A Story of Peace & Justice in Central Oregon

While reflecting on a recent march through downtown Bend, Rev. Ron Werner, Jr. remarked, “Why would a mostly rural town show up and speak out when it looks nothing like Ferguson, Staten Island, or Cleveland?”

He goes on to share: “Bend could have stood silent and allowed the headlines of recent weeks to slowly fade away. We could have pretended that racism doesn’t exist in our community and that the recent shootings of unarmed African-Americans are only problems in large urban centers. Yet, in listening to our black brothers and sisters from around the country, we know that white privilege is real and institutional racism is alive and well.”

Rev. Ron Werner was one of hundreds in Central Oregon that participated in a local march in solidarity with the #blacklivesmatter movement.

Over the last few years, the local human dignity movement has been growing and expanding across all three counties in the region. The Bend Youth Collective and the growing relationships among clergy and across congregations in the faith community contribute to their ever evolving human dignity work. It is this on-going organizing in Central Oregon that resulted in a powerful event on Saturday, December 13th, an event that gained both local and national media attention.

Take a few minutes to check out the photos, review the media reports and read more from Rev. Ron Werner, Jr. below.

Congratulations to all the human dignity leaders in Central Oregon for such an incredible event and for continuing the work through your upcoming racial justice programming!

On Saturday morning, December 13th, between 300-350 people participated in a Solidarity March to affirm that #blacklivesmatter in Bend, Oregon. This medium-sized city is overwhelmingly white (86%) and less than 1% of its population is black. So, why would a mostly rural town show up and speak out when it looks nothing like Ferguson, Staten Island, or Cleveland?

Because of our collective privilege, Bend could have stood silent and allowed the headlines of recent weeks to slowly fade away. We could have pretended that racism doesn’t exist in our community and that the recent shootings of unarmed African-Americans are only problems in large urban centers. Yet, in listening to our black brothers and sisters from around the country, we know that white privilege is real and institutional racism is alive and well.

A group of local clergy and persons of color led the March. It started at First Presbyterian Church for a time of reflection, singing, prayer, and training in nonviolence. Most of the participants had never before participated in a public act of justice. From there, the masses walked in silence (symbolic of the need for people of privilege to listen) for a mile and a half to First United Methodist Church in the heart of downtown Bend. Once at the church, the gathered sang spirituals led by Aisea Taimani and heard stories from Jazzi Wright, an African-American college student at OSU’s Bend campus, Linda Shaw, an African-American woman from Redmond, Kari Johnson, a white mother of two adopted boys from Liberia, and Rabbi Johanna Hershenson, leader of Temple Beth Tikvah in Bend.

While the event was planned in one week’s time, relationships between congregations had been forged through their common work with the Bend Youth Collective, a spiritually progressive and inclusive youth ministry. Several of the clergy had also worked together on an op-ed asking for a Yes vote on Measure 88. Three additional clergy joined the Measure 88 signatories for an op-ed about privilege and racial justice published the day before the march in the Bend Bulletin.

You can read the op-ed here:

http://www.bendbulletin.com/opinion/lettertotheeditor/2674859-151/letter-religious-leaders-plan-Saturday-march-in-bend

Along with affirming that black lives matter, the Solidarity March served as an invitation for residents of central Oregon to publicly commit to dismantling systems of privilege and institutional racism. In January, local faith groups and the Social Justice Center will launch a slate of programming inviting people to go deeper into reflection and action.

You can read some of the media coverage of the event here:

http://www.bendbulletin.com/home/2684779-151/black-lives-matter-march-draws-roughly-200#.VI0GHmwDMAs.facebook

http://m.ktvz.com/news/hundreds-march-in-solidarity/30222494

http://www.bendsource.com/bend/far-from-ferguson/Content?oid=2410707

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/12/11/protesting-racial-injustice-while-white/

Below are some additional photos from the event.

Respectfully Submitted,

Ron Werner, Jr.

Pastoral Team, First Presbyterian and Nativity Lutheran Church and Coordinator of the Bend Youth Collective

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