By David Burnell
On May 5th at Portland’s DoubleTree Hotel was the 12th annual League of Minority Voters State of Civil Rights Candidate Forum. It was an evening of panel dialogue, candidate pitches, awards, and a celebration of civil rights champions.
The organization was founded in 2007 by Promise King, a Black man who is a veteran policy and political adviser for regional and national political leaders, as well as an award-winning campaign strategist, and a longtime political columnist for the Portland Tribune. The League of Minority Voters, with chapters nationwide, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with the goal of empowering minority voices in the community and government, in addition to serving as a liaison for people of color to policy leaders and institutions.
Some of the biggest takeaways of the evening began with the panel discussing this year’s theme of “Healthcare, Hunger Relief, and Food Security.” The panelists included Dr. Louise Elaine Vaz of the Oregon Health & Science University, Susannah Morgan (CEO of the Oregon Food Bank), Jason Snider (Mayor of Tigard), and an impromptu panelist Suzanne Stevens (Editor of the Portland Business Journal). They discussed the concept of an integrated approach based on social determinants of health, including food security, access to healthcare, and houselessness, to address health disparities. The informative conversation can be summarized by the idea that healthcare and nutrition are the same thing, and one of the ways we can address this is by making food interventions in healthcare systems standardized.
The Candidate Forum was truly a nonpartisan piece of the event. The Democratic Governor candidates Tina Kotek, Tobias Reed, Bud Pierce, and George Carrillo all attended, and all showed support for civil rights bills such as The Women’s Protection Act, The John Lewis Voters Rights Act, The Asian Hate Act, as well as immigration reform. The two main Republican Candidates for Governor that attended, Marc Thielman and Nick Hess, mirrored each other and advocate ideas of living wage vs. family wages, claiming to be racially inclusive in their personal and professional lives while both using “all lives matter” rhetoric. A third Republican Candidate for Governor, Tim McCloud, an African American Republican Party candidate, spoke about the experiences and struggles of his campaign, including not being recognized by his party.
The Congressional candidates for districts 5 and 6 were also a mixed bag of Republicans Democratics, with all of them staying within their party principles. The majority of the candidates were running from the new Congressional District 6, which has become one of the most expensive races in the nation.
The night finished out with the awards being presented to the 2022 Civil Rights Champion Honorees and the Recipient of the Dr. Selma Pierce Scholarship Award. The Civil Rights Champion Honorees were:
- Cheryle Kennedy, Tribal Council Leader, Spirit Mountain
- Rep. Janelle Bynum, Oregon House of Representatives
- Suzanne Stevens, Editor, Portland Business Journal
- Susannah Morgan, CEO, Oregon Food Bank
- Judge Bernard Veljacic, Washington Court of Appeals
- Judge Darleen Ortega, Oregon Court of Appeals
This year’s recipient of the Dr. Selma Pierce Scholarship Award was a young man named Xavier Tacker. He is a graduate of Tigard High School and is currently in his sophomore year majoring in pre-forestry and bioresearch at Oregon State University. His speech highlighted his journey from poverty and his struggle toward hope and education. The League of Minority Voters is a valuable organization to connect people of color with the political structures in Multnomah County. The Organization’s mission statement is “To promote the advancement of the minority voter’s rights within the electoral process, through education, empowerment, and representation.” The organization’s mission plays a significant role in promoting the entitled equality and equity owed to the minority community in this county. The Civil Rights Candidates Forum is one of the ways that the League recognizes advocacy for those serving minority communities in Portland. This event demonstrated the importance of inclusion of minorities in politics in this county, highlighting the work that still needs to be done to address disparities. To learn more, visit https://minorityvoters.org/.
About the author: David Burnell is a PCP and member of the MultDems Communications Committee. When he’s not creating cool videos and sharing Facebook news for the MultDems, he works as a chemical dependency counselor for Lifeworks NW. Read also his 2021 article about Juneteenth.