Kathleen Saadat has fought for a better world her entire life.
She was one of the key organizers of the first gay rights march in Portland in 1974. She helped lead the effort to oppose Measure 9, an anti-gay initiative that Oregon voters shot down in 1992. For decades, she worked alongside local leaders to advance racial and social justice.
And on Thursday, the Board of County Commissioners honored Saadat with the inaugural Community Advocate Award, which celebrates champions and defenders of marginalized communities. Chair Deborah Kafoury personally presented the award to her.
“I’ve known Kathleen for a long time,” Chair Kafoury said. “She worked alongside my mother at the City of Portland fighting to advance racial and social justice for all our communities.”
Accepting the award, Saadat urged the audience to keep fighting for social justice. “Don’t forget the things you need to move forward,” she said. “Because we need to move forward again. We are being pushed back.”
The award coincided with the Board proclaiming as June “Pride Month” in Multnomah County.
Pride Month recognizes the 1969 Stonewall Riots which took place at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, New York City. The riots were a response to a police raid against patrons at the bar. At the time, the Stonewall Inn was one of the most significant gay bars in New York. The riot and demonstrations that followed gave rise to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) social movements.
Invited guests joined Saadat to share their own lived experiences as members of the LGBTQ community. The panel included Scotty Scott from Multnomah County’s Office of Diversity and Equity, Multnomah Youth Commissioner Elexis Moyer, and Oregon State Representative Karin Power.
“Nearly 50 years (after the Stonewall Riots), we are still working to achieve the lived equality and liberation for our community, particularly for members of our community who are people of color or who identify as non-binary or transgender,” Scott said.
After sharing testimony, the panel welcomed the Portland Lesbian Choir and Key of Q, an LGBTQ-friendly acapella choir. Both groups delivered Pride-themed performances, featuring songs ranging from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to “No Day But Today”.
After a standing ovation, the commissioners affirmed their support for the LGBTQ community.
Commissioner Sharon Meieran thanked the performers for moving her to tears. “This proclamation is so incredibly meaningful,” she said, before leading the audience in a moment of silence for Ime Kerlee. Kerlee, a licensed professional counselor who recently passed away unexpectedly, was well known in the community for her service to the LGBTQ community.
Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, the proclamation’s sponsor, told the audience the fight for equality isn’t over.
“We are using this proclamation to once again unequivocally state that the LGBTQ community is our community and that we will do whatever it takes to support them, aid them and fight for basic civil rights,” she said.
In her last Pride Month proclamation as a member of the Board of County Commissioners, Commissioner Loretta Smith reflected on progress that’s been made and the work that must continue to ensure equity for the LGBTQ community.
“We know from history that change is neither easy nor is it pain free,” Commissioner Smith said. “I think it’s necessary and it’s important to make sure we have a health community and one that listens to all voices.”