How Neighborhood Associations Can Make Our Neighborhoods Safer for Everyone
Disclaimer: Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge that I’m writing as someone with considerable privilege to others within the neighborhood association system that identify as having privilege. It is worth stating that not all neighborhood association volunteers are white, middle to upper class, and cisgender, but that it is the dominate culture. It should also be said that everything that has been written below has been stated before, but it all bears repeating.
Over the past few months we’ve heard increasing concerns from our neighborhood associations and community members about recent hate crimes and people struggling with uncertainty and fear. Many are asking, “What can we do? We want to help!”
When I first started thinking about writing an article in response to this question, I considered making a list of some tangible, easy first steps that neighbors and neighborhoods could take to show solidarity with and support for their neighbors who are scared right now. The list was going to include activities like yard signs (here, here, here and here) and public statements (here), and tools for reporting hate graffiti and bias crimes (here).
But I’m not sure that’s really the advice that’s really needed right now. While visible statements of solidarity might make our neighbors feel more welcomed and safe, if our work stops there then those actions are really more about us and our need to feel like we’re helping.
If we really want to make our neighborhoods, city, state, county and world a safer place for people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA individuals, immigrants and refugees, Muslims, and every other historically marginalized community, we must go beyond symbols and statements.
If we want to support marginalized communities, we need to listen first. We need to listen to the people and organizations who have been on the front lines of these issues for a long time. And when it comes to taking action, we must let the communities we are trying to support define what that support looks like.
So go ahead and put that sign in your window. But let’s also listen and then use our organization’s resources to galvanize support, to identify and share opportunities to donate, volunteer, speak up, educate neighbors and ourselves. And while you’re at it, take a moment to re-read Mireaya Medina’s December article on working with diverse communities.
Here are just a few of the organizations that we are watching and listening to right now:
- Unite Oregon : With the help of ACLU of Oregon and Immigrant Law Group PC, Unite Oregon recently filed suit against the immigration ban. Subscribe to their email list, attend their events, and promote their work building unified intercultural movements for justice.
- Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization : IRCO is encouraging everyone to get involved by calling their federal representatives, volunteering with their programs, and staying informed. They recently published a helpful Take Action list.
- Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon : APANO is working closely with the One Oregon coalition to fight against anti-immigrant and refugee rhetoric and policies.
- ACLU Oregon : The ACLU of Oregon has been organizing legal resources and fighting the recent immigration ban through lawsuits.
- Voz Hispana Cambio Comunitario and Milenio : These two groups have been working together to organize events focused on immigrant justice including rallies, storytelling events, and policy workshops.
- Muslim Educational Trust : MET works to enrich the public’s understanding of Islam and dispel common myths and stereotypes, while serving the Muslim community’s educational, social, and spiritual needs. They recently hosted an event which brought together over 1000 community members to discuss civil liberties in light of the recent immigration ban.
And if we really want to fight injustices, we’ll need to go even further and start engaging in honest and difficult conversations about how our structures, programs, and advocacy efforts perpetuate inequities. And as a result of these conversations we need to be willing to take action and make changes. We need to stop asking “do I want this in my neighborhood” and start asking “will this perpetuate current inequities or begin to break them down.”
The opinions and ideas in this article are the writer’s, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Board of Directors of SE Uplift.
By: Kelly Fedderson
Community Resource Program Manager