Urban League of Portland is one of Oregon’s oldest civil rights and social service organizations, empowering African Americans and others to achieve equality in education, employment, health, economic security, and quality of life. We do this by investing in stable housing; workforce development; community health; education and well-being; for our youth, adults, and seniors. Our culturally specific programs and services, combined with our powerful advocacy and civic engagement, empowers Black communities to thrive across Oregon and SW Washington.
In 2022 we started a series of Urban League for All of Us Community Conversations throughout the state that allows us to develop important relationships and identify pressing issues and concerns facing our communities. These Community Conversations continue to inform our work and provide the opportunity to make connections between communities across the state. Below are the five different cities/regions we visited, the theme of the event, and the community champions we honored for their dynamic work within their respective communities during each Community Conversation. These community champions are community organizations and members doing important work that embodies the core values of the Urban League of Portland.
Urban League for All of Us Community Conversation – Salem
We kicked off our Community Conversation series virtually for the Salem area. This event was hosted by our President & CEO Nkenge Harmon Johnson. She was joined by Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste’s (PCUN) Executive Director Reyna Lopez and Jackie Leung, Executive Director and Community Health Worker at Micronesian Island Community (MIC). The theme of the event was climate change and migration - what are the impacts of climate change on our communities and migration. During this Community Conversation, we were able to honor two community organizations, Mano a Mano Family Center, and Latinos Unidos Siempre (L.U.S.). Please click here if you would like to watch this Community Conversation!
Mano a Mano Family Center - Mano a Mano Family Center works to help reduce toxic stress and promote Hope (resilience), to help the people they serve remain strong. Mano a Mano Family Center is the oldest Latino and immigrant-led community-based organization in Salem-Keizer Oregon. They reach 3,000+ families, annually, who live in Marion, Polk, and six other counties in Oregon. They connect people to help in times of need. They work to improve the social determinants of health and to address the adverse community experiences that impact the health and well-being of the community. This requires supporting Equity and Social Justice in areas such as education, health, housing, justice, and many more.
Latinos Unidos Siempre (L.U.S.) - The mission of Latinos Unidos Siempre (L.U.S.) is to empower youth to take leadership roles in the community. They advocate for social and political change, while combating racist stereotypes and discrimination, through popular education and grassroots organizing. L.U.S. was established in 1996, in Salem, Oregon. A group of 13 students came together that year (under the coordination of Martha Calderon and Roberto Barraza) to fight against immigration raids, a high dropout rate, gang activity, and four anti-immigrant proposals in the State legislature. L.U.S. quickly became the youth arm of Mano a Mano Family Center, their parent organization and fiscal sponsor, and of the pro-immigrant rights movement in their area, as represented by the CAUSA immigrant rights coalition, and the Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality.
Urban League for All of Us Community Conversation - Columbia River Gorge
We held our second Community Conversation in Hood River at the Best Western Plus Hood River Inn to highlight the Columbia River Gorge region. This event was co-hosted by our President and CEO, Nkenge Harmon Johnson, and the Rotary Club of Hood River. Our President & CEO Nkenge Harmon Johnson was joined by panelists, Janet Hamada, Executive Director of The Next Door, and Katie McBride, Mayor of the City of Hood River. Jennifer Parrish Taylor, the Director of Advocacy and Public Policy for the Urban League of Portland, moderated this event. The theme of the event was community-shaped budgets - how do communities develop value-based budgets. Before the Community Conversation, our President & CEO Nkenge Harmon Johnson also had the opportunity to do a site visit at Mudbone Grown, where she got to tour their farm and learn more about the organization's efforts. During this Community Conversation, we were able to honor five community organizations, Abogadores de la Comunidad, Latinos en Acción, Mudbone Grown, Natives Along the Big River (NABR), and The Next Door. After our Community Conversation, the Best Western Plus Hood River Inn donated TVs and lamps to the Jamii Center, the Urban League of Portland’s motel-based shelter specifically designed for Black adults who are experiencing homelessness. Please click here if you would like to watch this Community Conversation!
Mudbone Grown - Mudbone Grown is a Black-owned farm enterprise that promotes inter-generational community-based farming that creates measurable and sustainable environmental, social, cultural, and economic impacts in communities. Mudbone Grown's work helps to develop and implement workplace-based educational experiences to help teens, young adults, and low-income communities develop marketable careers and education skills that help build and sustain community capacity and place them in local jobs. By doing this Mudbone Grown can succeed in their five-year goal to enhance food security, reduce energy use, improve community health and well-being, and stabilize their communities.
