[00:00:00] My name is Jo Ann Hardesty, and I’m the president of the NAACP Portland branch.
[00:00:05] And how long have you been president?
[00:00:07] Two years. And I’m up for re-election, and I have no opposition. so I suspect I will be re-elected and will serve another two years.
[00:00:15] Well that’s pretty awesome, yeah. So what made you want to be the president. I assume you’ve been a member for a long time.
[00:00:24] I have been a member of the NAACP since I was old enough to vote. And so all across the country, I’ve always kept my membership up to date. I had no desire to take on a another full time voluntary job, and so did not plan to run to be president. But at the time I ran, the organization desperately needed good leadership. And so I went recruiting for people to run. And many people said I’ll run, but not for president — or I’ll run if you run for president. And so ultimately I ended up running for president and was elected.
[00:01:03] What are some of the things that you do in your capacity as president?
[00:01:07] Primarily, facilitate the work of the organization. So our work primarily happens through committees. We have 10 committees that people can participate in, and they run the gamut from education, to political action, to health care, to housing and economic development. And so what we try to do is figure out where our volunteers’ passions are, connect them to a committee, and then that committee develops a work plan to decide what and how they’re going to do what they want to accomplish.
[00:01:37] And how closely do you work with Black Lives Matter in your capacity as president?
[00:01:42] And so, I am an elder of the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ve provided some training for some of the young leaders in that organization. I consider myself a strong ally. And we have worked cooperatively together on several projects. One ongoing project is ongoing vigil around Keaton Otis’ death who – 24 year old African-American man killed by Portland police, May 12th 2010. And his dad started a vigil on a corner of Northeast 6th and Halsey the month after he was killed. So every month on the 12th, we convene on that corner of six – Northeast 6th and Halsey, for one hour to talk about police accountability, to talk about how we support families who’ve been harmed by police violence, to talk about what’s happening politically around the issue. And so we spend – so every month and his dad, Fred Bryant, unfortunately died two years ago. But the vigil has been going on for six years now, and we keep meeting.
[00:02:50] What time is that at?
[00:02:52] And does it — is it — is there a good turnout each month?
[00:02:56] Every month it’s a little different. There’s always somewhere between 10 and 100 people show up. And I think a lot depends on what’s happening in the media at any given time who shows up and how people want to be engaged and involved. I’m always surprised to learn there’s always at least two or three people who just heard about Keaton Otis and who show up because somebody told them about it, and they wanted to come and get more information. So I think that’s a good sign.
[00:03:25] Oh what a memorial for him. Yes. Going like this I mean yes it is.
[00:03:31] So I would like to ask you where you grew up, and in your area were there very many APIs, Asian-Americans?
[00:03:38] Not at all. I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, it was primarily an African-American community – African-American and Jewish were pretty much the only people in Baltimore when I grew up. And so my first exposure to Asian Pacific Islanders were in my early days in the Navy. I left home, joined the Navy, and of course the Navy experience means that you are surrounded and interacting with people from all races, all backgrounds, all social economic statuses, and so that was really my first interaction. In fact, one of my early boyfriends was Asian Pacific Islanders. We didn’t marry, but. And so you know I’ve always had pretty positive experiences interacting in the Asian Pacific Islander community.
[00:04:23] It’s interesting that it came out of the Navy experience, military experience. Were there people in the military, or people that you went to different countries…?
[00:04:31] Both. So my first duty station was the Philippines, and it was absolutely fascinating to learn that the original Filipinos were called Negritos and they were as dark as I am and, and in fact when I was in Baguio, up in a village three miles from Cubi Point, people would say to me – I mean they would approach me because they thought I was Negrito. And when I spoke they would realize, “well, who are you? And what are you?” You know? Because they were unaccustomed to seeing Americans, and really unaccustomed to seeing American women, and certainly not of my complexion, you know, so it just like really threw them for a loop. Many people thought that the first question was “What did you do to your hair,” right? Because Negritos had very long, black, thick, silky hair, and I had a very short afro at the time. And I would say, well I was born that way. Right? That was just the way I was born. And so it was…it was a very positive early – I was in my early 20s then.
[00:05:37] What time period was that?
[00:05:38] So this was…I joined the Navy in ’78, so ’78 to ’81 it was in the late 80s, early – I mean late 70s, early 80s.
[00:05:48] That does sound very positive. Yeah. I – in some ways, unusual.
[00:05:54] Yes, yes. I think the military, at least until we ended up being at war indefinitely, I always felt was a wonderful opportunity for low-income people to travel the world, to get to meet people, different cultures, different experiences. And since that time I’ve had the opportunity to go to China, I spent a little time in China as part of American Friends Service Committee and a national conference on understanding the financial crisis and creating social harmony. And that was in 2009. And so again, it was another opportunity to be really immersed in a culture that was different than my own. Being in a culture where I didn’t speak the language, but what I found was is how easy it is to communicate with people around food and around cultural experiences, and even – and going to the museums. And China, there were always students trying to practice their English with me. They would be so excited to see Americans and they wanted to practice their English, and I wanted to ask questions and so I love that. I just – I think I’ve been very fortunate to have these opportunities to immerse myself in a culture that’s totally different than my own, as well as to really try to create communication and understanding across those challenges.
[00:07:25] I think more – I mean more people need to have those experiences.
