In August 2019, Mayoral Candidate Teressa Raiford joined me, Christian Burke, and the My Real Portland Jade Lounge audience. That recording disappeared, so I asked Teressa to join me for a follow up interview and that audio wasn’t listenable. because I am an amateur. What I lack in experience I have generous and supportive friends including My Real Portland Patron Arin who transcribed the salvaged audio from that interview. If you’re interested in the current 2020 Portland Mayoral race, I hope you’ll appreciate this interview.
JOE: (We began talking the moment we saw each other. Transcribed interview joins us in progress.) Relationship with SUN Schools, tell me about that?
TERESSA: It’s part of the Community Health Initiative and Community Justice Initiative that with we have through Multnomah County and it’s under-supported by LPSCC (Local Public Safety Coordinating Committee) which is this agency around juvenile justice, they have kind of have these meetings “” and there’s funding like from the STRYVE grant (Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere) there’s support for like the Gang Task Force which is now Community Gun Initiative or Peace Collaborative whatever. But the issue with gun violence being a community health issue in Portland we prioritize that circumstance to the black community and so because of the black community’s disadvantages or marginalization or being at risk because you're black in a community where you might become violent based on their data. That money is to help them focus on that and when you're sitting at the table and your like, wow, why are you building like pilots and initiatives just based on less than 3% of the population and why are you building these pilots and initiatives on supporting them without a parental outreach plan like what are you doing to support the family if you see these issues happening with hunger or housing or bad attitudes or aggressive behavior. How are you initiating contact with the family and helping support them with the causes, help outreach and whatever, they’re not. They get so much money for referrals out of the family, there are so many agencies that because they provide services to children they add community engagement or family liaison and they think that it’s a benefit to families to kind of deescalate before it becomes a problem that the family has to tend to. But what that means is that the family has no awareness that the child is having issues at school so when a child gets killed in the street or when they become engaged in juvenile justice and it's like the parent had no awareness, the parent had no contact, and it's easy for the district attorney and his agencies to sit at a table and say we didn’t have parent engagement and because of lack of support for this family or lack of support for these children that we were not able to provide them the resources that they needed and so we can't recommend that they go back to their family so let’s recommend that they get an ankle bracelet and they have oversight by our probation system. Which creates even more circumstances because these are children and so children aren’t going correct their behavior just because you create a circumstance to identify them as bad or juvenile or criminal that’s going to create some type of emotional disadvantage which also is going to cause a social disadvantage for them and that’s what we see, that’s what I see in the data that what I see when we talk about gang violence or community violence or you know just the behavior of children. It's just like oh what a minute we've already mandated they’re bad, we told them they were at risk, we let them know they are marginalized and all our systems adopt that opportunity they don’t build them out of that they don’t have liaisons to support the family.
JOE: Something very basic about marginalizing communities, when I was I kid we had lunch ticket programs that were different for those of us were lower-income and there were times when my family was lower-income and so I had a different lunch ticket color than everybody else had and I’m shocked to find that it’s still a problem in our community.
TERESSA: They threaten children for not paying their fees for lunch and breakfast.
JOE: And not only that my peers would recognize that I had a different ticket. Little kids would also see that as different and find it as a way to approach me. I can’t imagine being an African American child having an ankle bracelet and going to school or trying to have some kind of normal life because of the situation. I’ve known people worked in the SUN School system and they’re frustrated with lack of resources and the inability to do the work that they think is important. So what all is standing in the way? Is it just a funding issue?
