Meyer’s Grantmaking, Now and Into the Future

As I think back to the start of this year, I remember the promise 2021 seemed to hold — that a vaccine would come so we would emerge from the pandemic, and we would use what we learned to build an Oregon that works for all instead of returning to one that only worked for a few. Instead, we lived through another year of the pandemic, first with the Delta variant and now, the looming spectre of Omicron. And though I was thrilled when my two kiddos finally became eligible for the vaccine in November, that joy was tempered by the knowledge of what COVID has underscored: so many — especially BIPOC children and families — continue to be underserved in ways that are vital for their continued health, safety and future success.

Throughout this continually challenging year, Meyer has been working to meet the moment by being responsive and flexible so our grantee partners can continue to do their important work. We have simplified our processes, removed reporting requirements and moved to larger, general operating multi-year commitments. In addition, our staff and board have been working on a strategy process that has allowed us to listen, learn and think deeply about our collective future.

Through this endeavor, we’ve come to recognize that Meyer’s own system of grantmaking must evolve to better meet the needs of Oregonians. While our Annual Funding Opportunity (AFO) has served as Meyer’s open call for proposals since 2015, the 2021 AFO is our last.

Beginning in 2022, Meyer will be working closely with our communities to design a funding process that is more integrated and fundamentally community-centered. It will be a process that better aligns with our new strategic framework: to use an anti-racist feminist lens to strengthen movements, change systems and support communities to build an Oregon that works for all.

From Barriers to Bridges

For those who have been following Meyer’s work over the last few years, this change likely comes as no surprise. As Meyer’s focus on racial justice has grown, so has the recognition that the challenges facing BIPOC Oregonians are not singular or distinct in nature. As our communities named, and Audre Lorde reminds us, “there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” In moving towards a new way of organizing ourselves and our approach to this work, we acknowledge that our identities, our challenges and our institutions are complex and intersectional.

In truth, Meyer’s portfolios have already been funding work that strengthens movements, changes systems and supports communities. Here are a just a few examples from this past year’s grant awards:

Strengthening Movements

$200,000/2 year operating support grant to Forward Together, which focuses on uniting communities to win rights, recognition, and resources for all families. They bring a strong intersectional lens to their work building power among BIPOC Oregonians through political education, advocacy, cross-sector alliances and raising the visibility of BIPOC leadership.

Changing Systems

$185,000 to The Klamath Tribes, for support of legal work and advocacy to advance the Klamath Tribes’ efforts to protect the endangered C'waam and Koptu fish through better management of the Upper Klamath Lake ecosystem. This work is vitally important, and all the more urgent due to the severe drought this year that led to the lowest water flows that have ever been recorded in the Klamath Basin.

Supporting Communities

$77,000 to Downtown Languages and Huerto de la Familia to merge with Centro Latino Americano and collectively create a Latinx wellness hub in Lane County that is focused on education and leadership development. They are also participating in civic engagement and small business development. With the proper support, including a recent general operations grant of $200,000, the expanded Centro Latino Americano is bringing together a deeply segregated and marginalized community to have a central home and space of wellness.

Increasing Collaboration and Trust

We are also looking to partner more with our communities, through deeper trust-based practices and more participatory grantmaking. Efforts like the Community Rebuilding Fund and the Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Collaborative are examples of areas in which we have found that working in coordination with peer funders and other partners allows us to leverage resources and streamline processes to more rapidly and efficiently respond to emerging crises.

Our Justice Oregon for Black Lives initiative also continues to serve as a way for us to learn and build a community-informed grantmaking process that incorporates more trust-based practices into Meyer’s grantmaking process. We’ve been inspired by and continue to draw from the wisdom and power of the Black community in designing a funding process that addresses the needs of Black Oregonians, as expressed by Black Oregonians.

As we close out this year and look to the future

In total, our 2021 AFO has distributed more than $19 million in funding through 124 grants, a significant portion of the 216 grants and $27 million awarded so far this year. A full list of all our grant awards is available here.

As we transition, we make this promise: Meyer grantmaking will continue throughout 2022. We are not pausing or stopping funding next year. We will be connecting, listening, co-creating and sharing with our staff, partners, grantees and larger community as we build towards the future.

Despite the many struggles facing our communities and challenges facing our collective well being, I am excited and energized by our shared trajectory. I want to share my deep gratitude to our internal staff and board, to Public Equity Group and to those in our broader community who have already helped us to get to this point. I hope to deepen our conversation and kinship as we chart this new course together.