[00:07:28] Absolutely. We’d have a whole lot less prejudice and a whole lot less misunderstanding if people could just immerse themselves in a culture that’s different than their own, and be respectful of that culture. So for example, I mean Asian culture is very, very specific about, when you visit somebody’s home, you leave your shoes on the front doorstep. I lived in the Philippines for a year and a half. It became part of my culture, because that was the cultural norm where I live. And I think as long as you go into a culture with a sense of curiosity and inquisitiveness, you get so much more out of it rather than going into a culture thinking you know what you’re getting into, and you know who people are before you’ve actually had a chance to really get to know them.
[00:08:17] It’s almost like we need to do that within American cultures too. right? So did you use that experience for – where did you settle after the Navy?
[00:08:26] So after the Navy, I moved to the Bay Area and lived in Walnut Creek for about four years, and then I started feeling a little antsy and I started thinking about making a move, started looking around the country and narrowed it down to Denver and Portland, and both because I was looking for quality of life issues, as well as really understanding how I wanted to be employed. I realized – in California, working for a commercial real estate firm, that that wasn’t what excited me. What excited me was what I did on the weekend, which was working for Miss Wright’s Food Kitchen at the park, at Merritt Park, feeding houseless people, engaging them in conversations, treating them with respect and dignity. And I found out that I was much more excited about the weekend than I was about the week.
[00:09:19] And I thought, well, I need to change my life, I need to find a career that actually feeds my passion rather than a career feeding My – my my my belly, my housing needs, and everything else – need to figure out how to make money doing things that feed my passion. And so I was on the look out and ended up moving to Portland. And I moved to Portland because I knew one person who lived here.
[00:09:43] Because it’s an unusual choice, you know for *ahem* I mean especially I don’t know when it was, but it seems like it’s even has fewer people of color back then than it does now.
[00:09:53] Well, ironically I moved here January 1st, 1990, and at that time the chair of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners was an African-American woman, Gladys McCoy, on Portland’s City Council. Dick Bogle was on the Portland City Council. The police chief was Charles Moose, the state senator sen-senior was Gladys McCoy’s husband, who was a state senator, Bill McCoy. And so when I came here, I came with lots of hope and optimism, because I could look around and see that there were people of color in key positions around the state. Jim Hill was the state treasurer at the time – I mean yes, state treasurer at that time. And so I – so I thought, “wow, this is, like, a progressive place,” right? There’s a small black population but they seem to be making things happen. And now you fast forward 24, 26 years later and we’ve gone backwards. We have lot less people of color in public office than we did when I first moved here.
[00:11:01] Well I’ve actually read a stat in Portland alone, I guess in the last five years since the 2010 census there were 83 percent white, and since last year it’s 87 percent white, so there’s been a growth of white people moving in Portland, essentially.
[00:11:19] Well, I mean there’s been a growth of rich white people moving into Portland which has created a severe divide between rich folks who have access to Ubers and the – the most expensive restaurants on the planet, and housing that is insane – $2500 for a 500 square foot box – I mean, if I could pay $2500 a month I wouldn’t want to live in a 500 square foot box. But – and this happened, like, within the last five years – Portland has become unaffordable for regular working people. So, the only people who are finding success right now are really white, well off, six figure income individuals. And so – and then there’s the rest of us. And as you know, the black community has once again been pushed out of the city, are now out in what we call “the numbers.” And we have a city council that doesn’t represent anybody past 82nd. And so we have some challenges that we have to overcome. And I think we have to figure out a way to tap into the talent that’s not white, that’s not male, that’s not elite, that’s not just tied into the downtown business community but really that speaks to the experiences of most people who live in this community.
[00:12:40] And I think Asian-Americans share the same dilemma, you know?. And so I – I’d like to figure out how Asian-Americans and African-Americans, and you know, actually all peoples of color can really join together better.
[00:12:54] I was just going to say, here in Portland I think we have been very intentional about building deep relationships between the African-American and the Asian Pacific Islander community, and other immigrant communities, in the Latino community. And we’ve been able to do that in several ways. Back in 2011 we created – we – Oregon Action, the – APANO, And – and there’s a Latino group, and I’m forgetting the name of that. But we created this Oregon Health minority health coalition with the goal of advocating that the legislative body, that we start addressing the disparate health outcomes in communities of color. And we got a grant from the Oregon Health Foundation, and organized a C3 table, and really worked very well collectively at addressing these issues at the state level. So that was one of the very first times that in my recent experience in Oregon, that we had a table that represented all communities of color. After that we’ve done some additional work together. What I love is I have seen the growth of APANO over this last decade under the leadership of Joseph Lyons Santos, and what I’ve seen happen very intentionally, very thoughtfully, is this emergence of Asian Pacific Islander leadership that’s young, primarily female-led, primarily – just smart as whips. I mean just – I – I’ve just seen this incredible growth of this young leadership. And so what I have seen is that there’s a – there’s a new emerging leadership that’s very inclusive, that’s very intentional about including all communities of color, about standing with Black Lives Matters and standing with, um, standing with the the the pipeline, the Dakota pipeline water protectors. I’ve seen this new emergent leadership that’s really very intentional. But I’ve also seen that there’s a divide that seems to be generational. So in the elder community for example.
[00:15:20] I was notified earlier this year, or like in February this year that there was going to be a march of Chinese-Americans, downtown Portland, and they were going to be marching because they were distressed that officer Peter Liang had been convicted of shooting an unarmed black man in New York City. And just a short piece about what the story was – they were in a stairwell, Officer Liang got spooked, he shot his gun through a wall, the wall – the bullet went through the wall and killed this 24 year old unarmed black man who was just, like, in his apartment. Ultimately, he was convicted of manslaughter. And – and another charge. And so there was this elderly Chinese community outraged, saying that, well, Officer Liang was being singled out for prosecution, and when white men kill black men they don’t get tried, and therefore Officer Liang shouldn’t be tried.
