Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's alive!

So much has happened since my last post, I have no idea where to begin!

          Last month we moved from Portland down to Eugene, Oregon. I was a little apprehensive about the move, but I am so glad we did it. We have been in our new place for about 3 weeks, and it has been wonderful. We have unpacked almost everything and even put our plants in out back in our tiny yard. Before we left Portland, Ted and I started getting really into bonsai and yamadori, so we've started practicing on a few azalea's, pine, and spruce varieties that we found.

          We took a trip to visit my mom, sister, and family friends in Austin. It was AMAZING and recuperative. Seven days in heaven. We went swimming every day, except the days we were traveling. We went to Barton Springs and tried out the new food carts close-by, went to Jacob's Well with Joelene and her boo, and kayaked for hours in the Colorado River in South Austin with our little cousins. While T and I were in Austin, we also took my sweet mother on an afternoon of wine tasting and picnicking through the Hill Country. We went to Duchman Family Vineyards and Bell Springs Winery. I would highly recommend Duchman; the service was great and the setting was absolutely stunning. Usually am not into the pseudo-Tuscan style but it was a very comfortable, beautiful place. We may just have to make visiting the Dripping Springs/ Driftwood area a tradition...

          As usual, we ate tons of wonderful Burundian food at home and even found a new barbecue place that I can highly recommend. Even on one of the hottest summer days, their courtyard seemed to have a cross breeze.
          We went there our last night in town and after a while searching for a place where we could get the trifecta: bbq, music, and good drinks, we settled on Freedmen's out of curiousity even though they didn't have any music that night. Lo and behold, there happened to be a concert going on. (oh Austin, how you thrill me...) We gorged on great, tender barbecue and listen to While we were there, we got a neat history lesson on the building. It was built in 1869 by freedman George Franklin In 1876, Jacob Fontaine started one of the first black newspapers in Texas, the Gold Dollar, in that very building. Fontaine became a reverend, politician, and advocate for freedmen in Austin and the building became a church, a store, a printing press, and a community center for the people of Wheatville, Austin's freedmen settlement. We had a truly beautiful night there and it was really made richer by the bluesy, dark music and history of the place

          We also got a sweet deal and were able to go to Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico. It was my first time in Mexico and I had such an amazing time. We were really lucky and got to stay in a private house in Barra de Potosi, far away from touristy stuff. We spent the week sipping on mescal, swimming, strolling on the beach to local enramadas (and generally gorging on fresh, delicious food), and checking out Playa La Ropa, a great weaver's store front studio in the commercial district of Zihua, and even a great archeological museum and ruins called La Chole. We were so lucky that day because while getting lost on the way there, we ran into the guy whose family discovered most of the artifacts in the museum. I'll do a separate post in a while about that day, it was so amazing to be surrounded by such an ancient and advanced civilization.

I've got a few new posts that I'm drafting, so I'll post again soon. Until then,

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

There's a DOPE new project here at CIO

           The Center for Intercultural Organizing recently hired Oscar Guerra-Vera as Equity and Inclusion Program Coordinator. Even from my lowly position as an intern, it is obvious that Oscar brings a lot to the programs at CIO.

           When Oscar speaks about his goals for his position at CIO, he underlines that  LGBTQ folks have throughout the history of community activism always been a part of social movements for many groups and causes. CIO is taking a bold step by bringing in Oscar; solidifying their commitment to engaging with and learning more about the LGBTQ immigrant and refugee community in our city.

          One of Oscar's first projects in this position has been creating a space where queer immigrants can get together and discuss their lives. This project is called...


           Resilient Connections aspires to discuss discriminatory policy practices, access to health care, harmful urban land-use policies, gentrification and development as they effect their minoritized communities. The seek to expand individual liberties and social tolerance on matters of gender, race, preferences, etc.

          Oscar reports that over the first few meetings, the conversations have been really engaging and more and more people seem to be trickling in. They talked about how they bear some unsettling and largely unanticipated consequences of the US's foreign wars, practices, and policies during their immigration; about how their identity and status have been interpreted in unexpected ways.
          I am really looking forward to collaborating with Oscar and Resilient Connections to incorporate the perspectives of queer immigrants of color in to the Urban League's State of Black Oregon report.
I also can't wait to see how this group expands in attendance and influence.
Good luck on your new position, Oscar!

Promise to post more often!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

First in-take session, a glowing success!

Howdy there,

           Last Friday we held our first Police Profiling in-take session here at CIO. We had 20 or so people register to come through our online sign-up and many many more came to the event!

          We had the tables set up and snacks out so while people waited for their interviews, they were able to talk about their experiences of police profiling and abuse and ORGANIZE to create change!

Some of the participants

We had awesome community leaders stop by. 
The maven behind the Portland Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, Jo Ann Hardesty

          I even got the chance to get a picture with the Midge Purcell, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at the Urban League of Portland.
Me and Midge

              Special thanks go out to the Oregon Justice Resource Center, particular Bobbin and the many student-clerks who documented the stories we gathered.

