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.

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.

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.

Youth Unite for Social Justice

A spotlight on Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Youth Equity Collaborative.

 The Youth Equity Collaborative at the Oregon Students of Color Conference.

The Youth Equity Collaborative at the Oregon Students of Color Conference.

Youth voices often go unnoticed and unrecognized in social justice movements. Youth leaders are undervalued due to their "lack of experience." But, when it comes to youth, people are measuring experience the wrong way. Youth have plenty of experience – their own lived experience. Youth are their own experts.

The Youth Equity Collaborative, made up of youth-led social justice organizations, including Multnomah Youth Commission, Latino Unidos Siempre, CAPACES Leadership Institute, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon's Youth Environmental Justice Alliance, Oregon Students of Color Coalition with Oregon Student Association and Momentum Alliance, values and prioritizes youth voices.

The Youth Equity Collaborative encourages collective youth action and including youth at decision making tables when the decisions will affect youth, because youth are capable of making change. 

Some of the challenges youth face are lack of affordable transportation, financial support and accommodations for their participation, as well as lack of opportunities. The Youth Equity Collaborative does its best to support our youth and aims to remove barriers by providing reimbursement for transportation, providing bust tickets and childcare as needed. They also provide opportunities for youth to explore, network and participate in leadership development by sending them to conferences, gatherings and lobby days.

Why did the organizations that are part of the Youth Equity Collaborative choose to join the Youth Equity Collaborative?

  • To build relationships and network across organizations.
  • To engage the community on a greater scale.
  • To create a coherent and unified youth voice across the state.
  • To learn and share effective organizational practices.
  • To foster a support network for youth involved in social justice movements.

What has the Youth Equity Collaborative been doing lately?

  • Building relationships, including meeting monthly, playing fun games and discussing what "our future looks like."
  • Participating in the Oregon Students of Color Conference and Communities Collaborate gatherings and traveling together.
  • Creating content for social media campaigns.
  • Creating a political agenda.

"We are all born (in)."

'Together, we can erase the divide between “us” and “them” and celebrate schools and communities where all individuals are embraced and included.'

 A mapping exercise from the 10th Annual All Born (In) Conference.

A mapping exercise from the 10th Annual All Born (In) Conference.

On April 23rd, 2016, Northwest Down Syndrome Association (NWDSA) and All Born (In) will host their 11th annual All Born (In) regional cross-disability conference. This conference—aimed at parents, educators, providers, self advocates and civic leaders—teaches best practices for embracing disability and reaching and teaching all people.

 Three women pose for the camera in a crowded conference room. Two appear to have Down Syndrome; one is in a wheelchair.

NWDSA and All Born (In), sister organizations, believe in full inclusion and public understanding and acceptance. They are tireless advocates for inclusive education. For example, they offer a Kindergarten Transition Workshop to help parents of young children with developmental disabilities become advocates for their kids at school. NWDSA/ABI also led Think College Inclusion Oregon—a coalition of middle and high school students, families, education professionals and Portland State University faculty—to seek funding for an inclusive college program at PSU. They succeeded in obtaining a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to implement the program.

"Special education is supposed to be a service, not a place," said All Born (In) Executive Director Angela Jarvis-Holland in a recent article in The Portland Tribune

 One woman speaking into a microphone, one woman signing.

The 2016 All Born (In) Conference will include more than 30 workshops on a range of topics, everything from "Behavior in the Early Years: Ideas for When the Going Gets Tough" to "Economic Freedom and Rights." There will also be two keynote speeches by Dr. Richard A. Villa and Keith Jones.

We at Northwest Health Foundation are particularly excited about Keith Jones' keynote "Soul Touching Work to Increase Access, Inclusion, and Empowerment at the Intersection of Race and Disability." Keith Jones is a disability rights activist, composer, producer and hip hop artist. He also identifies as a person with a disability. 

You can get tickets for All Born (In) Conference here.

Northwest Down Syndrome Association is a Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partner.

At Open School, the Racial Achievement Gap is Zero

 Two youth sitting on a table, looking over their shoulders at a poster with a poem in two languages.

Oregon's high school graduation rate of 74% is one of the worst in the nation. That number is even lower for students of color and students in families struggling to make ends meet. But some Oregon schools are leading the way in improving academic achievement, especially for students facing inequities. One of these is Open School.

Open School has closed the achievement gap between white students and students of color. Nationally, the gap is 25%. At Open School, the gap is zero.

Here's an example of what Open School does for its students:

In sixth grade, Guillermo exhibited multiple warning signs that suggested he might drop out early. Guillermo's counselor contacted his family and suggested that they enroll Guillermo in Open School East. They were hesitant at first, but eventually agreed. 

 Several kids of various races and ethnicities lined up on a hillside.

