The cold weather and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic are forcing people inside and into their homes as winter sets in—a far cry from the hustle and bustle of summer, when tourists continued to come to Central Oregon, and, ahead of the 2020 election, protests and demonstrations were common locally and nationally. With the presidential election behind us, some are looking forward to a quieter period, focused less on divisive politics. Others are seeing the next chapter as one in which local communities of color can reflect back on the happenings of this past year, while also looking forward to advancing some important conversations.
For Central Oregon's Love Your Neighbor project, this post-election season is centered on that latter goal of fostering healing and unity, following a period of intense vitriol and divisiveness on the streets and on social media. The Love Your Neighbor project was founded in February by Erika McCalpine, business program lead at Oregon State University-Cascades, along with me and the Source Weekly.
- Teafly Peterson
On Mon., Dec. 7, Love Your Neighbor will host an online discussion titled "Bringing Healing to Communities of Color Post Election." The panel discussion, aimed at fostering conversation and solidarity for Central Oregon's people of color, will include a number of community activists and mental health professionals, along with an expert viewpoint from an Oregon State University professor of sociology, Dwaine Plaza, PhD, who will speak on "cancel culture" and its effects on people and communities. McCalpine will moderate the panel and said her hope is to help the various community members who are doing varying and equally important work be able to better work together, without placing one another under a microscope when they do things differently.
"I believe that activist groups, nonprofits dedicated to advancing communities of color and consultants that work in organizations all have a role in the community. I think there are some ways we can all work together, but there will be times when we cannot," McCalpine told the Source. "There are some strengths among us, and we have to learn what those are so we can maximize them for the collective good. We have to think about what we can do elevate each other and not try to tear each other down."
McCalpine, who founded a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lab at OSU-Cascades this summer, said she received some criticism for participating in the City of Bend's public service announcement just before the election, which encouraged people to protect the vote.
"One thing I heard loud and clear was that I always have a platform," she said. "I thought about how I could use that platform and the DEI Lab to elevate others, and the Central Oregon Diversity Summit (formerly the Central Oregon BILAPOC Summit) is how I plan to do that. The goal of the Summit is to provide education to the community at large, but also to give local activist groups and non-profits that advance communities of color a place to say who they are, what their mission is, and their goals. While this isn't all that can be done to bring us together, it is a start."
McCalpine said she hopes the upcoming Love Your Neighbor event can provide tools to help people communicate their opinions in a more positive way.
The event takes place Mon., Dec. 7 from 6 to 8pm on the OSU-Cascades YouTube channel. Panelists include local activist Joanne Mina, therapist Judith Sadora, mental health professional and Bend City Councilor-elect Rita Schenkelberg, and artist, poet and community builder Jessica Amascual. People can register on Eventbrite, but registration is not required. All are welcome and encouraged to attend. More information is available at the Facebook page of Love Your Neighbor, titled "Love Your Neighbor Bend, OR."
The Central Oregon Diversity Summit will be a virtual event held in the spring by the OSU-Cascades DEI Lab, in partnership with Central Oregon Community College. Among the programming, the Summit will include a handful of keynote speakers, along with an opportunity for community organizations that wish to present their mission, vision and goals to participants. Stay tuned in the Source for more details on that event.