Looking forward,

— Kaberi

Clouds in the sky

Meyer is adapting to better serve Oregonians, with a sharper focus on communities, systems and movements

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We Must End the Epidemic of Violence Against Indigenous Women Helen Shum Mon, 11/22/2021 - 14:25

As Thanksgiving approaches, many Oregonians are looking forward to gathering in celebration with their loved ones. But for many Indigenous people, the holiday is a painful reminder of the slaughter and oppression of their ancestors and the lasting legacy of colonialism and white supremacy in the United States. In particular, my heart and thoughts are with the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People (MMIWP) and their families in Oregon and beyond.

With the recent disappearances of Rena Mendenhall, Kennedie Hernandez and Lyssabelle Balinger, it’s clear we need to do more to act on this long standing epidemic and acknowledge the colonial roots that perpetuate it. While Oregon is one of only nine states that has brought legislative attention to this issue, progress has been slow and the work remains underfunded.

In 2019, Rep. Tawna Sanchez (Shoshone-Bannock/Ute/Carrizo) wrote and was instrumental in passing House Bill 2625 which called for a study to identify the scope of the MMIWP crisis in Oregon. The bill passed unanimously and the Oregon State Police (OSP) committed to leading a task force focused on the issue, albeit with no additional funding. That same year, the U.S. Department of Justice launched the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative and Cedar Wilke Gillette (Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara; Turtle Mountain Chippewa descendant) was appointed Oregon’s first Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Coordinator. This was followed by a statewide listening tour and the release of OSP’s Report on Missing and Murdered Native American Women, detailing some of the barriers to reporting and investigating missing Native American women and people, and providing recommendations for continuing action.

These are vitally important first steps for Oregon, but they’re just the beginning of the deeper work we must do to address MMIWP in our state. The pandemic limitations on gatherings shortened the Listening and Understanding Tour and a lack of additional funding limited the OSP report’s methodology. Oregon can and must do more.

In her report on the issue, Portland State University graduate Michaela Madrid (Lower Brule Sioux Tribe) made a number of recommendations which call for greater inclusion of Indigenous MMIWP survivors, family members, scholars and community leaders to address this epidemic. She calls for the hiring of Native American researchers and the addition of a Tribal relations director within the Oregon State Police department. Meyer believes implementing these recommendations would provide a more meaningful resource for decision-makers, funders and Oregon’s Inidigenous communities.

Here at Meyer, we are committed to advocating for not only greater awareness, but more crucially action, including additional funding and increased consultation and engagement of Oregon’s Indigenous communities most impacted by the MMIWP crisis. Our current efforts are focused on directly supporting individuals and families in need of immediate support during their time of crisis, including those involved in searches for missing relatives, after care for loved ones found and, unfortunately, funeral expenses when needed. Earlier this month, Meyer provided a grant to the Na’ah Illahee Fund (NIF), an Indigenous women-led organization dedicated to the ongoing regeneration of Indigenous communities. Following the recommendations of their community advisory council, NIF will distribute grants to those most impacted by the MMIWP crisis.

The MMIWP crisis is only one example of the destructive living legacies of racism, slavery and colonization. Public agencies and private funders must work together, following the lead of our tribal and urban Native communities to address historic and current harms. A flourishing and equitable future for all Oregonians is intrinsically tied to the well-being and prosperity of our state’s Indigenous communities.

The following are the names of MMIWP in Oregon. I hope you will keep them and their families in your hearts as you reconnect with yours this holiday season.

Lisa Pearl Briseno, Mavis Kirk-Greeley, Mavis Josephine McKay, Heather Leann Cameron, Avery Chester Charles, Jerome Clements Charles, Shaydin Jones-Hoisington, Leona Sharon Kinsey, Roger Jacob LeMieux, Sennia Pacheco, Zachary Silatqutaq Bashir Porter, Tryone Beau Robinson, Tina Vel Spino, Gunner Bailey, Jonathan Thomas Gilbert, Gregory Scott Peters, Leslie Shippentower, Selena Shippentower, Sophia Rosenda Strong, Lynette Watchman, Melissa Wilson, Rena Mendenhall, Kennedie Hernandez, Lyssabelle Ballinger and those still unknown and unnamed.

