it, especially people who don’t have the time or ability to grow their own food in Huerto de la Familia’s garden (e.g. parents with young children, those with chronic illnesses, elders, etc.)

Huerto de la Familia’s goals for Cambios Micro-Development Program go beyond immediate change. The organization and participants have a bigger vision, for long-term change, as well. They want the Latino families involved to become leaders in Lane County’s business community, and in the community as a whole. Currently, 12% of Oregon’s residents are Latino. That number isn’t reflected in Oregon’s leadership, and Huerto de la Familia hopes Cambios Micro-Development Program will contribute to changing that.

 Cambios Micro-Development Program's 2016 graduates celebrate their success.

Cambios Micro-Development Program's 2016 graduates celebrate their success.

Huerto de la Familia is one of Northwest Health Foundation's Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partners.

Oregon Renters Lead the Way to Safe, Stable and Healthy Homes

 A crowd, led by children holding a Community Alliance of Tenants banner, marches in support of tenant protections. Many people hold signs with messages promoting stable housing.

Change should always be led by the people who will be most impacted by it. Solutions work better for everyone when they are created by the communities that need them the most. It’s the curb-cut effect.

For example, everyone in our region — Oregon and Southwest Washington — has been affected by the affordable housing crisis. Even homeowners feel the impact when neighbors, coworkers and employees, their children’s classmates, teachers, caregivers and countless other community members suffer the stress of housing instability. Housing instability impacts all of us. But who is most impacted? Who should lead the way in confronting this problem?

According to Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT), low-income tenants — mainly, people of color, families with children, low-wage workers, people with disabilities and seniors. Which is why CAT is partnering with a number of organizations to advance tenant protections this legislative session.

 A woman holds a drooling toddler with curly black hair.

Across our region, increased demand for housing has led to rent hikes and no-cause evictions. Too many families find themselves houseless, priced out of their cities and towns, sleeping on friends’ couches, in cars and shelters, even on the street. Without a safe place to call home, they struggle to keep their jobs, feed their kids and get them to school.

Families who haven’t been evicted are too scared to ask their landlords for necessary repairs and improvements; they’re afraid of retaliation. Meanwhile, their children suffer from “slum housing disease” due to unhealthy living conditions.

Their fear is warranted. Families with small children, especially from immigrant and refugee communities face higher barriers to quality housing, and they’re more vulnerable to discrimination, retaliation and involuntary displacement.

 A woman sits with three young children at a Stable Homes for Oregon Families listening session.

CAT members, as well as their majority-tenant board of directors, identified no-cause evictions and lifting the ban on rent-stabilization as their top priorities. So CAT responded by convening the Stable Homes for Oregon Families Coalition, a group of over 75 organizations advocating for the 40% of Oregonians who rent their homes. CAT also initiated the Tenant Leadership Council, composed of parents of color to lead the #JustCauseBecause campaign this legislative session.

The Tenant Leadership Council spent time helping shape House Bill 2004, vetting it against their experiences, and mobilizing their fellow tenants to participate in various actions, including phone banking, visiting their legislators, hosting rallies and supporting civic engagement opportunities for renters. They also coordinated lobby days at the Oregon State Capitol and developed and presented testimony in support of the bill. On February 4, they packed a listening session with 250 people, and 20 legislators and their staff attended to hear residents from all over Oregon share their stories. On April 30, they plan to pack another listening session in Eugene. 

 Oregon tenants and legislators fill several round tables at a listening session for Stable Homes for Oregon Families.

Thanks to the leadership of low-income Oregon tenants, we trust #JustCauseBecause and #RentStabilization are the best choices for our state. We may not end the affordable housing crisis with these two bills, but we will reduce stress and fear, mitigate displacement and ensure renters feel supported enough to demand healthy living conditions. And everyone in our region will benefit because of it.

Community Alliance of Tenants is one of Northwest Health Foundation's Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partners.

Oregon Active Schools: Henry L Slater Elementary School

This blog is the sixth in a series of posts written with staff and students at Oregon Active Schools elementary schools. Oregon Active Schools supports programs that inspire a lifelong love of physical activity and its many benefits for every child in Oregon through opportunities to be active before, during and after school.

 
 Students play with colorful streamers in a school hallway. 

HERE'S WHAT Henry L Slater Elementary STUDENTS HAD TO SAY ABOUT EXERCISE AND PLAY AT THEIR SCHOOL:

Q. What makes your school special?

Kindergartener: That our school keeps us safe, and we are respectful and responsible.

1st Grader: Other kids and myself helping each other. We help clean up our classroom and our school.

2nd Grader: My friends and teachers make this school special.

3rd Grader: Our school is special because everybody is friendly. The students in my class and my teacher is very nice. They always share.

4th Grader: Our school is special, because we don't have that many kids so it's easier to work. Our class is small, and so that gives me more time to be with the teacher to understand things. My teacher gives me options of where to sit to learn better.

 

Q. What is your favorite part of recess or PE?

Kindergartener: My favorite part is doing superhero moves in PE. We lift our legs and stretch our arms. I loved Temple of Doom. You get to play a lot and it's kind of exercising.

1st Grader: My favorite part of PE is when we exercise. I like stretching.

2nd Grader: My favorite part of recess is tetherball, because I like hitting the ball and winning.

 A student wearing a pirate bandana wields a styrofoam noodle.

