CORVALLIS, Ore. – A symposium on the “State of Black Oregon: A Call to Action” will be held 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Oregon State University Memorial Union ballroom, 26th and Jefferson Way, Corvallis.
The Urban League of Portland’s State of Black Oregon report was published in July 2009. The report showed that social and economic disparities and systemic disadvantage still exist for African Americans and other people of color in Oregon. The report contains a stark inventory of statistics that shows a persistent gap in living standards between black and white Oregonians – a gap that is growing wider as a result of the current economic downturn.
The featured speakers include Marcus C. Mundy, president of the Urban League of Portland, Robert Thompson, assistant professor in OSU’s Department of Ethnic Studies, Henry Luvert, president of the Eugene chapter of the NAACP, and Carla Gary, assistant professor in the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity at the University of Oregon.
“During the last eight years, the poverty gap in America and in this state has continued to grow,” said Mundy, president and CEO of the Urban League of Portland. “If there’s a poverty gap for Americans generally, the African-American poverty gap widens to chasm proportions. This flies in the face of the ideals our country stands for, and simply should not be acceptable here in Oregon or anywhere else.”
African Americans in Oregon have significantly higher infant mortality rates, are more likely to live in poverty, have higher levels of unemployment, are half as likely to own their own homes and are far more likely to die of diseases such as diabetes than their white counterparts. The report details that when unemployment hit 12.2 percent in Oregon, it actually reached 18 percent to 19 percent among black workers in the state.
The speakers will address these issues and other challenges facing African Americans living in Oregon. Problems, as well as solutions, will be discussed in depth.
Thompson, whose research at OSU includes African American and comparative ethnic studies, was on the project advisory board for the State of Black Oregon report.
“The report is to be reflective of the whole state of Oregon, not just the Portland area — the concerns documented in the report are present in rural as well as urban areas — so having this dialogue at OSU seems to us like a good place to be,” Thompson said. “The collaborative work and partnership that the Portland Urban League and the Department of Ethnic Studies at OSU have embarked on impact the whole state.”
Thompson said the goal is for symposium attendees to come away with action items and ideas on how they can positively make changes in their own communities.
“Black people in Oregon could be likened to the miners’ canary,” he said. “One wants to pay attention to those most vulnerable in the community, because the social toxins that threaten the least privileged class in the community also ultimately threaten the most privileged groups in the social order.”
The event is sponsored by OSU’s Department of Ethnic Studies, the Urban League of Portland, and OSU’s Office of Community and Diversity.