TERESSA: It’s a police and partnership issue if the educators and supporters of children and families were given the opportunity to do that without the initiation what is labor on your “” rights? And why are we waving the “” rights, why do I have to refer to this agency without having a conversation with a family member. Like if they have had the resources I have a cake for so many teachers, contractors, family members and even people that work for the administration in these agencies and they're like we, the word is unfortunate, it's so unfortunate that we don't have this, it's so unfortunate that we can't do this, it's so unfortunate that we are not able to provide this. And I’m like why aren't they listening to you? You are the first line agencies, you’re the first people that are standing right there on the ground with the families with the children if you're identifying opportunities to support them through your agency. Why aren't they listening to you and how do we effectively advocate for the families so that we can force them to listen to them because it will give them a better outcome and opportunity to get funding because of their agency of poverty is not a better outcome than them graduating from that impoverished situation and getting support with housing and legitimate educational resources or resources for food and you know not the bullying that we use because of bureaucracy but the initiation of anonymous support systems. You know not humiliating a child with a wrong ticket or calling them bad and giving them timeout or you know preparing the family to be humiliated because of the lack of resources through the administration system support for teachers or providers of care. We constantly through our let’s say patriarchy system have an opportunity to lower the level of value for people that are actually doing the work, based on the lack of courage from those at the top that should be able to listen to them and initiate innovative processes.
JOE: So right there, this goes into my next question running for mayor next year, what steps would you take as mayor based on this one issue of providing services for those in the schools' systems to get that kind of support? To enable all of those systems to the kind of support that you and I might feel they need.
TERESSA: Well for the mayoral position we know that SUN School is run out of the Health Department but they do have a lot of support from the city and what I’ve seen through our last budget with 52% of the money going into policing. What I would do is I would change the measure of how we are using that money in that budget for our education systems and turn into something that enhances the safety and health of those families rather than the policing and use of our bureau to investigate a initiative referrals because I think at some point with the labor of federal education right to privacy to receive services that puts us in a position to authorize inclusion for invasion of family without it being a direct necessity for them to receive those services. It's like wow why are we using that anchor to get into their business when all we are doing is referring to the service so let's remove that anchor and let's provide more services in an effective distribution of those services with that extra money that we would be using to police and monitor. It's really an invasion of privacy that leads to detrimental outcomes. Because when looking at family from the lens of police officer and it's the child in the education system your still in the position like I was talking to Kate Brown a couple, I mean not Kate Brown, it's Kate um I forgot her name but she works at Multnomah County Health Department but she had told me one time that our job is not to raise the children, our job is to arrest criminals and so when you have this agency that is in partnership with education systems and transportation systems and health distribution systems and housing systems its meant to identify criminals its not mean to provide a public service. So you remove that and create a safety and health lens and that creates that link.
JOE: My hunch is that same philosophy would work and I don't want to call it just a philosophy, a practice that will be “”
TERESSA: We are not using it in every community so when decided to segregate and use it on marginalized communities that legislative dollars that call marginalized so that they can compete for the funding. Then it's kind of like, ok how do we do this in Hillsboro or how do we providing public safety in schools in Lake Oswego and why aren't we using that type of lens and how are we supporting those families that are not economically sound in those communities are we humiliating them are we broadening our basic outreach and public service components so that we're supporting them.
TERESSA: You know, like we literally criminalize people and those audits in city hall proved that.
JOE: Right, I'm just talking about you know young children in the school system but it also seems that would be the same philosophy that would have used to fix the homeless issue, the drug use issue, we should enforce all three of those “” connections as well as people who are in the criminal corrections system. All of those people are going to be looked at if there's plenty of folks in the police in front of that lens.
TERESSA: And that lens for those services.
JOE: Right. Rather than full “” as if we were maybe as if we were policing the “”.