[00:16:23] And I remember getting a phone call from a friend of mine who is a business owner in the Asian Pacific Islander community, and said we have this community elder who’s organizing this protest. And by the way, it was like the protest was Saturday and the phone call was Thursday. Right?
[00:16:39] So it was like two days before somebody thought, “well, maybe we ought to check in with the African-American community and see how this is going to play out.” And so I got on this phone call, and this elderly Asian Pacific Islander gentleman said, “we’re organizing this march because we’re part of the Chinese American citizens alliance. We believe that this is not right, that officer Liang is being treated inappropriately,” and as a civil rights – as someone who’s been involved in civil rights work for decades.
[00:17:13] I had to really intentionally listen deeply to what this gentleman was trying to say to me, because my initial instinct was to be outraged that he would want to defend the shooting and killing of an unarmed black man when it had been such an issue for the last couple of years.
[00:17:32] But I held my tongue. I listened deeply to what he had to say. I said – I said to him, “I’m concerned that this will be perceived as the Chinese community against the African-American community.” And then he says, “well, you should come and speak.” And I said, “I’m afraid I can’t do that. That would not be appropriate, because for me to speak for my organization, I actually have to have had a conversation with my organization. They have to agree that this is the appropriate statement, the appropriate place, etc.
[00:18:05] So I declined that invitation. But what I did say to him is, “after the march, you are welcome to come to the next NAACP meeting. You are welcome to share with our membership why you organized this protest, what you hoped will come out of it. I will create a space for us to have a conversation about that, and then figure out how do we deepen relationships moving forward. Right? And he did take me up on the offer, he did come to the NAACP meeting. We did have a conversation that was a bit heated but respectful. And the good news is that he continues to come back, and he continues to be excited about the work that the NAACP has gone. [142.7]
[00:18:47] I made that story a lot longer than it needed to be to show you that I could have just said, “this is – this is racist, this is anti-black, and we’re not having it. We’re not – we don’t want to be a part of it, we shouldn’t have this conversation.” But here’s what happened when I had the same conversation – so after the conversation with the Chinese American citizen alliance, I e-mailed Joseph Lyons Santos and said, “Have you heard about this rally?” And he was actually out of the country I believe, attending a conference. He had not heard about it, and he was absolutely outraged when he heard about it, right?
[00:19:25] And he said, “I can’t believe that! Can you send me the press release?” And I did, I sent him the press release, and within two days, he came up with a statement that was signed by about 13 Asian Pacific Islander organizations. I do have this statement here.
[00:19:42] I’ll let you find it .
[00:19:44] I do have it here. And what was interesting about the statement, and if you’d like me to read it I will, is that it was a very respectful statement, but also a statement that’s very clear about, “we stand with Black Lives Matters, and we think that this is important that not only is Officer Liang held accountable, but any police officer that kills an unarmed black person should be held accountable. And so I would be happy to read it. So this was a statement that was co-signed by many API groups. It reads as follows.
[00:20:14] “The tragic killing of Akai Gurley by Officer Peter Liang and the varied community responses have created a powerful cultural and political moment that we believe is important to build on and learn from. APANO and six Oregon-based Asian Pacific Islander organizations, and dozens of APANO members have started and co-signed an open letter, “Justice for Akai Gurley.”
[00:20:39] We invite you – oh, I’m sorry that’s not the letter I – Here’s the letter. OK here’s the letter.
[00:20:43] “On November 20, 2014, Akai Gurley, an unarmed African-American man, was shot and killed by Officer Peter Liang, a Chinese-American New York Police Department officer. Liang was indicted, and this month he was found guilty of manslaughter and official misconduct. Resulting from this conviction, there have been protests led by Chinese-Americans across the country, calling the court’s decision unjust, ref – brief – referencing the fact that the white police officers involved in similar cases have rarely been found guilty. Undoubtedly Liang’s family and community are suffering. We recognize and validate the frustration and pain that led to these national protests built on centuries of unjust treatment and marginalization that have shaped Chinese American history and individual experiences in this country. However, we believe it is absolutely critical that our community stands in solidarity with the family and community of Akai Gurley, whose life, like so many others in the black community, was taken due to unchecked police violence. Unarmed black men like Gurley are murdered by police, security officers, and armed vigilantes every 28 hours in the United States. We stand in solidarity with their families, in resounding call for justice and scrutinizing critique of the nation’s system of widespread police brutality, and state-sanctioned violence against communities of color. A system in which, as an NYPD police officer, Liang was unquestionably a voluntary part of. We agree with those who have highlighted the disparity in Liang’s sentence when compared to similar situations involving and white police officers.
[00:22:28] However, the fact that Liang’s conviction is so uncommon should inspire us to direct our attention to why others are not held accountable, rather than question why only Liang is. Despite that, some have claimed Liang is not a scapegoat, one being blamed for someone else’s action. Rather, while the situation is a tragedy for all involved, Liang is being held appropriately responsible for discharging his weapon that resulted in Gurley’s death. This is accurately reflected by his conviction of second degree manslaughter which does not involve nor imply intent. While we recognize that the current criminal punishment system disproportionately targets our communities rather than being set up to restore or heal harm, it is also currently the only means that exists to ensure that police officers are forced to take responsibility for their own actions. Candidly, we support the indictment and conviction of Officer Liang as one step towards police accountability and call for further transformation of our broken justice system. Similar, we stand in solidarity with partner organizations locally and nationally, including Asian-American organizations that have faced harassment for their stance in upholding Liang’s conviction and condemn the threats and attacks these groups and their leaders have received. Many of these groups have a long history of organizing, rooted in addressing and changing systemic violence and police brutality. As we recognize the link between over-policing and over-incarceration, we urge more Asian and Pacific Islander communities to build on this moment, to work for transformative solutions that achieve justice for all. This includes establishing and deepening dialogue with communities of color, including African-American communities, and developing shared goals and strategies for change.
