Prompted by a rise in hate crimes in the U.S., the local ORD2 Indivisible group will hold a public forum from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22, at the Historic Ashland Amory, 208 Oak St.
The event, titled “Uniting for Justice: A Community Forum Against Hate, Oppression and Bigotry,” will involve more than two dozen community groups, along with U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, and local elected officials.
The event was inspired by the Aug. 12 violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, involving white supremacists, according to Theresa Safay, event coordinator and ORD2 Indivisible committee member. The organization — which gets its name from Oregon's Second Congressional District — said public education is necessary to raise awareness about racial injustice, particularly in the Rogue Valley, and ways to combat it.
“I live in my little, white bubble in Ashland,” Safay said. “I know that racism is a large part of our valley … but it’s easy to not see it, unless you’re a person of color. I think we tend to ignore other people’s experiences because we don’t see them.”
Guest speakers at the event include Merkley, Ashland Mayor John Stromberg, state Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, members of the clergy and people of color who will speak about their experiences living in the Rogue Valley.
Participating local groups include Racial Equity Coalition, Interfaith Council, Unete, SoCan, Our Revolution, Ashland Culture of Peace Commission, KS Wild and SO Pride. Doors open at 1 p.m.
Alma Rosa Alvarez, co-founder of Racial Equity Coalition, described the need for racial understanding in the Rogue Valley.
“I think, in the Rogue Valley, although a wonderful place to live, there are still people treated differently because of their races,” Alvarez said. “The system we live in is made to benefit certain populations over others … and our organization’s mission is to try to shift that mindset.”
Alvarez said she remembered moving to the Rogue Valley and while looking for a place, rental owners were courteous on the phone, but rude once she arrived to look at the house, telling her it had already been rented.
“There are still enough incidents to merit the need for a solution,” Alvarez said. “It doesn’t have to be that way and that’s the purpose of the event, to try to get people to understand each other and to live well together.”
Representatives from each community group will be available to speak with attendees and will be involved in educational workshops.
“This particular event is really meant for collaboration,” Safay said.
ORD2 Indivisible describes itself as a grassroots campaign devoted to political fairness, with goals of preserving a free press, voting rights, civil rights, environmental protections, health care and protection of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.
“It is Indivisible’s wish to continue outreach with like-minded organizations, but more importantly we want this event to provide educational tools for the community to create sustainability and lasting change,” Safay said.
— Contact Ashland freelance writer Caitlin Fowlkes at Caitlin.firstname.lastname@example.org.