Rena Mendenhall Missing Teen from Roseburg, OR

A flyer with details on Rena Mendenhall, a missing teen from Roseburg, Oregon. missingkids.org

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Roy Kaufmann joins Meyer as Director of Communications

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve hired Roy Kaufmann as Meyer’s new director of communications.

Roy, who most recently served as Interim Associate Vice President for Communications at Lewis & Clark College, brings to Meyer more than two decades of experience in communications.

An award-winning communications practitioner, Roy’s extensive experience includes managing media relations, issues management and crisis communications. At Lewis & Clark College, Roy served on both the college's emergency management steering committee, its sustainability council, and its diversity, equity and inclusion committee. As the new Director of Communications, he will lead strategic communications, from media relations and web content development, to social media, strategic storytelling, branding, community engagement and employee communications.

Roy brings a wealth of experience in maintaining alignment between an organization’s communications and its core mission and values. His expertise will be integral to Meyer’s work towards an equitable community where all Oregonians can reach their full potential.

Prior to his time at Lewis & Clark, Roy served as speechwriter to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, and before that, as press secretary and communications director to Portland Mayor Sam Adams. He holds a master’s degree in international relations from the University of San Diego and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of California, Davis. A lifelong fan and student of comedy and improvisation, he fondly recalls his studies at the Second City Theater training school in Los Angeles.

“I’m excited to support Michelle and the entire Meyer team of change agents in accomplishing our mission to work with and invest in organizations, communities, ideas and efforts that contribute to a flourishing and equitable Oregon,” Roy said.

He began work at Meyer in September.

Roy Kaufman, Meyer's Director of Communications

Roy Kaufmann, Meyer's new Director of Communications

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Welcoming Afghan Refugees to Oregon

The decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August and the stunningly quick fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban have led to the evacuation of more than 124,000 Afghan men, women and children from the country.

Though they are often collectively referred to as refugees, the actual legal status of these evacuees varies. About 5,500 are U.S. citizens. Those who worked directly for or with the U.S. government were eligible for Special Immigrant Visas, which offers an established pathway for permanent residency and citizenship in the United States. The Biden administration has also granted a special humanitarian parole created by the Immigration and Nationality Act to express the departure of those whose lives were especially at risk under Taliban rule, including women and girls, human rights workers and journalists.

A majority of Americans across party lines support bringing Afghan refugees into the United States. But years of Trump era anti-immigrant rhetoric and anti-immigration policies have eroded the structural systems needed to handle the administrative, legal and other complexities for those seeking asylum.

Oregon is one of 20 states that have offered to assist with the resettlement of the evacuees. But what does it mean to truly welcome and support these new arrivals? What role can Meyer — and philanthropy more broadly — play in ensuring that Oregon’s newest residents are not only allowed to exist in their adoptive home, but are truly included and integrated as valued members of our community?

While humanitarian parole allows individuals to enter and stay in the United States without a visa, it does not connect them to the established welcoming and integration services associated with official refugee status. Without this status, many of those entering the United States are ineligible for financial, food and health care benefits, employment assistance or access to English language classes.

Meyer’s Response

While the Biden administration, Congress and other advocates are working on remedies, Meyer and its funder partners in the Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Collaborative (OIRFC) are working quickly to respond to the immediate need for assistance. Meyer, through the OIRFC has designated $300,000 in grants to the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO).

The following two grants will support efforts to grow legal capacity and resources for incoming Afghan arrivals. One agency offers cultural, religious and linguistic competency as well as a promising recently launched immigration legal department. The other has a fully established legal team ready to handle these complex and urgent cases. These agencies will partner to efficiently and effectively meet the human and legal needs of Afghan arrivals to Oregon.

Immigrant and Refugee Community of Oregon (IRCO)

 

Grant of $200,000 to prepare to provide services for an influx of refugees from Afghanistan following the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban.

Established in 1978, IRCO works to promote the integration of refugees, immigrants, and the community at large into a self- sufficient, healthy and inclusive multiethnic society. IRCO’s 500-plus staff is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse workforces in Oregon, collectively speaking 98 languages and representing 73 ethnicities, with 72% identifying as immigrants or refugees.

Since the Immigrant Legal Services (ILS) program at IRCO was launched two years ago, it has provided legal services to thousands of immigrants and refugees. It is the only nonprofit legal service provider founded and led by immigrant and refugee community members that can provide services in more than 90 languages. ILS has provided refugee/asylee status adjustment, naturalization, disability waivers, work permits, green card renewals and certificates of citizenship. It has supported clients in deportation proceedings, including asylum and cancellation of removal applications; and has linked newcomers to basic needs and other social services.