TERESSA: Look what we're doing to our houseless community rather than building innovative ways to restore inhabitable buildings in our communities we're housing them in policing stations. Where they are going from the hospital, police and back to the street and we are wondering why there are so many injuries and attacks that are happening on everyday people. I just read a headline before I came in on my twitter where someone was talking this past weekend when Mayor Wheeler suggested that everybody have free parking and come downtown and someone said hey I watching someone urinate in downtown in full you know of our entire public what are you doing about this mess and then the trash downtown and I'm like wow that's jobs thats an opportunity why aren't we utilizing the opportunity to create jobs for what we see is our houseless community on the data and the audits that the houseless community is the same community that's coming through our public education system and public health system. These are our marginalized vulnerable community members and as an agency we should be prepared to provide healthy resources for them and to make sure that as they come through these systems that they don’t become more vulnerable by putting them on the streets. And our systems are building that infrastructure when they take children away from their families and our education system and then the families deemed a risk of harm on the record those children don't get to return back to those homes and communities when they graduate out of high school they usually do graduate onto the streets and its whether a through a drug connection for survival mode because we are not properly preparing them as wards or guardians of them why the ward of the state after we kind of inherited them through the referral system and you know we have a really big issue with foster care here where we over represent the same children of color, the same children that are prone to mental health physical health issues, sexual violence and all this domesticated violence that is perpetrated on children and we're the caregivers but those children are the numbers of houseless people in our community and we don't have safety net that is in place to build for them. Our safety net is our food scene we need someone who's has those type of experiences to work with the bureaus that actual manage these resources and start building innovation and the distribution and we need to clean our act up but I think if you've been homeless if you've never had domesticated violence to you systemically then you don't see people as a priority and we don't see cleaning of those issues for their betterment as a priority they are going to continue to see it as a capital effect like oh I have to clean the streets so that the street looks great rather than so that people don't die on them. You know, so, that’s going to be a physical and experienced person to come in and combat that issue with building leadership in the city that already exists but is not listened to. You know I'm an activist so I advocate for the people taking care of us you know.
JOE: So that, that's a great answer.
JOE: Great question or lead into this question, you've been an activist for a long time you know and have been one of the people making changes happen and you've been part of the community of the people that are saying that we don't have enough resources we don't have the right structure, we don't have the right number of things, in addition to being the patriarchal society and “ society. are there systems in place that with you being the mayor that you can get the emphasis towards meeting the needs of those organizations have been asking for or is there more that needs to come from the business community or more that needs to come from the people in order support those organizations “”
TERESSA: I believe that the mayor builds the leadership that becomes accountable for it and I believe that we are all accountable for it I believe the business community is accountable for it I believe that Universities that are building business districts in our downtown areas are accountable for it I believe the developers that are building industry here and even small businesses that are trying to struggle and survive here, that we’re all accountable for it, but we’re not at the table. the way that we set up our system of government in this city we divide and conquer our issues and we build it with the biggest in the most elite factors as the authority as the pointed appointed stakeholders for our voices and that has been to the detriment of us because if your opinion is and what my opinion is doesn't matter unless we get it to be reflected in an audit or an indictment so knowing that for the last 9 years since my nephew was killed in gun violence I've audited several different systems and I've recently opened up legal clinic through the organization that I started to combat gun violence but I opened up legal referral system so that people can use information as evidence the information in these audits that applies to them to seek legal recourse so that we can force the change through court systems to mandate changes in policies because I don't see it becoming conscious effort and I know that even as an elected official there's only so much you can do within the system that you represent. From the time I’m elected mayor I will be representing the patriarchal system that is really hurting and harming the people that I am advocating for but for someone who understands how the infrastructure government applies to us and our power of engagement I also understand that building and organizing community and bringing in the city hall and making a system that's reflective of our needs and that we can combat the bureaucracy together not opposing sides that's pretty much my general strategy is to make a city hall that is a lot more inclusive Changing the city codes building more engagement making that the priority our committee is called the People for Teressa and basically I don't want to get in there and be away from people I want to build in a social paradigm that includes community and government abilities and I think that if we do that at least for two terms that our children will be well-equipped to continue fighting some of the issues that we have that creating discriminatory practices that we support and elect and continue to uphold, you let’s give them a chance.
JOE: You know you just brought up your two-term idea. When we talked last I asked you about that 1 term for various reasons, last mayor that we actually had something about 12 years serve you would be representing like you said the patriarchy for two terms if you get your plan why two terms?