[00:24:28] Essentially, you listened to somebody’s point of view and they listened to yours.
[00:24:33] Yes, yes. And I think at the end of the day, two things happened. We deepened our relationship with Asian Pacific Islander communities in general, whether we’re talking the young organizers of APANO, or whether we’re talking the elders that are part of the Chinese American citizens league. What we did was create a space that we could have both conversations simultaneously, while being respectful of differing viewpoints, being really clear about why we thought it was so challenging to have a rally in support of this particular police officer. I’m happy to say that as the NAACP, I felt that I didn’t have to send a letter after this letter came out signed by so many Pacific Islander organizations. I felt they had our back. And so therefore it wasn’t necessary for the NAACP to publicly say anything negative about the – either the action that took place, or the people that were involved in the action.
[00:25:31] So the lessons learned are – in the end – you can al – almost use it as a model for other people, could you tell us what the lessons learned –
[00:25:39] And so the lessons learned are, you have to approach people where they are, right? And you have to respectfully listen, right? You might not always like what you hear, but you respectfully listen. You ask questions for clarification, and then you make sure that you go back and you check yourself at the end, “so this is what I heard you say was…” and…and so that’s one. One is clearly understanding what the issue is. Two, is figuring out a strategy or tactic to try to figure out how to deepen the dialogue. Right?
[00:26:10] And so in this particular case, we could have been at a stalemate, because we’re going to do this march with 300-plus Chinese people in two days, and you could either be a part or not. Or we could have said, “oh well, we’re going to do a counter-protest,” right, which would have put us at loggerheads. And so again, it was listening intently, figuring out what the issues were, inviting further dialogue, and then figuring out what are the next steps that we can take collectively.
[00:26:35] And what are the next steps, like, for —
[00:26:37] The next steps are, again, he’s coming to NAACP meetings, he’s getting involved in our committee work. He came to a fundraiser that just celebrated the 102nd-year anniversary of the NAACP. And so I look at that and I say, “well, that’s progress, right?” Because here’s a man that now knows, A) that this is not an organization just for black people, and B) that this is not an organization that’s going to treat him with anything other than due respect because respect – there’s a cultural tradition not just of Asian Pacific Islanders but also African-Americans and other communities. And so – so I’d never wanted to treat an elder, or have an elder feel like that they were not treated respectfully. And the other thing is really knowing, that in a situation like getting this press release and realizing this rally is about to happen, I already had allies in the in the Asian Pacific Islander community, had someone I could call directly and say, “what can you tell me about this? Do you know who is behind this? Do you know what their motivation is?” Right? And that – that was comforting to know there was a place to go, and because he reacted the exact same way I wanted to react, I thought, “oh, this is good. And they didn’t just react, but he – they started organizing, other Asian Pacific Islanders, to make sure their voices were included as well. And so I think the lesson learned is – is that could have gone bad in a whole, very quickly. Immediately. Right? But because the intent was good, the intent was to deepen relationships, to really hear what other communities were talking about. We now have an ongoing relationship that’s good, whether I’m talking to elders in the Asian Pacific Islander community, or whether I’m talking to young organizers who are ready to just make things happen.
[00:28:20] So I love that it’s all about relationship. So when we talk about the general African-American and the general API communities, there’s this thing called the Model Minority Myth. OK.
[00:28:33] And it does pit people against each other.
[00:28:36] Because it’s setting up different expectations. And you know, based on somebody else – you know, the dominant cultures, viewpoints. Could you talk a little bit about how we can work around that?
[00:28:49] Yes, yes, absolutely. The whole notion that, when – depending upon where Asian Pacific Islanders come into the U.S., they get a perception about the African-American community. I certainly know that many of our organizations that work with immigrants and refugee organizations, basically tell folks, “whatever you do stay away from the black community.” Right? Because they’re always in trouble. They are they’re not law abiding, they don’t work hard. So they bought all the stereotypes of the lazy, useless, African-American being, right? And I found this out, quite frankly, in a conversation with African immigrants, right – because they are told that right away, but what they also understand is that until they open their mouth, what people see as black. Right? And so they are treated as if they’re black, even if they’re not black, based on what people see. And so…and so, because people come in with that preconceived idea I would say the first thing we have to do is unpack that. I mean what we’re told about the Asian Pacific Islanders, right, is that they work hard. Right? They mind their own business, they are good taxpayers and they don’t have problems, right? They – they, you know they – they just – they just work hard. They take care of their own. They work hard – they don’t have problems, right? But what I know from working with the Asian Pacific Islander community is that the health outcomes in the Asian Pacific Islander community is just as bad as they are in other communities of color, right?