As the only immigration law office in a community-based organization, IRCO ILS is particularly suited to provide culturally and linguistically specific services to the many refugees from a vast number of immigrant communities that will be making Oregon their home. It has applied to the Office of Refugee Resettlement and is expected to become a designated refugee resettlement agency by January 2022.

Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO)

 

Grant for $100,000 in preparation to provide culturally and linguistically specific services for an influx of refugees from Afghanistan.

With a mission of bringing together Oregon's diverse faith community to work for the common good, EMO offers direct service programs, educational dialogue and public policy advocacy to both address the immediate needs of Oregon's most vulnerable communities and to provide a values-based platform for the creation of a more just, compassionate, socially aware and engaged society.

EMO’s legal immigration department, SOAR Legal, has served Oregon’s low- and no-income immigrant population since 1992. Every year, it provides culturally competent and trauma-informed immigration related legal representation and education to over 2,700 refugees and immigrants. SOAR Legal plans to create a large-scale training campaign for the broader attorney population to increase their ability to serve clients.

The OIRFC will be meeting with the other resettlement agencies in Oregon — Lutheran Community Services Northwest and Catholic Charities — to discuss anticipated needs as we get more word about Afghan immigrant arrivals. We have been told to expect approximately 180 Afghans over the next few months, with possibly more to come. I am hopeful that Oregonians will do what we can to truly welcome and support each and every one.

— Sally

Demonstrators at a January march at Portland International Airport holding a scarf saying "Refugees Welcome" Photo credit: John Rudoff

During a January 2017 march at Portland International Airport, a woman holds aloft a banner saying "Refugees Welcome." Photo credit: John Rudoff

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Sohel Hussain joins Meyer as first Director of Investment Operations

I am excited to share that Sohel Hussain will join Meyer Memorial Trust as the first-ever Director of Investment Operations. Sohel most recently oversaw the middle office team at PIMCO, a global investment management firm focusing on active fixed income management. He brings a decade of experience in operations, trade support, cash management and project management.

He has extensive experience managing the “middle office” — the work that moves forward the investment process and provides critical information to fiduciaries and stakeholders. As Director of Investment Operations, he will be responsible for strengthening partnerships and improving workflow in this area among Meyer’s operations, accounting, information technology and communications teams. 

As we continue to formalize and professionalize our investment operations, Sohel's proven leadership skills will help to guide Meyer in our dedicated support for communities across Oregon through strong alignment between our investments and values.

He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business and is completing a Masters of Liberal Arts in Finance at Harvard University.

 

—Rukaiyah

Sohel_Hussain_for_Web

Sohel Hussain, Meyer's first Director of Investment Operations

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Justice Oregon for Black Lives is Calling for ProposalsHelen Shum Fri, 08/20/2021 - 14:47

On this day 230 years ago, an uprising in Santo Domingo (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) played a pivotal role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Today marks the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. It is in the spirit of that remembrance — and the recognition of the ongoing anti-Black racism and injustice that continues to exist — that Meyer Memorial Trust is honored to launch its first ever Call For Proposals (CFP) for the Justice Oregon for Black Lives initiative.

The police killing of George Floyd in 2020 reenergized a national movement for structural justice, an end to systemic racism and a reckoning with the intersecting legacies of white supremacy. At Meyer, we envision a future where Oregon transforms into the antithesis of its original design as a white utopia, spurred from ambivalence towards racial justice and a culture of anti-Blackness. We’re investing in those communities, leaders and organizations that are building an Oregon where racism, particularly anti-Black racism and its creation at the behest of white supremacy, is acknowledged and long-term, systemic racist policies are dismantled.

Justice Oregon for Black Lives is a critical part of that ongoing effort, created to deepen Meyer’s commitment to Black-led and Black-serving organizations, support public safety and community well-being and foster long-term strategic change. Our funding priorities for this round will focus on three strategic priority areas identified as highest priorities by our community:

  • Investing in Education
  • Economic Justice
  • Reimagining Public Safety

We are currently working on the goals and outcomes for two additional community-identified focus areas: Shifting Black Narrative through the Arts and Culture and Addressing Healing and Trauma for Black Communities.