The Next Door - The Next Door has over two dozen programs that support and empower people in their community. The Next Door has programs in Hood River, Wasco, Klickitat, Gilliam, Wheeler, Skamania, and Sherman Counties. They help people build skills for loving relationships and healthy lives by providing a safety net for children at risk of abuse and neglect and for victims of crime, leadership opportunities, and economic development in their communities, parenting support and education, health and wellness education, and advocacy, mentoring, education, and treatment for high-risk youth and families, and giving extra support to local youth through Gorge Youth Mentoring. Mid- Columbia Health Equity Advocates (MCHEA) is their Regional Health Equity Coalition (RHEC) a part of Nuestra Comunidad Sana of The Next Door, Inc. MCHEA is a program to support local, community-driven, culturally- specific activities to promote policy and systems change to address Social Determinants of Health to reduce health disparities. MCHEA focus populations are the Latinos, and more recently, Native American Communities. MCHEA currently has four leadership groups: Latino en Accion, Abogadores de la Comunidad, Natives Along the Big River, and Gorge Health Equity Collaborative.
Abogadores de la Comunidad - Abogadores de la Comunidad guides the health equity work in The Dalles. The group’s priorities are education, free or low-cost physical activities, cultural humility, access to healthy foods, and transportation.
Latinos en Acción - Latinos en Acción leads the health equity work in Hood River. The group’s priorities are leadership development, community ID cards, housing, transportation, access to healthy foods, and free or low-cost physical activities.
Natives Along the Big River (NABR) - NABR guides the health equity work for Native American communities. This group was formed in 2018 and has grown into its own service area – Native Supports.
Urban League for All of Us Community Conversation - Southern Oregon
We held our third Community Conversation in Ashland at Southern Oregon University to highlight the Southern Oregon region. This event was co-hosted by our President and CEO, Nkenge Harmon Johnson, Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Nataki Garrett, and Ashland City Councilor Gina DuQuenne. The conversation in Southern Oregon focused on the rise of White Nationalism in Oregon and its impact on Southern Oregon communities. Before our Community Conversation, our President and CEO, Nkenge Harmon Johnson had the opportunity to meet with Jessica Murrey, CEO and Co-Founder at W!CKED SAiNTS Studios, and Jerryck Owens Murrey, Founder of Annum Housing, to learn about their Black-owned businesses in Southern Oregon. Additionally, we were able to have lunch catered by Fatso’s Cheketos at United Way of Jackson County with Tiffany and Vance Beach, Founder of Black Alliance & Social Empowerment (BASE) Southern Oregon as well as BASE members learn more about their youth program, Afroscoutz. During this Community Conversation, we were able to honor two community organizations, Black Alliance & Social Empowerment (BASE) and Coalición Fortaleza. Following our Community Conversation event, ULPDX staff and BASE families attended the preview for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s play, Confederates. Please click here if you would like to watch this Community Conversation!
Black Alliance & Social Empowerment (BASE) - BASE is a nonprofit community organization that provides events, community information-sharing, connection, support, and resources that work towards the well-being and advancement of Black residents living in Southern Oregon. BASE serves to build a vertically inclusive community to combat structural racism that is still prevalent today. After centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, and exclusionary codes particularly here in Oregon, Black people's lives have been negatively impacted. Base’s goal is to create community representation that is welcoming, supportive, and shareable for Black community members to connect, collaborate and ultimately prosper in Southern Oregon.
Coalición Fortaleza – Coalición Fortaleza is a culturally-empowered women of color-led community-based organization. Coalición Fortaleza is grounded in their fierce love for their Latinx and indigenous communities of the Rogue Valley and they are re-imagining new solutions for their people, Madre Tierra, and their future generations. The Coalición Fortaleza coalition seeks to weave a tapestry of many colors from many directions that will lift their peoples’ hearts up in this recovery, that will center healing, seed hope for their youth, and will give them the strength they need to prepare collectively for the climate challenges that are ahead of them. Coalición Fortaleza has been serving and will continue to serve the Latinx families who were impacted by the Almeda Fire in the areas of Talent, Phoenix, and unincorporated areas of Jackson County.
Urban League for All of Us Community Conversation - Pendleton
We held our fourth Community Conversation in Pendleton at Vert Auditorium during the Pendleton Round-Up to highlight the Eastern Oregon and Southeast Washington region. This event was co-hosted by our President and CEO, Nkenge Harmon Johnson, and Justice Rajee, Director of Reimagine Oregon Project. Before the Community Conversation, we hit the town to join the rodeo festivities downtown and on Friday we participated in the Westward Ho! Parade. For the Community Conversation in Pendleton, we focused on connecting with the community, eating soul food from Ann's Best Creole & Soul Food, and honoring local community champions who are doing dynamic work to advance our values, which move the movement forward. During this Community Conversation, we were able to honor four community organizations and leaders, Leon Ransom - native Pendletonian, Pendleton Community Action Coalition, Hermiston Cultural Awareness Coalition (HCAC), and Color Our Community On Awareness (COCOA). Following our Community Conversation event, we took a self-guided tour around downtown Pendelton to visit the famous Black cowboy George Fletcher statue and Triple Nickles statue, the first Black parachute infantry battalion. We were also able to take the Pendleton Underground Tour to learn more about the history of Pendleton.
