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.

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.

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.

A New Narrative for Racial Equity in Oregon

A story with Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Racial Equity Agenda.

 A child stands in a schoolyard, writing in a notebook.

Words are powerful. If you know how to be persuasive with language, you can get a lot done. However, your words can also work against you. If you don’t do the necessary preparation, your message could communicate something you never intended.

Racial Equity Agenda, a Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative, is busy doing that necessary preparation, creating an effective racial equity narrative for Oregon that will help community organizations begin important conversations about race with voters and policymakers, and move Oregon closer to racial equity.

 Amanda Manjarrez presenting at the Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities gathering of Community Collaboratives in Salem, Oregon.

Amanda Manjarrez presenting at the Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities gathering of Community Collaboratives in Salem, Oregon.

On February 7th, 2017, Amanda Manjarrez, Coalition of Communities of Color’s Advocacy Director, stood at the front of a small, windowless conference room in the Salem Convention Center and introduced the idea of a cohesive racial equity narrative to community members and organizers from across the state. She presented examples of how effective narratives and values-based language can be at triggering emotions. For instance, words like “illegal,” “violent criminal” and “radical” have been selected purposefully by politicians to invoke fear about specific races and religions. These words, part of carefully constructed narratives about undocumented immigrants, black men and Muslims, have been used, successfully, to advance policies and candidates. If community organizations in Oregon want to push back against these narratives and have positive conversations about race, we need to construct our own narrative that will spark other emotions that lead to more inclusive communities and shared prosperity.

Unfortunately, people aren’t as logical as they like to think they are. In reality, humans make quick, emotional judgments, then use reasoning to justify those judgments. People also hold contradictory, competing ideas in their heads at the same time. It falls to communicators to choose the right story that will produce the desired emotions and lead an audience to take a specific action, whether that’s voting a certain way, donating to cause or something else.

It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.
— Frank Luntz

Amanda invited EUVALCREE Executive Director Gustavo Morales and Southern Oregon Education Service District’s Migrant Education Program Parent Involvement Specialist Monserrat Alegria to share their experiences having conversations about race. Both Gustavo and Monse live in rural Oregon communities (Ontario and Medford, respectively). They’ve been part of meetings where participants will get up and leave if “race” or “equity” are mentioned. They’ve seen their community members homes vandalized, families afraid to go home. According to Gustavo and Monse, the best way to start a conversation about racial equity where they live isn’t by talking about racial equity; it’s by opening with shared values like opportunity, children and families, and community building. These are narratives that almost everyone can connect with.

Racial Equity Agenda’s goal is to find a narrative that will work for all Oregonians, a way to talk about racial equity that won’t cause people to shut down or leave the room, and will result in decision-making tables including more people of color. In order to accomplish this goal, Coalition of Communities of Color is partnering with several culturally-specific and mainstream organizations, including Native American Youth and Family Center, Latino Network, Unite Oregon, Urban League of Portland, KairosPDX, Causa Oregon, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Hacienda CDC, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization and Self Enhancement, Inc. By coordinating to use a unifying narrative for their work, their impact will be great.

Six Years Later, Cully Park is Much More Than a Dream

 Cully community members stand on a portion of Cully Park land that is ready for development.

Portland's Cully neighborhood is rich with racial and ethnic diversity. Unfortunately, the neighborhood itself is resource-poor. It has much less parkland, low access to transportation and few sidewalks compared to other parts of Portland. It also has an abundance of brownfields – contaminated, post-industrial land.

In 2002, Portland Parks Bureau bought one of those brownfields – a 25-acre landfill – with the intent of turning it into a park. After years of open houses and design meetings, the Portland City Council finally agreed on a master plan, featuring sports fields, walking trails and an estimated price tag of up to $18 million. Although the plans were approved, funding was not. 

That's when the Cully community took over. Living Cully, a collaboration made up of nonprofit partners Verde, Native American Youth and Family Center, Hacienda Community Development Corporation and Habitat for Humanity Portland Metro/East, led the community to seek funding and transform the former landfill into a welcoming and useful public space.

 Two people in orange construction vests hang a tarp over a sign that reads "¡NUEVE PARQUE EN CAMINO!" with a map.

In 2010, a $150,000 Northwest Health Foundation/Convergence Partnership grant enabled Living Cully to develop the very first stages of Thomas Cully Park. Now, six years later, Living Cully has raised over $9.5 million, and only needs to raise $1 million more to meet the project's $10.6 million budget (down from the $18 million estimated by the City Council in 2002). Most recently, on Portland Parks Foundation's 15th Anniversary, Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz announced a $3 million allocation from the City.