Today we not only remember the pain and trauma of the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition, but also the resilience, resistance, joy and strength that have allowed us to persevere and persist. With this CFP, we recommit ourselves to harnessing the momentum toward racial justice.

For more information and applicant resources, please see our newly updated webpage. We also hope to meet potential grantees at one of two upcoming information sessions. Please register through the links below.

Wednesday, August 25, 10:30-11:30 a.m.

Monday, September 13, 11 a.m.-noon

We are excited about what Justice Oregon has in store and the partnership we are building. Onward.

 

D’Artagnan

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Justice Oregon for Black Lives Call for Proposals Opens August 23.

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Toward a New 'Gospel' of PhilanthropyHelen Shum Tue, 08/17/2021 - 14:59

I recently received an invitation for the 30-year anniversary of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, a nonprofit where I served as the founding executive director early in my career. This was long before sitting where I am, now, at the helm of one of the largest foundations in Oregon. I am incredibly proud of the work that the Environmental Justice Alliance has continued and will always remember the blood, sweat and tears that it took to move environment and climate justice forward on the front lines of that movement.

This anniversary has me reflecting on the number of roles I’ve played fighting for a more just world. I’ll admit to some cognitive dissonance here. Now, I am more removed from the day to day frontlines of community work than I have been at any point in my career. And yet, I hold more ability to direct resources toward the solutions that could change our realities in a region — through climate, education, housing and community-building movements — than I have at any other point. This power imbalance is a fundamental truth about philanthropy, one that has long been a part of the relationship between funders and organizations doing the work. And it’s a dynamic I have come to disagree with.

How did we get here, as a field, that our own systems of accountability replicate the very power imbalances and inequities of the systems we’re seeking to change? It’s important to understand that philanthropy is rooted in capitalism, and was founded on the idea that wealth indicates ability. Early U.S. philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie were clear about this belief. Carnegie outlined this philosophy in an essay entitled, “Wealth,” published in the North American Review over 130 years ago, in June 1889. In this essay, later widely known as “The Gospel of Wealth,” Carnegie writes that the wealthiest in our society should make decisions on behalf of the poorest, for the benefit of those without means. “The millionaire will be but a trustee for the poor,” who stewards vast sums of money “for the community far better than it could or would have done for itself."

If we pull at this thread, it’s clear that Carnegie’s philanthropic gospel has influenced much of the ways we approach grantmaking today as a field. Foundations make decisions about what communities need and direct resources and power to that end. Thirty years ago, when I sat in my office at the Environmental Justice Alliance, I didn’t have time or energy to unpack the ways that funders were gatekeeping important community work, but I knew that when I received an urgent request for a press release from a funder, I was irked.

Modern American philanthropy, to a large degree, is built on Carnegie’s notion that wealthy people are somehow uniquely equipped to solve the wicked problems we face as a society. That wealth is to be administered to the masses in controlled doses, reinforcing the underlying assumption that people who are poor would simply not be able to make sound decisions with the means they need. The Carnegie gospel says it’s someone else's responsibility — namely, the richest among us — to manage solving societal ailments and that the communities most harmed by scarcity, discrimination and divestment are not to be trusted to make their own decisions about what’s best for them and their families.

I am committed to changing this dynamic. It is crucial that those of us working in philanthropy commit ourselves to interrogating the roots of our sector and charting a new and equitable path forward. We in the philanthropic sector must forge a new way of thinking and put that into action.

The simple fact is, there is no one more knowledgeable or better equipped to build a more just world than those who have lived their lives closest to injustice. People with lived experience and communities who outsmart oppression in order to survive and thrive have the keenest and most valuable insights about solutions that remove systemic inequities and dismantle barriers that hold people back. We need to face the truth that it isn't that communities don't have solutions, they are not given the opportunity or resources to put these solutions into play.

With this belief fixed in our minds, Meyer is trying something different.

We are striving to be more intentional in our grantmaking, to do our work in such a way that Black, brown and Indigenous communities, and those who have lived through the problems we’re grappling with have power to direct Meyer’s resources, internally and externally. This means that our partnerships with these communities will ever-deepen, and our focus will remain on the strengths that women and people of color bring to navigating the unjust and antiquated systems that we can together reimagine.

