Portland’s NAACP President Remains Optimistic About the Fight for Racial Justice

Portland’s NAACP President Remains Optimistic About the Fight for Racial Justice

Portland, OR. The President of the Portland Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is feeling optimistic about the future of race relations in the Rose City. Rev. E. D. Mondainé, a renowned musician, and U.S. Army/Air Force veteran took the helm of Portland’s chapter in 2018. His voice has become increasingly important during this time of downtown protests and civil unrest. Mondainé’s says, “Even though times are bleak, we can make change. Portland is a perfect storm for change in this country and the ninety-plus days of noise is the start of revolution.”

While many organizations and individuals protesting are calling for a complete defunding of the police in Portland (and across the nation, for that matter), Rev. Mondainé says that the NAACP does not stand with the goal of abolition, but rather, reformation.

Starting in May 2020, demonstrations over the police killing of George Floyd have been held in the city of Portland, concurrent with protests in other cities around the United States and around the world.

When asked about the death of George Floyd and the reverberations across the nation, Mondainé’s said he believes Floyd’s death was nothing less than a “horizontal, modern-day lynching” and not to be convoluted else wise. (Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.)

Reverend E.D. Mondainé believes in Portland and the ability of residents to confront nationwide and global equality and equity. “We’re on a mission for justice, truth, and equality. And we’ll never stop fighting for that.”

The Portland NAACP has taken a stand on many issues including renter’s rights in 2019. 

Mondainé’s spoke to Portland Society Page reporter Daniel Chilton about his views on the strategy of the Black Lives Matter movement and where the NAACP stands regarding the policing institution, as well as the prison industrial complex.

While the public conversation has primarily revolved around police institutions and police brutality, Mondainé also discussed the often-absent subject of the prison industrial complex. With Black inmates outnumbering whites by a large margin until very recently (according to Pew Research Center, this gap has begun to narrow) Rev. Mondainé says that the NAACP is trying hard to keep this conversation going and has major plans in the future to continue to address both police and prison reform; that one cannot exist without the other present.

Thousands marching into downtown Portland; a photo strikingly familiar to those of the 1960s civil rights march on Washington.

About the Portland NAACP:

Founded in 1909 in response to the ongoing violence against Black people around the country, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the nation. We have over 2,200 units and branches across the nation, along with well over 2M activists. Our mission is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.

The vision of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race.

To find out more about Portland’s NAACP branch and any upcoming events, including their monthly meetings downtown, click here. If you’re interested in donating to their cause, you can do so directly here. To register to vote for the upcoming election and make your voice heard for change, you can do so here.

Basic Rights Oregon Hails Supreme Court Ruling at Virtual Queer Town Hall

Basic Rights Oregon Hails Supreme Court Ruling at Virtual Queer Town Hall

Portland, OR. “That was incredible,” said Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon Nancy Haque, (pictured eighth from the left above in pre-covid days). She was reacting to a recent Supreme Court ruling. “People have been working for decades to get this kind of protection for the LGBTQ community, and to get that victory now, when we really needed a victory, felt really good.” Hague was weighing in about the June 15th Supreme Court ruling that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ members from employment discrimination. The ruling is widely considered a historic step towards equality for the LGBTQ community. She spoke at a virtual town hall on June 23rd. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Basic Rights Oregon has held weekly virtual queer town halls in an effort to build community and to share information with the LGBTQ and larger Oregon community.

The focus in the town halls is on current events and features statewide leaders and experts in a variety of fields. Previous discussions have focused on issues such as healthcare, housing, employment, and discrimination. After the discussion, panelists answer audience questions.

On Tuesday, June 23, five speakers, including Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosemblum and Unite Oregon representative Inger McDowell, discussed hate crimes and recent legislation that clarifies gender discrimination as a protected class. 

“Thank you so much to BRO for hosting this event,” Rosenblum said, “This is a time for me to be listening and learning … We need to make sure that people of color and the LGBTQ community and the disabled community [are] at the table and that we are together—and that [elected officials] are the ones doing the listening.” 

Since the pandemic began, many operations at BRO have changed. All workers and volunteers now work remotely, and events planned for the summer—such as BRO’s large annual fundraising event “Ignite”—are being adapted into virtual events. The weekly virtual town halls began in an effort to keep the community engaged with BRO’s work.

Over the past few months, BRO has done significant outreach to get important information to those in the LGBTQ community affected by the pandemic. 

“Part of what’s happened with the pandemic is an economic disaster for many people,” said BRO Executive Director Nancy Haque. Haque emphasized that many in the LGBTQ community work in the hospitality industry and do not have a large financial cushion, and as a result are facing dire financial insecurity. 