[00:30:18] And so, but you wouldn’t know that unless you had those relationships. And so, I think one of the one of the ways to bust that myth, is the more we can be engaged together in conversations, and collaborations, and working together, the more we see each other as people. Right now, I’m involved in several, like, support groups, one around climate justice, and one around just women of color supporting each other, and both of those groups have Asian Pacific Islanders in it, and different generations. And so it is fascinating to hear people talk about what the expectations were of them going up, Asian Pacific Islander, woman, girl – growing into adulthood and how that either differs or mirrors what African-Americans have experienced. I think the – I think it is all about those relationships and how those relationships are formed.
[00:31:14] My big advice is always start everything with food. I was at a meeting the other day on climate justice – climate justice 101. It is the very first time I’ve been in a conversation in this state around climate justice where 80 percent of the participants were people of color. At least half of them, I believe, were Asian Pacific Islanders, and people had an opportunity to talk about their – being a climate refugee, and why the climate was one of the reasons why they moved to the US. It was the most powerful interaction I had had in quite some time, and I thought to myself “This is what these rooms should look like.” Right? This is how we have the conversation about climate justice. We have to do it from a position of – we can’t just worry about Oregon. This is a global issue that we’ve got to deal with.
[00:32:07] And so, the more opportunities that we create those kind of spaces where people get to bring them whole self, and they get to tell their stories about how they got here, why they got here, the better we will build the resiliency of our community and the – the mobilization that we will need collaboratively to actually move any agenda forward. We are much stronger together than we are separate. And I think it really plays out in how – how we engage with various communities. And I – for me because of my early experience with the Asian Pacific Islander community, I think I always knew that there was a generational difference, just like with the African-American community, right – that there’s a real generational difference. And I am just excited by what the new generation is bringing, because they don’t have those barriers that we were born with and raised with. They come in with a whole new mindset. “Wait, there are other people of color; let’s find out what they who they are, what they are about, what they want to work on together.” Right? And so I’m excited about what this next generation brings to the table because what I see is a much more organized Asian Pacific Islander community, much more connected to our political process. I have watched, going from supporting other people, to actually taking leadership roles around ballot measures, and around organizing for legislative actions and policy proposals. And so that’s new, and that’s exciting. And I think what we’re going to see is much better outcomes, because those committees are much more intimately involved now.
[00:33:42] So that’s the way to get rid of prejudices from both sides, too. Because I think there is prejudice from both African-American and API groups, and it isn’t – it isn’t just generational though – though I think that – because there have been APIs and African-Americans who’ve worked together, say in the 60s, in the 70s, but I think there’s something else going on too, you know?
[00:34:04] Well, I think that we are at a moment right now where we have serious movements being led by communities of color and with Black Lives Matters, and with what’s happening with the Dakota pipeline. I mean, the first time in our lifetime that we’ve seen Native American tribes from throughout the nation come together and take a united stand. Right? That’s what Black Lives Matters is attempting to do as well. And so what I see is, as America browns, and as people of color get more comfortable and actually build these broad based coalitions, what we’re going to see is this real transformation. I see the outcome of this current election as the last grasp at white supremacy. And it’s, you know – it’s – it’s – it’s on its way out, the demographics – it just can’t be maintained. And so this election result is – it’s just that last stand again. It’s just that last stand of that whole white supremacy mindset and philosophy that the US has been built on. Right? And so and so we’re doing just what we should be doing right now.
[00:35:18] We’re organizing, we’re building across racial and cross cultural coalitions, and that’s what we’re going to need because once we get out of this madness that we’re in at the moment, that’s what’s going to move us to the next level.
[00:35:31] Well how are we going to get out of this madness? Because it hasn’t really even started yet.
[00:35:36] No it hasn’t, but I – as I’ve been telling people I think we have to do the autopsies. We’ve got to acknowledge that the far left and the far right are in total agreement on one thing, and that is that the political party system doesn’t work anymore. Right? And so if you can get that kind of agreement from the far left and the far right. I don’t think we’re as far off as – as we – as we – as the media would like us to believe we are, as well as what we hear from the pundits. Right? And so we have to figure out, this two party system no longer works, right? The electoral college no longer works, right? Having money take over our political system no longer works. So what are we going to do in these next two years to actually fundamentally address those three core issues. Right? And I think – And so that means we’ve got to address where the money comes from and our political system and get rid of that. We’ve got to address who has access to even run. And quite frankly, we’ve got to figure out if we even have an honest election system because I don’t believe we do. I don’t believe Donald Trump won. I believe that this election was stolen, like so many other ones have been stolen. And I believe that until we get an election system that Americans can be sure works – I was amazed that on election night everybody was like “oh he won, he won.” Well, based on what? I mean because what we know is that Crosschecked is the company of choice for most Republican secretary of states and they drop people off the rolls at millions. Right? We know that there were less people who voted this time but no one’s talking about the millions of people who actually showed up to vote and weren’t able to. Who are those people? Why weren’t they able to vote. Right? So I think that there is.
[00:37:26] You’re talking about voter intimidation?
[00:37:26] Well I mean I didn’t even get to the voter intimidation of voter harassment, right? People showing up and trying to intimidate people at the voting polls. What I know though is even before this election, it depends on what your economic status and your race, how soon you got to vote. Right. Because low income people of color are still, in America, standing in line for four to eight hours to cast a vote. And then when they get into the voting booth they may or may not find their name on the voting rolls. And so that’s America today. And so, I think that’s the fundamental problem is like, if you don’t trust your voting system, regardless of the outcome of an election, then how do Americans put any faith in those decisions that come out of that?
[00:38:12] So to bring it all back to how APIs and African-Americans can work together, especially since going into the next. I mean there were a lot of people of color who actually voted Republican.