Last Summer, we established Justice Oregon for Black Lives, a multiyear, multi-million dollar initiative dedicated not only to funding Black-led and serving Black organizations, but to - as Program Director D’Artagnan Caliman recently wrote - Black wisdom, resistance, resilience and joy. We are listening to community voices and taking their lead. This is all a part of Meyer’s new gospel. A gospel not only of wealth, but of health and equity, listening and liberation. A gospel of trust in the communities we are committed to serving, not as saviors but as partners. I am beyond excited to announce that our first call for proposals for Justice Oregon grantees will be posted here next Monday, August 23.

We also know that change is not only necessary in what funding goes out our doors, but also the work environment we establish behind them. For the past three years, the staff, leadership and Board of Meyer have embarked on an institutional introspection and culture-shifting journey focused on listening, learning and building the competencies we need to halt and heal the harm of a status quo past. We have a story to tell here, and a promise to the field to show our work so that others may learn from our journey and our lessons learned. We will share more about this process in the coming weeks as well.

I am hopeful that other leaders, philanthropists and foundations will take up the charge by intentionally investing in community power, and structuring work so that people with lived experience are central to defining and creating the solutions their communities need, and given the resources and trust to bring those solutions to life. I know that we can reimagine and rebuild the ways that philanthropy works, hand-in-hand with frontline communities. We can write new verses to this gospel together.

 

— Michelle

A beautiful sunrise

A beautiful sunrise in Oregon

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Moving the Needle: A Reflection on Five Years of Investment in Oregon’s Affordable Housing Landscape

What did five years and $16 million in investment in affordable housing mean for Meyer Memorial Trust and its partners active in affordable housing efforts across Oregon?

In our report, Moving the Needle: A Reflection on Five Years of Investment in Oregon’s Affordable Housing Landscape, Meyer staff reflects back on the challenges, setbacks, clear “wins” and lessons learned from designing and implementing a strategic philanthropic initiative.  In addition to robust and lively discussions among the team about what we take forward from this work, we reached out to dozens of key partners in nonprofits, other funders and government to get more perspective on how the Affordable Housing Initiative was received.  

We hope you’ll find this summary of the biggest takeaways useful and relevant.  We see this as a contribution to the rich ongoing dialogue about impact and strategy in philanthropy, and welcome comments, questions and dialogue to promote more shared learning and insight.

 

—  Michael

 

Drone view of Argyle Gardens housing

Argyle Gardens, a sustainable apartment community in the Kenton neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Transition Projects.

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Turning Point or Point of No Return? Oregon’s Big DecisionHelen Shum Wed, 07/07/2021 - 10:26

Last week, Oregonians across the state experienced an unwelcome taste of how unchecked climate change might impact our lives in the future. A record-breaking heat wave in the Pacific Northwest killed hundreds, including more than 100 people in Oregon. The scorching heat helped fuel what is expected to be an early and active wildfire season, pushing the Governor to declare a state of emergency in an attempt to speed firefighting response and resources to a state that is almost entirely in extreme drought.

In addition to our rural neighbors who are most proximate to the areas at highest wildfire risk, many of those who died last week were older people who lived alone without fans or air conditioning. Summer programming and free meal distributions at schools were halted in some areas—supports that many families and children depend on. With temperatures as high as 117 degrees, even traditional respites like community pools were closed because it was simply too hot for people to safely work or recreate in such extreme temperatures.

My heart breaks for the family of Francisco Perez, a 38-year-old farm worker from Guatemala, whose death in the fields of a tree farm in St. Paul highlights the shameful fact that many in our agricultural community do not yet have critical health and safety protections at work. An executive order, developed in part to mitigate the effects of climate change, directed state agencies to create rules that would have required that those who work outdoors have access to shade, water, and rest breaks during extreme heat. Those rules have come too late for Mr. Perez.

Now, we find ourselves at another crossroads. Will the events of the last week serve as a turning point or a point of no return for Oregonians? Do we understand that what’s at stake is not just our immediate future, but the health and value of this Earth for generations to come?

What might a path towards a more just climate future look like?

In recognizing the undeniable fact of climate change, it’s clear we must defossilize our energy and economic sectors. While the Pacific Northwest has been a focal point for new fossil fuel infrastructure development projects, tribal and community-led efforts have been working arm in arm to fight proposals like the Pacific Connector fracked gas pipeline in Southern Oregon. This coalition of the Klamath and other tribes, landowners, businesses, climate and conservations groups, and residents understand that moving away from our reliance on fossil fuels is not easy, but the transition costs to business pales in comparison to the societal impacts of dragging our collective feet. 

