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Avel Gordly speaking at the Coalition Against Violence at Pioneer Courthouse Square on Aug. 14, 2019. Photo by Motoya Nakamura/ Multnomah County (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Avel Gordly
Published: 16 August 2019

Editor's note: On Aug. 14 Mayor Ted Wheeler and a variety of community members held a press conference in anticipation of a far-right rally planned for Aug. 17 in Portland. One of the speakers was Avel Gordly, a longtime community activist and the first African American woman elected to the Oregon Senate. Gordly's remarks were shared with The Skanner and are published here with her permission. 

My name is Avel Gordly. I am a Portland native of 72 years. And I love my evolving city. I am proud that my son Tyrone Waters is here with me. We are here in the spirit of unity and building Beloved Community. We are not in denial of the white supremacist origins of the State of Oregon.  We are here to use our words to help our community resist fascism strategically and intelligently. And to prepare for the healing days ahead.

We come as peacemakers and peacekeepers. We come as bridge builders and to let the Nation and World know that we Portlanders stand together for Peace, Love, Fairness, Justice, Harmony and Reconciliation. Words and intent matter.  We support the leadership and courage of our mayor, Ted Wheeler. We support the leadership and courage of our Chief of Police, Danielle Outlaw. We support our Police Officers and absolutely reject the false narrative that the Police Bureau has chosen the side of white supremacists. That is a lie! 

We are here because our children need to see us in the act of standing together and building Beloved Community. Our children need to see us acting to protect them in a time of traumatizing fear.

We stand against all evil behavior, words and deeds that tear  down people and destroy civility.  We reject the puppet administration of hate and chaos in Washington D.C. and the plague of fear unleashed upon the land.

I wanted to be here, Mayor Wheeler and Chief Outlaw to share some history of social justice organizing that has taken place in this city and lessons that we can hopefully learn from. This history is drawn from over four decades of activism, some of that time spent with the Portland Chapter of the National Black United Front and Portlanders Organized for Southern African Freedom. I am talking about a time period  from the late seventies through the early nineties. Some of you may remember the marches against racist violence, against police brutality and against apartheid and for a free South Africa. And the marches for a quality non racist education in Portland Public Schools- yet to be achieved. The Black United Front planned its marches and demonstrations with an emphasis on keeping everybody safe. Everybody!  In the most painful of unjust circumstances, police killings, we intelligently exercised our right to free speech and assembly. We had permits for most events and always had police escort. 

We did not march and demonstrate without permits because that would have been unsafe and that would have been irresponsible. Getting a permit was not about getting permission, we knew our rights. It was about acting with integrity and being responsible for our part in public safety. We owned our public safety role as we did our planning to avoid dangerous, chaos producing behaviors. We did this through respectful relationships with the police. Relationships that we developed intentionally over time.

In the days ahead, let us remember the damage being done to our children as they watch adult behavior. Let us bring more kindness forward in our  day to day dealings with one another. 

All we have on this planet is one another. Let us be the City of Peace, the City of Kindness and yes, the City of Roses. Let us be the Beloved Community that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us to envision and embrace. God Bless our Beloved Community. Thank you.

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