3rd Grader: My favorite part of PE is getting to do the stretches. This unit in PE you listen to music and do hula-hoops, step aerobics and stretches like exercising.  I like this unit more than Temple of Doom, because you get to listen to music. At recess I like hanging out with my friends.

4th Grader: My favorite part of recess is practicing volleyball, because I am getting better at it. I really like the assemblies and a lot of things in PE. I especially like Temple of Doom and the Pirates of the Caribbean.  I like getting my energy up, and the obstacles are fun to do. 

 

Q. Why are exercise and play important?

Kindergartenr: It will make our body healthier and make you skinnier.

1st Grader: Exercise is important, because it helps your heart go and it gives you energy.

2nd Grader: Exercising is important, because you need oxygen for your body.  Exercising keeps you healthy, helps you do more stuff, and you can go places.

3rd Grader: Exercise is important, because you can get fit and be healthy.

4th Grader: Exercise and play are important, because they help you not get overweight and it helps you stay healthy.

 

HERE'S WHAT Henry L Slater Elementary STAFF HAD TO SAY ABOUT EXERCISE AND PLAY AT THEIR SCHOOL:

 Colorful exercise equipment is spread throughout a school gym.

Q. What makes your school and students special?

Sarika Mosley, Principal: Our school is incredibly special, because we have parents, students and teachers who care about every part of our students’ day. We strive hard to provide the necessary academics and differentiate our lesson so that every child’s ability is met. We have a wonderful group of teachers that know our students and parents well, that want to make a difference in their lives. We have one of the best playgrounds I have seen, with detailed blacktop games that Mrs. Herauf spray paints every summer.  She teaches our students in the Fall how to play at each blacktop activity. We provide our students Music and PE every other day, and we also have a computer lab and a librarian that provide additional access to our students.

Alice Herauf, PE Teacher: Our school is special because we offer so many neat things for our students. We have specialists for music, PE, and after-school programs such as volleyball and kinder basketball.

Andie Nichols, Kindergarten Teacher: Being a small community we have a unique and mixed population within our schools. One common thread is our love for our community, especially the youth. We have a long tradition of excellence and quality in our extracurricular activities. To achieve this a love and foundation has been laid beginning in the elementary school. We teach these kids knowing that many will go all through school in this district and eventually return to the community.

Tori Fenton, 3rd Grade Teacher: Our staff and students show respect to each other, try hard, are eager in their learning and always give 100%.

 

Q. How did your school use your Oregon Active Schools grant?

Alice Herauf, PE Teacher: We incorporated Brain Games. Before a test, when they [the kids] get antsy, or days when they don’t have PE, we have these active activities for students. We have three types of Brain Games for students: cooperation, cardiovascular and spatial awareness. We differentiate for indoor and outdoor. They enhance PE and classroom activities.

Andie Nichols, Kindergarten Teacher: We have put up activities around the school that we call "Brain Games." These activities can be used for additional exercise, a brain break, ease transitions, inside recess, or other academic activities that need a large motor activity to accompany them. For example, in kindergarten we use the scarves, rings of fire, tops and other games to build excitement with math and counting. The students are also getting physical activity and working on motor skills as they are practicing their math.

 
 Students stand in and around a grid spray painted on a blacktop.

Q. What changes have you seen in your school since your school became an "Active School?"

Sarika Mosley, Principal: I see students engaged in indoor activities with their teachers during hallways transitions and bathroom breaks. I see students working together in pairs and individually trying to do their best with balancing, coordination and activating different parts of their brains. This is especially helpful during our months of snow fall when our outdoor equipment is inaccessible.

Alice Herauf, PE Teacher: Our students are becoming more fit with 5-1-1-0. They are more engaged in games instead of getting into behavior issues.

Andie Nichols, Kindergarten Teacher: The most obvious change is the access to equipment and physical activities that before were only accessible to the PE teacher. With 30 stations available at any time to any class the option for giving kids a mental break and quick exercise/energy boost throughout the day is a major change. Instead of a recess, kids can be involved in an active game or challenge. Another positive change is where the games are strategically placed. The placement allows teachers to use the games in times of transition to eliminate standing around and waiting. Instead they can be involved in a Brain Game.

Tori Fenton, 3rd Grade Teacher: Our students are more aware of how they can use their brains and bodies in connection. They are focused on creating a learning atmosphere that helps make connections in their brains and grow them as students.

 

Q. Why do you believe physical activity in schools is important?

Sarika Mosley, Principal: When you live in a community impacted by many hardships, such as poverty, mental health, obesity, diabetes and trauma, you must do your best to help your students moderate their emotions. These are tied directly to the physical benefits of actively engaging our students. When we tie activities to their day daily, students learn to have healthy habits that can help fight against the hardships they come with. Overall, no matter what our students walk of life, physical activity gets our students to smile, helps them maintain healthy bones and muscles, and helps them fight against any depression and anxiety that they may come across in their lifetime.

Andie Nichols, Kindergarten Teacher: Our students love PE, so to me a win-win combination is to get the kids up and moving and learning something at the same time. Physical activity can increase engagement and make learning more enjoyable. From my experience, kids perform better and are ready to learn even after a quick movement activity. It gives them something to look forward to and promotes an active lifestyle that will hopefully carry over into the future.

Tori Fenton, 3rd Grade Teacher: Our brain and bodies are connected and work together. Physical activity helps the brain make long term memory connections for academic advancement. Physical activity also helps keep our hearts and bodies in shape and ready to learn.

 

Henry L Slater Elementary School is one of Harney County School District's three schools.