[00:38:25] You know let’s face it there.
[00:38:28] Yes. I understand that. It’s like somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of Latinos and African-Americans, I understand voted for Trump.
[00:38:36] And I think there were 19 percent API –
[00:38:39] Yeah. So I mean, you know this is America, you’re supposed to be able to vote for you want to, right? And you know quite frankly it’s not the first time that people vote against their own self-interest. But I do think the entire election was anti-establishment. Right?
[00:38:54] Except, we sent a whole lot of white guys back to Washington D.C.. Right? So it wasn’t just you know tired of the status quo. Right. So so, very schizophrenic outcome. But I do think that now is when we start preparing for two years from now. I’d love to see API community and the African-American community get together and say, “who is our candidate for city council next time.” Right” Who is the community member we can all get behind. I think that’s how we start changing the outcome of elections here in Oregon. Fresh air – I mean a fresh light from this election cycle was Colie Lula da orderly who Chloe – Chloe – Chloe.
[00:39:39] Eudaly. I said name wrong say – sorry about that Chloe.
[00:39:44] I thought that was kind of cool.
[00:39:45] Well and that showed you that people really were trying to – she spoke to people, and she spoke because she’s a mom. She’s a single mom. She’s a bookstore owner, small business owner. She’s having a hard time keeping an apartment over – a roof over her son’s head. Right? She’s got a disabled son, and that spoke to people. And I thought to myself, “wow, the first time in 28 years an incumbent’s been taken out at city council, by a grassroots person with not a lot of money, not a lot of name recognition, but certainly a story that many, many, many Portlanders are living, right? And so, to me what that said was, people heard that, people felt that, right? People are experiencing that. And that’s why she was able to unseat a sitting city commissioner who wasn’t a bad guy, right? But clearly represented the status quo.
[00:40:37] So in the future, how you know – we can work together. I think that you laid out the tenets really well about listening and showing up, right? And supporting each other. I’m wondering, you know, are there other models, I guess, in the country, that you think we can also follow.
[00:40:56] You know, are there other instances where APIs and African-Americans have worked together that you have experienced around the country or know of around the country.
[00:41:05] Actually I can’t point to any specific project that was just inclusive of African-American – and
[00:41:14] We talked about the North Dakota pipeline. Now, my understanding is that people of all colors are coming together.
[00:41:20] Yes. Yeah. People of all colors are coming, but what I find most exciting is the tribal unity. Right? Because you know what this country did to tribal leaders and people on – which is why we have people living on reservations today.
[00:41:36] But the fact that – the fact that a call went out to say, “we need to – we need to take a firm stand.” That – and if you notice, it’s about protecting the water. Right? Something that all of us need every single day. Right? All of us need water. And so the call that was about is and – even though the media keeps calling it protests it’s about protecting the water. Right? A very, very basic human right. And yes, there are people of all colors, all economic groups that are joining them. But what’s exciting is, this is the first time in my lifetime that two major movements that are happening have been led by communities of color. And so what that says to me is that there’ll be more of that. There’ll be more of that kind of organizing. There will be more of that leadership, and we need to tap into that leadership because it’s a different model of leadership than what the White dominant culture normally expects and accepts.
[00:42:32] Now when you say two major movements, what are they
[00:42:35] Well, that was the Dakota pipeline and the Black Lives Matter movement.
[00:42:40] Do you work with the Asians for black lives matter?
[00:42:42] I have not worked with them. I know that there is a group that exists and they do, again, come out and support the vigil and support some of the actions that we – that we take. So I am aware of them but haven’t worked closely with them on – on – on like developing anything.
[00:42:57] Okay. Is that in the future?
[00:42:59] I certainly am – certainly open to any kind of collaboration. I think what we’re all doing right now is just trying to figure out where do we go from here, right? And in fact on Monday evening there will be a meeting with the Asian Pacific Islander community to actually do a debriefing of the election and start that process, in fact, where do we go from here? So yes I guess I do have a plan but I do have a plan. I just don’t know whats going to come out of that plan, right? So we’re going – we’re going to start having those early conversations, and I am excited about that because I think I think – of course we’re going to all be focused at the state level because that’s where we’re going to be able to have the most impact as we know the federal government is going to be kind of off limits and a little crazy for the next couple of years.
[00:43:44] Now has the NAACP always been inclusive of many, many races?
[00:43:49] Always has been, and that’s what – whole 102 year history in Oregon has always been inclusive of every ethnicity, race, gender that matter.
[00:43:59] I did not know that. Really?
[00:44:01] Well I’m amazed at how many people really don’t know that. I mean there are two things. I think the two biggest misunderstandings is that we’re just for black people. And the second is that we get like big government money to do the work that we do. And it’s all volunteer, and all of us, everybody except at the national level in Baltimore are volunteers, so.
[00:44:20] Is it – is that all inclusive at the national level too?
[00:44:24] Yes, yes. Always has been. And nationally the organization is one hundred and eight years old. So yeah.
[00:44:33] When did it start?
[00:44:35] One hundred and eight years ago you had 16. You know eight nine.
[00:44:40] You know, I had to work hard to actually get to the 102 for us. So like that’s national folks, I don’t have to worry about that.
[00:44:52] So I guess in closing, what do you want – you know, what do you want to say to both communities, as far as the conflicts that often come up, you know? Regarding misperceptions and mythology about each culture.
