Fast forward to 2020. The murder of George Floyd put race in a spotlight I’m not sure I’ve seen before in my life. I grew up in southern California and I remember the devastation of the aftermath of the acquittal of the officers who beat Rodney King, but it was still isolated compared to the global response and a call to action after May 25, 2020. During this time I began to have a different kind of experience in meeting with those in leadership and active in community settings, especially in a place where there is a very small population of Black people in these towns, cities and counties.
I’m thankful The Ford Family Foundation field coordinator for Tillamook county, Denise Bacon, chose to work with me in building a network to support Black leaders in rural spaces where we might hear things like, “there’s not enough Black people in our county to have conversations around racial equity and cultural responsiveness outside of the needs of the Latinx community” or, “I haven’t heard about any issues in our county. I need to hear more stories and more experiences”. I also considered the “call to action” where many Black folks, like myself, were being invited to “the table” but still not having any power and in many cases, weren’t getting paid to sit at a table where everyone else was being compensated for being there.
The Black in Rural Oregon and Washington Network (B.R.O.W.N.) is the brainchild of these experiences. Our shared goals are to provide outreach to engage existing and emerging Black leaders in rural Oregon communities. We will do this by:
- Assist in co-creating a safe space (community) for Black leadership in rural Oregon communities to share unique perspectives and lived experiences.
- Facilitate opportunities to network, taking an assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to being a Black leader in rural Oregon.
- Exploring pathways to advocating for Black residents in rural Oregon communities.
- Identify ways to increase access to resources.
- Build a power table for Black leaders. Instead of being invited to the table, we are going to create our own table and begin building our power from our own table.
- To have a network of partners who will not just listen to our needs/issues, but help in bringing solutions we can take back to our table and grow our power while building capacity within our own organizations.
As a Black person who doesn’t see many people who look like me in my community, I am truly blessed and fortunate to create a space where I can see and work with people who look like me and partnering with those who want to ensure sustainability for Black organizations and community members throughout the state and eventually the Pacific Northwest.