"If paradise now arises in hell," writes Rebecca Solnit, "it's because in the suspension of the usual order and the failure of most systems, we are free to live and act another way."
This notion, which Solnit captures so beautifully in words, is the closest we might get to articulating the simultaneous sense of despair and hope that is pulsing through Oregon right now. Indeed, we heard echoes of hope from community leaders who spoke to Oregon’s Senate Education Committee last week amid devastating wildfires, the pandemic, the enduring oppression of systemic racism, and the ongoing corrosion of democracy.
At Sen. Michael Dembrow’s invitation, the committee heard powerful testimony from leaders in the Black community representing the Reimagine Oregon Project as well as the cross-cultural coalition behind a policy roadmap for racial justice through education. I’d like to highlight some of what they said:
“We have a historic opportunity now to reimagine public education in a way that is grounded in equity, and understanding that we have an educational system that mimics the white supremacist structures that are embedded in the larger fabric of our society,” explained Kali Thorne Ladd, Executive Director of KairosPDX.
“Our children, young people, and families from historically underserved communities matter and we have to show them. Our investments and policies have to show that we will not accept ‘going back to normal,’ but we will create a better and more equitable future as the new normal,” said Patricia Alvarado, Director of Education Programs at Adelante Mujeres. “We stand ready to partner with policymakers and school districts to meet this challenge.”
Kali and Patricia’s moving remarks should move us all toward more collaborative, inclusive, and compassionate policymaking. Please take a few minutes to watch the video of last week’s panels on racial equity in education, where you’ll also hear from the Coalition of Communities of Color’s Marcus Mundy, Stand for Children’s Elona Wilson, the Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center’s Joe McFerrin II, and Chalkboard Project’s Amanda Manjarrez.
And as I look to the horizon, I’m also excited to share that we will soon say goodbye to the "Chalkboard Project" name, and rebrand solely as Foundations for a Better Oregon (FBO). While this change brings us back to our roots, you’ll find our new look and identity will carry forward a revitalized vision for our collaborative work and for Oregon’s children.
Chalkboard Project / Foundations for a Better Oregon