Student-clerk and Charlotte of CIO

Promise to post more next week!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

End Profiling Campaign at CIO

Hi there!

          Here at CIO, staff members support a number of local, regional, and national programs and initiatives. One of the projects that I am helping out with is a Campaign to End Police Profiling in the state of Oregon. This is a campaign I can really support because of what I observed while conducting interviews for my thesis. I interviewed 20 members of the African community, most of whom were men.
          As I described in my recent testimony as part of the amicus hearing during the United States Dept of Justice's investigation into the Portland Police, every single one of the black men I spoke with had experienced police profiling or abuse. It was a really sad realization for me, but was completely in line with my other observations of institutional racism throughout the city. I testified before the review commitee not only because Portland must redesign their police force to be more efficient and equitable but also because we have the chance to set an incredible positive precedent that other cities can emulate.

          When you think about it, Police profiling means that whole communities are targeted and considered criminals because of who we are and what we look like. The communities' faith and trust in law enforcement crumbles with every transgression, and there have been many. CIO is supporting the End Profiling Act before Oregon legislature; it plainly defines and prohibits profiling by law enforcement  based on "race, ethnicity, color, national origin, sexual orientation, physical or intellectual disability, serious medical condition, income, language, political affiliation or religion ... [and also] requires all of Oregon's law enforcement to train their officers on how not to profile."This is really exciting legislation that will benefit the whole community and the police create stronger ties and will be a step towards restoring trust in the force. There has been some opposition to this Act, so CIO is collecting stories of people who have experienced police profiling and abuse.

          On Friday, March 21 (next week) CIO will be hosting a Police Profiling Intake Session at the Killingsworth office from 4:00-8:00 pm. The event will be hosted in partnership with the Oregon Justice Resource Center. OJRC will provide one-on-one interviews with trained law students to document the reality faced by our communities.

         Any one with an experience of police profiling or mistreatment in the Portland area is invited to come share. If you can't make this session, but still want to tell your story, don't fret! There will be more intake sessions scheduled for later in the spring and through autumn.

Click here to register to attend!

Until next time,

Thursday, March 6, 2014

CIO collaboration with BOOMArts

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a meeting with Nicole Brown from CIO and Ruth Wilker-Luker of BOOMarts. Nicole, Ruth, and I are collaborating to organize a community chorus to participate in a workshop production of Ugandan playwright Deborah Asiimwe's play,
 "Appointment with gOD."


          Asiimwe's play takes a satirical look at the United State's immigration process from the perspective of a group of applicants anxiously waiting in a US Embassy in an unidentified developing country. As part of this collaboration, CIO and BOOMarts are looking for 2-10 participants in a workshop that will take place over the course of a week, April 5- April 12. During this workshop, the participants will discuss and rehearse the piece with professional and student actors. Its a very fast turn over and at the end of the week, these community members, the actors, and installation artist Patricia Vasquez Gomez will together put on a production of "Appointment with gOD." Afterwards, there will be a discussion with the audience about the community members' experiences in immigration administration and the workshop itself. CIO executive director Kayse Jama will also be mediating this discussion and will talk about the ways the audience can encourage structural changes to how US immigration programs treat people.

          The performances will take place April 11 & 12, 7:30pm, April 13, 2:00pm, at Lincoln Hall Studio Theatre, Portland State University. Asiimwe and her director, Emily Mendlesohn will also be giving a FREE artist's lecture Monday, April 7, 2014, 7:00pm at The Fir Acres Main Stage Theatre, Lewis & Clark College
          At the end of the meeting, we also discussed the possibility of incorporating theatre into more of CIO's programming and classes, a really exciting prospect! Now we are hammering out the details of a grant proposal for productions at the Killingsworth office...

For more information about participating or attending the performance, please refer to the BOOMarts site and this flyer 
Stay tuned, 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

My internship with the Center for Intercultural Organizing

          Three weeks ago I started an internship with the Center for Intercultural Organizing in Northeast Portland. As a sociology student, I was always particularly interested in how community organizing can, by giving people a collective voice, effect change in communities and create potent social movements. I was under the misimpression, though, that my love for research and writing would restrict me to the academic world and I never thought that I would find myself in the position of an activist.

This pic is from my very first day with CIO, when I sat in on their superb
PILOT [more info coming soon] program and met these wonderful activists.

          Boy, am I glad I'm giving it a try now! I really feel like I've stumbled upon a exceptionally caring and efficient professional community. The last few weeks have been jam-packed with exciting chances for me to watch grassroots community activism, write interesting grants, learn about the effects of inequitable legislation, contribute my research to new projects, and even testify before the United States Department of Justice as part of their investigation into Portland Police.
          Now, I am going to revive this blog and make a habit of posting about CIO's activities and other projects in Portland. Over the next few months, I imagine there are going to be a lot of cool projects and changes in my life to write about, so stay tuned!

          Until then,