I am grateful to public health and social justice coalitions, such as the Oregon Just Transition Alliance, who are working to center the voices of historically marginalized people who are the most impacted by climate change. Thanks largely to their efforts, Oregon will transition its electricity to 100% clean energy by 2040, while centering benefits for communities of color and rural, coastal, and low-income communities and workers. Oregon will also invest $10 million in a new Healthy Homes Repair Fund at the Oregon Health Authority to support low-income Oregonians with energy efficiency retrofits. The Energy Affordability Act will help low-income families afford their energy bills.

In reaching these important milestones, what we are collectively saying is “no more excuses.” The best time to transition was 10 years ago. The next best time is now.

Our own natural resources can help solve this problem. The forests of western Oregon have a higher carbon density than almost any other forest type in the world, which means they play an unique role in storing carbon. Allowing these trees to grow bigger and older is a critical climate strategy. Additionally, more conservation, restoration and improved land management actions increase carbon storage across other lands—agricultural, grasslands and deserts. This also makes our landscapes and communities more resilient in the face of climate change driven wildfires.

Rogue Forest Partners unites nonprofits and government agencies to restore resilience to dry, fire-prone forests and to the nearby communities facing high wildfire risk in the Rogue Basin. With leadership from initiative-partner, Lomakatsi, the project is also developing job and contracting opportunities for tribal members and immigrant forest workers and the businesses they own, as well as building their capacity to play leadership roles in the governance of the Initiative.

We need to combine this with innovation from the private sector as we did with electric cars, renewable energy and carbon removal. Let innovation drive a just transition and see the jobs that follow. We must also make sure that investments into the innovative breakthroughs of tomorrow, as well as their outcomes are equitably distributed. This is how we guarantee our collective resiliency in the face of climate change. It is quite literally, the opportunity of our lifetimes.

Oregonians are pragmatic. So let’s be honest with ourselves. We caused this mess for future generations to deal with. It is our responsibility to clean it up. 

Crises don’t solve themselves. People solve them. The first step in doing this is to say we will. We will and must reach a turning point where we quit pointing fingers at other countries or other states and quibbling about what they are or aren’t doing. This doesn’t require another commission or a task force. Leaders like Huy Ong of OPAL, and Vivian Satterfield of Verde have been planning a just transition that brings everyone along for years. We need to back them and others leading the charge in our state, and find ways to speed up their work, not make it harder. 

Taking no action is choosing the point of no return. Let’s decide to protect Oregon’s way of life. Let’s take this turn together. 

 

—Michelle

Turning point

An Oregon road winding through trees.

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Liberation Isn’t a Date, It’s a DestinyHelen Shum Wed, 06/16/2021 - 20:09

Well, it’s been a year. A year of remote work and remote education for so many; of forced precarity and impossible choices for so many more. A year of distance from loved ones. A year of the most widespread Black-organized and Black-led uprisings for racial justice the nation has seen in decades, here in Portland and around the world. A year of fear and of care like no other.

As Spring turns to Summer, I’m thinking about transitions and transformations. What it means to emerge from the invisible to the undeniable, the margins to the mainstream, from suffering to solidarity. From enslavement to emancipation.

What it means to truly be free.

All of Meyer Memorial Trust will be marking Juneteenth this year. Juneteenth has been celebrated for many decades by Black families as a date when the last enslaved people in the nation finally learned they were free. This year, the Oregon State Senate voted unanimously to officially recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday beginning in 2022. The U.S. Senate followed suit and unanimously passed a bill to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday. While overdue, it is still worthwhile as it is essential to have momentous dates of liberation on our shared national calendar.

Juneteenth, much like the Fourth of July, is both a celebration and a warning. It is a promise of what could be but has never yet been; a challenge against complacency and a call for constant vigilance.

This past year gave me a shot in the arm. Yes, the one that helped me see my aging parents in person again and lets me work from the beautiful, new Meyer headquarters in historic Albina. But also another one: the shot in the arm that inoculated me against the illusion that progress is secure, that justice is inevitable. The work will never be done, so I need to be clear on what it will take this year, next year and in the years to come to bring us closer to correcting the wrongs of history and bringing us closer to justice.

On Juneteenth, we can remember, reflect and recognize that liberation is achievable. But it won’t come only from marking a date in the past, it will come when we make liberation our destiny.

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