[00:45:09] What I would say is that there will always be misunderstandings and miscues. And the best we can hope for, is that people will ask forgiveness and then be open to hear how that misperception harm the person that heard it, on both sides. So whether it’s the Asian Pacific island community, or the black community as – when I’m struggling to hear someone, my fallback is to ask questions, because I don’t want to assume, I don’t want to jump in and think that I know exactly what it was you were trying to say. Right? So, my fallback is always to ask questions for clarification and then if it’s a really, really hard conversation, it’s OK to say, “well, let’s come back to that. Let me – let me think on that and let’s come back and continue this conversation.” Right? So it doesn’t have to – a uncomfortable conversation doesn’t have to be a disagreeable conversation. It can be one where it happens in stages, as people build comfort, as people build support, then you can move to the hard place. But I say this always: change only comes in the uncomfortable spaces. And so you have to be willing to be uncomfortable to learn and to move forward. [77.9]
[00:46:28] How do you not get emotional, you know?
[00:46:30] Well, I mean you have to acknowledge your emotion. And sometimes, it’s just OK to say, “you know, that really hit me hard and I just have to go take care of myself. I just I’m going to go and spend about five minutes, and I’ll come back, and maybe we can pick up today, maybe we’ll pick it up at another date. But – but you have to be able to verbalize that, right? So that people know what you’re feeling, right? Because if you just got up and left, then the person who you are talking to may think, “well, that’s the end. We’re never going to have a conversation again.” Right? And so, it’s ok to be emotional, but just verbalize it. Right? Just verbalize. You know I’m – I’m “that hit me really – I didn’t like that, and I’m going to tell you why I didn’t like that.” I do a training on interrupting oppressive language, and I give people like, a step by step thing you know. First, breathe. Then you state what it was you didn’t like, state what you need from the person who said it, and then give them an opportunity to reflect and come back if they’d like. Right? And so it’s – it’s like a three step process. But what it does is, really, it lets people know right away. “OK. I was not comfortable with that statement. Here’s why, and here’s what I need from you.” And then, you know, you come back and you try again the next day. I think most people want to do better.
[00:47:49] And I think most people are still learning, by unlearning the racism that they’ve been brought up with, that they’ve seen and experienced, but also that most people want to do better. I mean there’s certainly is a group of people that think that they’re already perfect, and they don’t have to change. And I don’t even waste time in that, in that side. Because there are too many of us that really want to do good work, and want to figure out how we work together, how we build a better community, how we support each other. I think one of the most critical things we can do right now is to create safe spaces where all our community can feel safe, because we don’t know when it’s going to hit us, that you know, you could be riding down the street and all of a sudden see a car with a Confederate flag and you think “whoa, right? Where do I go to be safe,” right? We need to create all kind of safe spaces and we need to create a symbol that lets people know this is a safe place. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, if you’re feeling like this is like not right, this is a place you can go to and just be for a moment.
[00:48:45] Like we could put in our houses or something?.
[00:48:46] Exactly, right? Like you put a sign in your window or something, like, “this is a safe – this is a sanctuary.” We are a sanctuary right. We’re going to need a lot more of those, because I do think that people that don’t want this multicultural community, this multicultural society have been emboldened by both the verdict with the Bundy trial, they’ve been emboldened by what we perceive as the outcome for this election cycle. And so they’re going to be much more verbal and public because it’s become OK through this election cycle to do that. And so what we, people of goodwill, are going to have to do is make sure that there are enough safe spaces for everybody who needs it.
[00:49:25] I think it’s already started happening. I mean, I know it has around the country. People have been, in your words which is a great word, “emboldened.”
[00:49:33] Yes, yes, yes. Oh yeah, I’m hearing about more hate crimes, I’m hearing about people just calling people the N word in this town. “Oh yeah, you’re going to you’re going to be out of here, you’re going to be gone soon.
[00:49:44] Or go back home.
[00:49:45] Will you go back home. Yes. Yes so it’s – it’s going to. But, you know, what I’m hopeful of is the people who – the unlikely people who we encounter in our community, all start saying that’s not ok. Publicly. Right? Just taking a visible stand. I’m sorry. Hate is not OK here. Right we’re not going to – that’s not who we are. That’s not how we’re going to live in this community.
[00:50:06] Right. That unlikely people – I like that.
[00:50:09] I – I’d love to see many more of those unlikely people, because that’s what it’s going to take. It’s going to have to take those unlikely people to step into that void and create that space so that the rest of us can be safe. As you know but for the grace of God who knows.
[00:50:22] Well this is sort of, not really off-topic but like last night, you know, how the peaceful protest turned into quote, unquote a riot.
[00:50:31] And there was this one girl who was trying to stop this – this guy from banging on this transformer and got right in front of him. Right.
[00:50:41] While – as he’s wielding…and the crowd came in and said “Stand back, stand back,” and it was very moving to me.
[00:50:48] Uh huh. Yeah, yeah, yeah – I mean the a crowd like I mean I – I – I – it’s always good when people can peacefully protest and make sure that their voice is heard. I mean, that – we’ve been built on that. That’s what this country has always been about. And I’m always frustrated when a few people come in, and then want to be disruptive, and tear things up. And unfortunately that’s normally where the media stops. Right? Because you have thousands of people who came out to say “this is not my president,” “I stand for love, not hate.” And then you have a dozen people who are there to just, like, break something and – and be disruptive. Right. That should not – that should never take away from the thousands of people who showed up. And again, that’s the flaw with our regular media, is that always, those are the people they want to talk to. They don’t want to talk to the moms who brought their children down, and brought the babies down, and the grandparents who are down there and the people with disabilities who are using walkers to be part of something bigger than themselves, right? They don’t spend time talking to them. They’d much rather talk to the disruptive folks. But – but we can’t also let the disruptive folks stop us from standing up and being firm, that we’re going to create a city that’s about love.