Not only has Living Cully raised millions of dollars for the park. Since development began in 2012, Scott School students worked with an architect to design a community garden; Verde restored a section of the land too steep for park features to create a mixed deciduous-riparian habitat; Verde Nursery began growing plants in a 10,000 square foot staging area for distribution throughout the park; a group of Native and non-Native community members created an Inter-Tribal Gathering Garden; Cully neighborhood schools and students helped design a play area meeting the needs of young people in the neighborhood and youth with disabilities; and Living Cully transformed NE 72nd Avenue into a Greenstreet.

Thomas Cully Park is truly by and for the people, and we can't wait to see future transformations of the space!

This is an update on a past Partner Spotlight written a few years ago. Check out the original Partner Spotlight.

Warm Springs Youth Build Power for Political Participation

 Photo courtesy of the Warm Springs Youth Council Facebook page. Photo credit to Jayson Smith.

Photo courtesy of the Warm Springs Youth Council Facebook page. Photo credit to Jayson Smith.

[Image description: A candidate with a long braid and glasses speaks into a standing microphone. Three candidates sit behind.]

At the beginning of 2016, Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition and the Warm Springs Youth Council formed a partnership around voter education for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Their first project was a candidate forum held in Warm Springs, Oregon on March 7th, 2016.

This forum gave local Tribal Council candidates running for the upcoming Warm Springs Tribal Council elections an opportunity to interact with the community and share their strengths, concerns and positions on issues the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs is facing. It also served to highlight the upcoming Bureau of Indian Affairs Secretarial Election and allowed tribal members, as well as the Warm Springs Youth Council, to raise and discuss thoughts about issues that would be on the Secretarial Election ballot. These included various proposed changes to the make-up of the Tribal Council and the process of electing Tribal Council members, as well as a proposed change to lower the voting age to 18.

 Photo courtesy of Warm Springs Youth Council Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Warm Springs Youth Council Facebook page.

[Image description: Six Warm Springs Youth Council members, wearing black t-shirts that read "BUILD COMMUNITY," pose around a Warm Springs Youth Council banner.]

In preparation for the forum, the Warm Springs Youth Council developed questions that incorporated the Secretarial Election’s proposed changes, history of the tribe, education and youth concerns. The forum was organized and hosted by the Youth Council with support from Let's Talk Diversity Coalition, Warm Springs Prevention Team and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. It was the first candidate forum to be organized in the history of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

Twenty-four hours before the event, the Youth Council contacted Let's Talk Diversity Coalition, requesting us to provide a sign language interpreter for the event. Thanks to regional and local connections, we were able to locate an interpreter for the event and pay him for his services. It's definitely worthwhile to build those relationships before they're needed! The community expressed appreciation of the interpretation services, not to mention the opportunity to hear from Tribal Council candidates.

Let's Talk Diversity Coalition continues to partner with the Warm Springs Youth Council and looks forward to the upcoming voter education collaborations, and to building power with our young leaders!

Native Community Wins Indigenous People's Day For Portland

 Teens gathered around a drum at A Youth Gathering of Native Americans.

Teens gathered around a drum at A Youth Gathering of Native Americans.

For too long, the U.S. federal government has recognized Columbus Day as a national holiday. Fortunately, thanks to the hard work and advocacy efforts of Native community leaders, including our friends and community partners at the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), Portland, OR is one city that does not celebrate Columbus Day anymore.

Columbus Day has been observed as the day that Christopher Columbus first arrived in the Americas. For many, that isn't something that deserves celebrating. Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas marked the beginning of a painful period for indigenous people--a period that included enslavement, colonization, displacement and the needless deaths of thousands of people, the effects of which are still felt today. That is why many Natives and their allies have set about reclaiming this holiday.

On October 7, 2015, Native community members testified before the Portland City Council; and the Portland City Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution, declaring the second Monday of October as Indigenous People's Day.

"This generation gets to grow up knowing the truth," said Klamath/Leech Lake Ojibway actor Dyami Thomas, who attended NAYA College Academy.

Thank you and congratulations to NAYA, the Grand Ronde Tribe and the other Native leaders who successfully ushered this resolution through City Council!

The Native American Youth and Family Center has received funding through the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund at Northwest Health Foundation, NWHF's Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Initiative, Sponsorships, the President's Opportunity Fund and Learning Together, Connecting Communities.