Written by Gloria Geiser
“Simply bring some passion and energy and life into our collective volunteer work.”
As 2019 ends and the challenge of the 2020 elections draws near, we have new committee chairs with new energy and visions infusing the Multnomah County Democrats. One of these is Christian Burgess, new head of the Community Action Committee (CAC), which he views as a force for “fostering and sustaining a sense of community within the party.”
But the CAC is much more. Christian sees it as “the group within our party that presents opportunities to build alliances with other progressive community-based groups; engage with Democrats and Democratic voters across the county via street fairs, parades, and other community events; and simply bring some passion and energy and life into our collective volunteer work.”
Christian remembers watching the 1988 DNC convention when he was 15. As the convention went about the process of nominating Michael Dukakis, Christian thought these are my people. He recalls the excitement, energy, diversity, and the wonder of an inclusive, forward-thinking platform. As an Irish-American from a white, Catholic, Southern background, he credits Catholics for Kennedy and his diocese, which emphasized “the peace and love Jesus over the scary and judgmental one” for his identification with Democrats at an early age. This was strengthened after he came out in his late teen years, which further cemented his “sense of self and ‘other’ — of empathy and a desire to understand other lives and struggles….”
He followed through with this empathy to attend social work graduate school at Hunter College in New York City where he majored in Community Organizing and Planning. After graduation, he worked in program development and advocacy work, making the Community Action Committee a natural fit. In addition he has organized a local social group, Portland Queers and Craft Beers for almost five years since moving to the Portland region in 2014, which currently has 1300+ members and involves a great deal of creativity and logistics.
Presently, he is Director of the national Disaster Distress Helpline, a crisis hotline dedicated to supporting survivors and responders of natural and human-caused disasters struggling with distress or other mental health concerns. This project is 100% federally supported and administered by his parent company, the not-for-profit Vibrant Emotional Health. Since Vibrant also administers the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, of which DDH is a sub-network, he works in both suicide prevention and disaster mental health.
Mixing creativity and hard work
His vision for the Community Action Committee is “to create a vibrant, diverse group of committed folks who want to help our party realize its progressive platform via engaging with the communities we work alongside and serve.” To accomplish this, Christian is seeking individuals with creativity and a desire to work with other folks to support DLs/ADLs/PCPs in organizing participation in local neighborhood events. A love of details, logistics, and event planning are also helpful skills. Essentially, the Community Action Committee is about “rolling up your sleeves, working hard, while also having fun.”
In his spare time, Christian runs, is an avid reader of print media, loves attending live music concerts, travels when he can, practices yoga, and gets out into nature as often as possible. He tries to maintain a healthy balance of time alone and with family and friends.
Help to connect the dots
“All of the Multnomah Dems’ committees are inter-twined and essential, and the role that the Community Action Committee plays is connecting the dots,” said Christian, “between Fundraising, Communications, Campaigns, Platform, etc.—with the communities we stand alongside and serve as Democrats. “Hashtag ‘#ItTakesAVillage’”
Will you join Christian to “help us energize, expand and sustain our Village?”
Are you one of those people who have a knack for connecting people or organizing events? Do you want to help grow the reach and activity of the local Democratic Party in advance of 2020? Join Christian and the Community Action Committee. Email Christian: email@example.com