Commissioner Loretta Smith sponsored the Civil Rights Week proclamation approved unanimously by the board at its Aug. 22 meeting. The board’s unanimous approval followed moving testimony from community leaders about the historic 1963 gathering in which 250,000 people on the National Mall heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, inspiring the country and moving national leaders to act for equality among all races.
“Jobs, education, equality and justice is demanded for all and we are here -- as the late Dr. King said, to cash a check that has been returned and stamped insufficient funds, a check today that still has not been completely honored as paid,” said Dr. T. Allen Bethel, pastor at Maranatha Church, co-chair of the March on Washington Committee and co- chair of the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice & Police Reform Steering Committee.
Commissioner Smith shared those feelings about the ongoing importlance of Dr. King’s dream of equality. “I wouldn’t be sitting here if I wasn’t standing on the shoulders of giants,” she said, “This is very personal to me. I want to be a voice for this community. I want to be someone people can be proud of. I work hard at that every single day. This is why I do what I do today.”
She added that despite tremendous civil rights gains in the last 50 years, “there is still more work to do.”
Today, African-Americans suffer from huge disparities in health, equality and education. One in four African-American males has encountered law enforcement in America. African-Americans are the racial and ethnic group most affected by HIV in the United States, according to the office of Minority Health, African-American women have the highest rates of obesity in the United States, and the American Diabetes Association reports that 4.9 million African-Americans age 20 or older have diabetes. Other speakers sharing their historical and personal perspectives about the March on Washington included Dr. Rev. Leroy Haynes, pastor at Allen Temple Church, co-chair, March on Washington Committee, and co-chair, Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice & Police Reform Steering Committee; Audrey Terrell, president, NAACP Portland Branch; Jeana Frazzini, executive director, Basic Rights Oregon; pastor W.J. Mark Knutson, Augustana Lutheran Church; and Jo Ann Hardesty, member of Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice & Police Reform Steering Committee, Portland Campaign to End the New Jim Crow.
This Saturday, August 24, residents of Portland and surrounding areas will come together 10 a.m. at Chapman Square in downtown Portland in a march to Waterfront Park to celebrate the anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington. Commissioner Smith and many others will present at the event this weekend.
For more information about the Aug. 24 event:http://ulpdx.org/news/march-to-commemorate-the-50th-anniversary-of-the-historic-march-on-washington/