Ann Harris –

Since 2016, something has really changed for me in the way that I feel when I am out in public spaces or traveling around the state or country. Up until then, I had rarely felt uncomfortable being in all-white spaces. Maybe I had been naïve. Maybe people who held racist beliefs had been around me all that time, but they had not shown it. After the 2016 election, I have become aware, and sometimes hyper-aware, that I may not always be as welcome as I had thought or that people may be judging me by the color of my skin and not seeing me as an individual.

The thing that has been most hopeful for me during this summer of 2020 has been the awakening of white people and of ALL of us, to learn what has gotten us to this place. The history… true history of this country and of our state. How specific racist policies have been in place since the very beginning. How many of them were not dismantled until fairly recently.

Some wonder why there are so few black people in Oregon. It is linked to the history that legislation in 1843 excluded blacks from being here. If we did not leave, we were subject to lashing. Oregon was the only free state admitted to the Union with an exclusion clause in its constitution. This law was not repealed until 1926. Other racist language in the Oregon constitution was not removed until 2002!

MLK QuoteA news story yesterday, hit me very hard… I learned that our administration has banned trainings on Diversity Equity and Inclusion for government employees, claiming that these trainings are divisive and anti-American.

We come to this vigil because we are about building the dream of Dr. King. The dream of the Beloved Community… He said that in the Beloved Community, there will be no more poverty, hunger, homelessness, or war. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice will be replaced by a spirit of sister and brotherhood.

We building the Beloved Community by becoming educated so that we dismantle the untruths and learn the real truth… so that we can truly see each other as individuals and fully understand when Dr. King meant when he said, “All of us are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

What this says to me is that we can’t build the Beloved Community by ourselves… we have to do it together… We have to continue to learn, to push each other, and to reject any attempts to stop that learning. The learning has to take place at all levels… from our schools, to our churches, to our workplaces. Because it is hard… probably impossible … to act to dismantle racism … when we do not fully understand its origins and policies.

In our world, there are forces at work that are steering us towards ignorance and deep division. But my hope is rekindled every week when I see you all and we come together. I feel seen, I feel heard, I feel known.

Thank you all and let’s continue together down this path and let’s speak out against any attempts to shut down our learning and the progress we are making to build the Beloved Community.

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