Community Justice Conversation

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Right to Left: Bobbin Singh, Executive Director, Oregon Justice Resource Center; Jo Ann Hardesty, President, NAACP-Portland Branch; Shannon Wight, Deputy Director, Partnership for Safety and Justice; Kayse Jama, Executive Director, Unite Oregon; Leila Haile, Black Lives Matter-Portland Chapter

Left to Right: Bobbin Singh, Executive Director, Oregon Justice Resource Center; Jo Ann Hardesty, President, NAACP-Portland Branch; Shannon Wight, Deputy Director, Partnership for Safety and Justice; Kayse Jama, Executive Director, Unite Oregon; Leila Haile, Black Lives Matter-Portland Chapter

Creating and sustaining safe communities is one of the most important issues of our time, both in Portland and nationally, which is why Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods (NECN) hosted a Community Justice Conversation, in partnership with Resolutions Northwest. Resolutions Northwest facilitates honest dialogue to resolve conflict and advance racial and social justice, providing interactive and engaging workshops to help build capacity in conflict resolution, communication, mediation, facilitation, diversity and equity.

The conversation took place on September 19, in Sabin School Auditorium. The guiding question of the evening, for panelists and for participants was, “what would our community look like, if it was safe for everyone?”

The Community Justice Panel included, Leila Haile with Black Lives Matter, Kayse Jama with Unite Oregon, Shannon Wight with Partnership for Safety and Justice, Bobbin Singh with Oregon Justice Resource Center, and Jo Ann Hardesty with NAACP. While these groups advocate on a spectrum: from reform to abolition of the current system, there was cohesion around fighting oppression and violence, protecting civil rights, and having an honest dialogue.

Panelists discussed the District Attorney’s Office, Measure 11 and sentencing reform, domestic violence, mental health, the prison pipeline, and police abuse and profiling. There were personal stories about the exodus of the Black community from Portland’s northeast neighborhoods, explicit bias by the police toward Black youth, and the classification of police shootings as suicides. At one point, Legislator Lew Frederick, stood up and pledged his support for legislation that protects communities of color.

There were opportunities throughout the evening for break-out conversations, to explore what crime, safety, and justice mean. Who gets to define these words, who benefits from these definitions, and who is burdened by them? Participants considered the impact of youth experiences and the short and long-term consequences of harm.

What is our end goal? What are the next steps to take as individuals, and as a community? This is only the beginning of the conversation. We know there is a lot of work to be done. If you are interested in planning additional events, activities, and actions for Community Justice, please contact: zena@necoalition.org, 503.388.9030.

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