After giving the counselor permission to give their information to Open School East, Open School's enrollment coordinator reached out to Guillermo’s family. In no time, a visit was scheduled where the coordinator, Guillermo and his parents could all sit down and talk in Guillermo’s home. 

At the end of 6th grade, Guillermo was scoring at the 3rd grade level in both reading and math, and he was receiving ELL supports as a non-native English speaker. His parents, both undocumented immigrants, were unfamiliar with the system and unsure of how to navigate and advocate for their child without drawing attention to their undocumented status. Their fears for the success of their child won out over their fears of deportation. The entire family attended an Open School enrollment night, and they enrolled Guillermo for the 2014 school year.

 Teacher and student bending over a worksheet.

By the summer of 2015, after lots of hard work, constant communication and an abundance of mutual support, several things had changed for Guillermo and his parents: 

  • On his year-end benchmark tests in 2015, Guillermo met or exceeded grade level in both Math and English.
  • Guillermo no longer needs official ELL supports, having passed the English Language Proficiency Assessment with flying colors. 
  • Guillermo has even met the Smarter Balance benchmark, which is currently believed to be harder than other benchmarks. 
  • Guillermo’s parents have become models for family engagement and participation, and have become leaders in the Open School East community. They have spoken as parent-reps for Open School East to the Gresham-Barlow School District board of directors; volunteered to act as liaisons to similar new Open School East families, working from their own experiences to create an atmosphere of welcome, reassurance and safety for other undocumented families; and participated actively by leading efforts to start a culturally-specific Latino Families group. 

How does Open School do it? In many ways. They center their work around equity. They use restorative justice practices to resolve conflict. They take time for Art and Movement. They regularly engage with students' families. They listen to students and their families. And so much more! Guillermo is just one of many students whose futures have changed thanks to Open School. 

Open School is a Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partner.

BRAVE Leaders Build Power for Reproductive Justice

Story submitted by Western States Center

 Emily Lai flashing the peace sign. Photo courtesy of Momentum Alliance.

Western States Center’s We are BRAVE project supports leaders of color to advance policy and create cultural change to improve communities of color’s access to reproductive healthcare.

The success of BRAVE is highlighted by the personal and professional development of Emily Lai. A BRAVE leader, Emily began her reproductive justice journey as part of We are Brave’s 2015 cohort.

“Honestly, the only reason I am able to do reproductive justice work in Oregon is because of BRAVE,” said Emily. “The dedicated staff at Western States Center has tirelessly and lovingly cultivated a sacred space for communities of color to come together to articulate our experiences with injustices and our visions for justice. BRAVE is a place for us to heal, to bond, and to build our individual and collective strength to advocate for ourselves and reproductive justice."

BRAVE provided the space for Emily to align her commitment to social justice and young people, and her own personal self-determination for reproductive autonomy as a young person. Currently, Emily works with Momentum Alliance as a Reproductive Justice Camp Coordinator where she lives and practices reproductive justice values and leadership with young people. Her professional development parallels BRAVE’s theory of change. Lai often expresses how her participation in BRAVE helped shape her intersection lens for how and whom she works with; the process for how to apply and integrate reproductive justice values; and strength to voice the importance of young people’s role in their own reproductive autonomy. 

"I work for a youth-led social justice nonprofit called Momentum Alliance. This year, at our fundraiser, one of our sponsors withdrew their sponsorship as soon as they found out that we were voicing our support for abortion access at our fundraiser. I was a little intimidated and discouraged from publicly and unequivocally supporting abortion access. But my organization rallied behind me, and I believe that BRAVE gave our organization the courage—the BRAVEry, if you will—to unapologetically stand up for abortion access."

The BRAVE project creates the conditions to leverage leadership through the introduction of reproductive justice core concepts. BRAVE leaders connect those concepts to policy and cultural change to achieve positive health outcomes for families. We realize that communities that respect the dignity and self-determination of all people, particularly young people, are integral to positive early life and childhood development.

Western States Center and Momentum Alliance are both Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partners. Momentum Alliance is also the lead organization of a Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative.

VIDEO | Momentum Alliance and Metro Ask About Equity

What do community members in the Portland metro region have to say about equity? Momentum Alliance and Metro found out, and they made this video so that we could know too!

We will show up for equity, Metro and Momentum Alliance! Thanks for asking, and thank you for including voices that represent the diversity in our region.

...

A short history: Momentum Alliance started with a video--a documentary actually--called "Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth." The founders of Momentum Alliance were members of the youth crew that helped produce and distribute "Papers" nationally. Since their founding, Momentum Alliance remains committed to being youth-led and youth serving. Their board is two-thirds youth (under 25).

Momentum Alliance was founded with a grant from the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund at NWHF. They are also a Lead Organization for one of our Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Organizing Grant communities.