Safety is the bedrock of community. Last month, this fundamental right was ripped away from Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers. The vicious brutality he endured was preventable, yet we continue to see it play out in a culture where racism, violence and other injustices are perpetrated with impunity. The unbearable footage is another painful reminder of how large this threat of harm looms for too many Black Americans, where failed punitive policies and practices continue to find their way onto ballots and into neighborhoods, forcing inordinate trauma on communities of color.
Under these conditions, trust and belonging erode. We don’t have to look 2,000 miles to see this play out. Similar stories have unfolded here in southwest Washington. The fact is, we can all do better at fighting the fear that breeds violence. Doing so requires a kind of constant stewardship—informed, proactive and responsible steps to support and protect one another, no matter what part of town we live in or what we look like. It takes shape through the ways we apply our time and support, the relationships we build and the votes we cast.
Our community partners at the NAACP Vancouver, Odyssey World International Education Services and many other community champions are fervently shaping this more just future. Organizing at the community level, these nonprofits have amplified calls for common sense reforms that spurred the City of Vancouver to pursue an independent assessment of its police force. The resulting recommendations and changes are just the first steps in a long journey to restore trust, safety and justice in our communities.
The work must carry on. As a residents and neighbors, we must continue pushing for and collaborating around community-centered approaches, improving accountability and stewarding a better southwest Washington—a place where everyone feels safe; a place where everyone feels they belong. The transofrmation has to start at the local level, in communities willing to collaborate and build solutions that state and federal policies will eventually stand atop.
As we begin Black History Month, there is no better moment to keep this commitment for ourselves and our neighbors. We have an opportunity to honor the transformative changes that Black leaders have ushered in and are continuing to advance across America today. Together, we can accelerate the work of repairing systems, communities and relationships. Please join us by giving to, volunteering with or learning from any of the following organizations we are humbled to work alongside.
SUPPORT & GET INVOLVED
NAACP Vancouver Branch
Our local chapter of the NAACP operates a variety of programs focused on equal rights and eliminating race-based discrimination. Recently it partnered with ACLU Washington to formally request an investigation of local law enforcement. In addition, its Legal Redress Committee helps victims of racism navigate options and resources for legal action. To get involved, email [email protected] or make a donation at naacpvancouverwa.org.
Odyssey World International Education Services
This grassroots organization is working to build safe, inclusive, and compassionate communities where marginalized people are empowered to create equitable opportunities for themselves and others. Collaborating with other organizations and communities, it advocates and raises awareness around inequities related to education, housing, health and safety, and economic justice. You can get involved or donate by visiting its website at odysseyworld.org.
ATTEND & CONNECT
In My Shoes Walking Tour @ Fort Vancouver Visitor Center (Directions)
Saturday, February 11 @ 10:00 a.m. (RSVP) and 11:30 a.m (RSVP)
A free walking tour project by Word is Bond highlights the stories and experiences of young Black men. Je’Kai Kazmende welcomes us into his Vancouver neighborhood and shares his lived experiences as a Black teen in spaces that have felt primarily white. Touring spots in which he has endured racism, as well as places that have felt safe for him to celebrate his Blackness. This tour presents Je’Kai’s perspective of what his upbringing was like and the ways in which he has learned to outgrow others’ narratives to begin writing his own.
Black History Highlights of Southwest Washington @ Clark College (Directions)
Every Thursday in February from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
A panel exhibit created by the late historian and artist Claudia Starr Carter will be on display in Clark College’s Gaiser Hall during the month of February, in honor of Black History Month. This exhibit celebrates the vital contributions and stories of southwest Washington’s Black community. In addition to the original panels, the expanded exhibit highlights objects from the museum and NAACP archives as well as pieces by Carter. Admission is free and the exhibit is open to the public from 2-4 p.m.
Honoring Our Talents @ 808 Harney Street, Vancouver, WA (Directions)
Every Saturday in February (Details & Registration)
iUrban Teen is celebrating Black History Month by honoring the talents and heroism of Black people. Meet and greet with friends and neighbors while taking in the abundant gifts of artists, writers, poets and practitioners. Refreshments will be served and seating is limited.
LEARN & UTILIZE
Black Well-being: Moving Toward Solutions Together by Black Future Co-op Fund
This report was created to elevate the brilliance of Black communities and bring forward approaches that will result in the world they want to see. Utilize this tool to learn and collaborate around the many ways to support Black well-being across Washington state, including public safety.
Fighting Police Abuse: A Community Action Manual by ACLU
This handbook for local action arose out of the realization that, ultimately, it will take a strong and sustained effort by community groups to bring about real and lasting police reform. Utilize this tool to organize around changing policies and practices that guide local law enforcement.