[00:52:14] Do you know that it was a few dozen, or – I mean I – my understanding is a lot of it you know – anarchists, right?
[00:52:21] Right. Well, you know, anarchist is an interesting term because, I mean, I never quite know what that means.
[00:52:29] I don’t either. But I think there is an anarchist society which may or may not have to do with who showed up.
[00:52:34] Exactly. And – but what I – what I do know is that there’s always less than – when you have thousands of people, you can expect that there will be less than a dozen that will want to do something that’s outside of the peaceful standing and solidarity that everybody else is there to do. Right? You can always expect that. What we try to do when we’re organizing marches is to have a peace team that’s watch – you know, that’s making sure that everybody is safe, right? So hopefully, they would have been able to step in and prevented these people from destroying public property and stuff. I – but again I don’t want that to take away from the fact that thousands of people showed up in the streets, downtown Portland, right? My day was impacted because we were having an event and there were people that were on the panel that were speakers that couldn’t make it because of the tie-up downtown. But I wasn’t mad that people were tied up downtown, I actually felt really – I felt good that people were making sure that their voice was heard, that they weren’t just going to sit back and just accept what they’re told to accept.
[00:53:41] What do you see happening, when – I guess early next year. You know, what do you see happening.
[00:53:48] I think that’s – I mean – I wish I had a crystal ball. Right? What I think will happen is that things will get a lot worse before they’ll get better. I think the year start off with insanity. But remember, we have a president-elect who is facing criminal charges and we have a.
[00:54:10] We have a president elect-who’s facing criminal charges, right? He’s got a rape charge that’s supposed to – we’re supposed to hear about sometime next year, right? So I think whatever happens in that madness, we as a country will be able to recover from. I think that Paul Ryan might end up being president. Because, as you know, the Senate will have to confirm if the president can’t serve, right? That means the vice president automatically goes up. So I mean – I think those are things that we should be thinking about politically.
[00:54:44] But I think the most important thing we can do in preparation for January is to work locally because because, again, most politics is local. It starts with your local school board. It starts with your local city council, your local county commission. We need to make sure that we are starting locally, putting the right people in place that are going to make good decisions for us as we prepare for the two year election cycle when we’re back running – during our congressional vote. But again I hope in that time period, I hope by then there has been some investigative reporting about whether or not people were dropped off the voters rolls appropriately and if so, who those people were. I want to know how many provisional ballots were in this election or whether those provisional ballots counted. I mean there are a lot of questions, to me, that it seems like people aren’t even willing to ask, and that’s scarier because if you – because I just don’t believe that there are enough people in America that would have voted for Donald Trump. I mean – I just I don’t believe that. Right? And so I need proof. I need to know that the voting machines worked as intended, that black people and poor people were able to vote exercise their right and that those votes were counted. And if we find out that the middle of the United States of America all uses the same company to check voter files and somehow, that’s where the problem is? I think that’s – I think that that is where the federal government will need to investigate the integrity of our election system.
[00:56:21] Well, Hillary did win the popular vote and she’s getting more and more votes as they’re coming in right now. Yeah.
[00:56:29] And so yeah, that we have to ask the question of why do we have electoral college. I mean why do we. Right. Why is that system still there right now.
[00:56:36] It is something that started with slavery.
[00:56:38] Right. Right. That’s right. Right. Right. We want that right. Right.
[00:56:43] Well, and again also I mean we look we can no longer – we no longer have a two party system that the majority of the people who are part of those parties trusts.
[00:56:53] Right? And so we’ve got to figure out what replaces that, because right now there isn’t a third party that replaces that, right?
[00:57:00] So not a strong one.
[00:57:01] Not – not – not – one that doesn’t already represent the people who already represent it. Right. And so maybe, is two years enough time to actually build a third party that’s majority people of color? I don’t know. I don’t know.
[00:57:16] It depends on whether or not some millionaires are going to put some money into making that happen. I think I – but I think there are things we should be thinking about and strategizing about, right? Because you know, I mean – I am old enough to remember when Reagan was elected, and we thought that was the end of the world as we knew it, right?
[00:57:36] Going to push the button he was going to push the button. Right?
[00:57:38] And then I’m also – I was around during the Bush years, right? Where we thought, oh my gosh this is like as bad as it could possibly be and we’re going to fall off the face of the earth. Right? And that didn’t happen right. So luckily we for better or worse we will survive a Trump presidency. Right? But the question is what are we building during that time. Right now we’re building something that’s going to take us into the future that we want or we just passengers waiting to see what’s going to happen because we’re not in charge.
[00:58:09] Well and that’s why we all have to work together. And we have to get over our own prejudices about each other and whatever myths we have with each other and figure this thing out.
[00:58:19] You know nothing is better than breaking bread with somebody right at nothing. I mean and so anytime. I mean I encourage I have coffee with people all the time that I don’t know like they’ll does the melons again I want to be with you. OK fine I’ll have coffee with just about anybody. Right. But what you find out when you just break bread with people is who they are. Right. What drives them with their passion is fight. And most people you’ve got a lot more in common with than you have differences. Even if you absolutely opposed politically it’s amazing to me how many people call into my show who are absolutely politically opposite of me and yet I can always find something that we agree on. Right. And so that’s what we have to look for those agreement spots.