Native Pendletonian, Leon Ransom - Leon Ransom is a native Pendletonian. Leon is a historian for the Pendleton community and the famous Black cowboy George Fletcher, whom he grew up knowing. He has shared stories in various capacities. In the book Red White Black: A True Story of Race and Rodeo, Leon shared memories he had about George Fletcher. In the book Let “Er Buck!: George Fletcher, the People’s Champion, Leon helped provide knowledge about George Fletcher.
Pendleton Community Action Coalition - The Pendleton Community Action Coalition is a small, locally serving, non-profit in Pendleton, Oregon. The mission of the Pendleton Community Action Coalition is to confront injustices and deconstruct barriers inside and outside marginalized communities through a platform of education, safety, networked resources, and community organizing and outreach. Every day, they recommit to healing themselves and each other, and to co-creating alongside comrades, allies, and family a culture where each person feels seen, heard, and supported. The Pendleton Community Action Coalition’s goal is To help individuals in marginalized communities grow and prosper by eliminating disproportional injustices that hinder BIPOC, 2SLGBTQIA+, immigrants, disabled, working class, poor, etc. advancement.
Hermiston Cultural Awareness Coalition (HCAC) – The Hermiston Cultural Awareness Coalition is a small community coalition focusing on promoting the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and supporting diversity and equality in the greater Hermiston Oregon community.
Color Our Community On Awareness (COCOA) - COCOA seeks to amplify melanated voices through joy, art, and literature in the Walla Walla Valley. COCOA sees its work as being that of building awareness in their community of the diversity that already exists here and the beauty and joy within this reality. COCOA strives to usher their valley to a place that welcomes diversity as part of the intricate and beautiful design of Southeast Washington. COCOA loves to host events that are family-friendly, including a City-wide Juneteenth Jubilee!
Urban League for All of Us Community Conversation - Portland Metro
Our final Community Conversation of 2022 was in Portland at Catlin Gabel School to highlight the Portland Metro region. Our President and CEO, Nkenge Harmon Johnson was joined by panelists Representative Janelle Bynum, Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel, Senior Counsel for Oregon Justice Resource Center Ben Haile, and Legal Resource Advocate and Founder for PDX Legal Resource Guide Michelle Love. Justice Rajee, the Director of the Reimagine Oregon Project, moderated this event. The theme of this event was the intersections of public safety and Oregon’s current public defense system. Panelists explored the deficits of Oregon’s unique public defense system, how it needs to change, and what stakeholders can do to help Oregon meet its constitutional obligation. Please click here if you would like to watch this Community Conversation!
Civil Rights Project within the Oregon Justice Resource Center – The Oregon Justice Resource Center’s goal is to promote civil rights and improve legal representation for communities that have often been underserved in the past: people living in poverty and people of color among them. They work in collaboration with like-minded organizations to maximize their reach to serve underrepresented populations, train future public interest lawyers, and educate their community on issues related to civil rights and civil liberties. Integrative, client-centered advocacy is their model. This strategy includes focused direct legal services, public awareness and education campaigns, strategic partnerships, and coordinating their legal and advocacy areas to promote criminal justice reform. The Civil Rights Project examines, tracks, and litigates civil rights issues related to the criminal justice system. The CRP seeks to secure equal and fair treatment for individuals intersecting with the criminal legal system, and accountability and systemic reform through strategic litigation, public education, programming, and policy advocacy.
Healing Hurt People (HHP) within the Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center (POIC) + Rosemary Anderson High School (RAHS) - Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center + Rosemary Anderson High School is committed to the success of at-risk youth and adults, providing the highest quality services in education, mentoring, family outreach, employment training, and placement. POIC + RAHS’s major programs include Rosemary Anderson Schools, Work Opportunities Training, Community Healing Initiative, Youth Services, and Community Safety. They reconnect alienated at-risk youth and adults affected by poverty, family instability, and homelessness to education, career training, and culturally specific wraparound programs, including services for families impacted by the criminal justice system. Healing Hurt People is now serving Legacy Emanuel, OHSU, and Legacy Mt. Hood. HHP provides in-hospital support for victims of violence and their families during traumatic events. HHP Team members advocate for patients and help bridge the gap with hospital staff to help families navigate the resources needed to recover.
Urban League for All of Us Community Conversation - 2023
We are excited to share that we are continuing our Community Conversation series in 2023, with the first stop being on the Oregon Coast in Lincoln City on August 8, 2023, at the Chinook Winds Resort Hotel and our second stop will be in Eastern Oregon in Pendleton for the Pendleton Round-Up on September 15, 2023, at the Pendleton Center for the Arts! Please click here to learn more and register!