Nancy Haque, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon

“We shared info about how to apply for unemployment benefits and snap benefits,” Haque said, “We’ve also made an effort to try and respond to people’s needs and questions.” 

Even though many of BRO’s events have been either canceled or adapted into virtual events because of the pandemic, Haque said that BRO has been given a lot of great support by new donors which the organization has never worked with before.  

However, Haque emphasized that there’s still work to be done. “There’s a lot of things we have to do as a state and as a community to continue to help the LGBTQ community,” she said. “We would love your continued support, and your support for our virtual events.” 

On top of the pandemic, BRO has also expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement. “We also get to think and dream about what we can do and what we can build and how we can be part of the fight for racial justice,” Haque said, “We’ve had an organizational commitment to racial justice, but we need to keep it on the forefront of our work.” 

The next queer town hall will be held on Tuesday, June 30, at noon over YouTube Live, and will focus on what pride month means for BIPOC members of the LGBTQ community.

From Basic Rights Oregon: 

Basic Rights Oregon will ensure that all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Oregonians experience equality by building a broad and inclusive politically powerful movement, shifting public opinion, and achieving policy victories.

Here’s a video about the organization:

About the Queer Town Hall:

In an effort to develop community and stay connected and informed during these trying times, Basic Rights Oregon has set up weekly Queer Town Hall on Tuesdays. Streaming live on YouTube, we’ll be speaking with a wide variety of experts on issues that matter most to you, including healthcare, housing, employment, discrimination, and more. It’s your chance to ask your questions and have your voice heard, so join in!


Black United Fund Finds Silver Lining Amidst COVID Challenges

Black United Fund Finds Silver Lining Amidst COVID Challenges

Portland, OR. The Black United Fund (BUF) is working under pandemic limitations but has found a way to increase outreach. Spearheading new programs is the Executive Director/CEO of the nonprofit, Dr. LM Alaiyo Foster, Ed.D. She has an impressive list of degrees and certifications but is called “Dr. A” for short. The CEO believes a societal shift for COVID-19 prevention measures prompted her to ramp-up plans making more programs available online.

Additionally, Dr. A says due to the national spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement, people are paying more attention to Black-led organizations like BUF. The nonprofit has already surpassed a $75,000 goal for its Juneteenth & Justice fundraiser. While BUF, as a 501(c)(3), doesn’t take a political stance on any issues, it does stand for community discussion and student safety. 

The Black United Fund (BUF) is a Black-led, female-led organization with a 37-year legacy of helping the Black community’s youth explore college and post-secondary options. Every year, the foundation awards scholarships to send aspiring students to college. It also hosts scholarship writing workshops, a mentorship program, leadership opportunities, and more. As the organization in Oregon certified to teach this particular scholarship writing curriculum, BUF is uniquely positioned to uplift Black youth. 

Recently, Dr. A has been working on making the workshops and programs more accessible by taking them online. This move is part of a preexisting endeavor to expand BUF’s geographical reach. 

“When I came on in 2018, I was very clear in my interview that I had a vision,” Dr. A said. “We want to move things online, we are making them modular, we are increasing accessibility, statewide, in a way that doesn’t require a student to travel; we are attacking the digital divide. COVID, in essence, has just really ramped up the mental timeline that I had.” Dr. A sees this as an opportunity: now that the status quo is not an option, others are more willing to consider her ideas. 

“If you’re like me, you’re worried that maybe people thought you were just ‘out there,’ like ‘she’s too ahead of her time,’” she said. “Now it’s like, this is the time! This is the moment, let’s do it, let’s be as out of the box as possible, let’s blow the box up … COVID has allowed a lot more openness around that discussion. What we’ve always done is obsolete now … I think this has been quite liberating, as a leader.”

Alongside creating more virtual programming, one new objective for BUF recently is breaking down the digital divide. By providing free computers and WiFi access onsite, as well as a burgeoning laptop checkout system, BUF gives youth who might not otherwise have access to these resources equity in opportunities to research colleges, scholarships, and jobs. 

“What we can do, and often do, is create space for those different sides to come together and have that conversation for communities,” Dr. A said. “Whether it’s defunding the police or not, I’m more concerned about the children that are in the crosshairs of it in an educational institution.” 

Dr. A describes herself as a “silver lining person.” So even while COVID has been devastating for businesses and individuals alike, she is motivated and inspired in her work.

“This work is a calling in terms of education and social service, and it’s just where my heart is,” she said. “It’s undeniable.”  

From Black United Fund:

The mission of the Black United Fund of Oregon is to assist in the social and economic development of Oregon’s underserved communities and to contribute to a broader understanding of ethnic and culturally diverse groups.