TERESSA: Because I think that what we need to do what I would love to do and what a lot of people would know that I known for is mentoring bringing movement and change and building space for them to be in a position to hold us and educate us on what better community could look like and I would love to be able to see that growing under the administration with the inspiration that my leadership could provide to younger people you know that I already engaged in politics I want that engagement to continue it's so I don't want to be in the way of someone that might aspire to be in that person willing to hold on to the reins and make Portland better. I was born and raised here, I had my children here, my grandkids were born here but I love young leadership these kids are brilliant they are fast-tracking systems that our elders had created hold to place like they were supposed to be foundational measures and these kids are dismantling it like crazy so I love to just create systems that help them get in you know so that we never dominate the patriarchy access from the people. I believe that's what's going to take it and if I sit in that seat too long we might miss opportunities and maybe I can shift myself around and become more willing to do more things that are “” within the city of Portland and we know that the position of a mayor is one that if brought with compassion and experience helps us develop ourselves as community members and so you know we need to diversify that and often, we don't need people like that have themselves sitting on the commission forever you know we need to continuously reinvent our city and propose new ideas to innovations to leadership.
JOE: And is the government of the city looking more and more like the city?
TERESSA: I would hope that we were but I don't believe that we are, it looks like the same Portland, We look at, you know I hang out with archivists, I hang out with historians and every couple years every 20 or so years we’ll grab a brown person from the black community and appoint them to be our City Commissioner we’ll let someone into Multnomah County you know as a district commissioner so they can represent North and Northeast Portland. What I'm saying is that the demographics in our city are becoming so much more diverse that the people that are coming here and are seeing that we are being propagated and our city government is being produced to make us feel a certain way which we say is progressive right but we're not really as progressive as we need to be I've seen elected officials that are like whoa I can't do this and I'm like you're elected because we put that you in that position to dismantle these systems of oppression not to replant inclusion or diversity for a system that still doesn't want to move forward so again bring in fresh wind and innovation and really the lived experience of a Portlander my great-grandmother was born here both of my you know like everybody I know I'm the oldest of 11 kids, I've had several friends, I'm 48 years old, I know Portland I know our community and for generations and I'm not talking about the just the black community like Portland when I was very diverse growing up I never heard about white-landia until the last 15-20 years and I know that that’s the influx of people that weren’t from Portland and what they saw but somebody growing up and going to King's school and going to Tubman I had a very I had friends that were from Vietnam from Nigeria from India we have friends from all different spectrums because we are a port town and people were in the Navy it is very inclusive but we didn't know about two different Americas until there became like the gang task force or all these references to who are these people it literally I believe it's probably after the redlining and the inclusion of us being able to be in the school systems That something systemically happened to kind of create a segregation and that's where we need to go ahead and start moving things around we already know about inclusion and redlining but we never made a systemic effort to stop the alienation of people of color here when it began to be very harmful and very what do you call it intentional ‘’””
JOE: But it's really interesting that you know in real estate one of the things we're talking about “”” is redlining and I happen to know about it and all my peers were just shocked and surprised that we actually had this “” functional law and then we removed it but we didn't really do anything about it gentrification took off “””
TERESSA: Social behavior didn't have to be documented we just have to have that gentleman's agreement and I saw that in some old documents where they continued to do it through the gentlemen's agreement that you wouldn't have to hire this person and you don't have to let people live here and we just won't do it and you see that.
JOE: “”” own language in our local system tries to catch our own work but let alone there's a whole battery of available homes out there that are “” acceptable to gay people to women.
TERESSA: To brown people to people with kids you know to people with disabilities like we have a whole spectrum of people that we can say no to and no one will stand up for them unless they can congregate and create a movement and campaign against the very city that is elected and supposed to provide these services and outreach it's like we have to fight for everything that's already possible for us to receive that's the problem and that's why I said the more engagement we have for ourselves the more inclusion that we have for ourselves we can hold the side of the city accountable the agencies that aren't letting us in that city should take revenue and the fact that the committee the people that are protesting for inclusion are actually doing the work for the city they're being a bully pit for the city when they have to make a compromise or negotiate with landlords or business owners they're saying the city should say these are community members and this is what was going on and this is how we want to do business what do and this is what is going to be fair and let's work with city accountants and auditors and lawyers to make it something of a franchise that's focused on the health and safety of our community members but we're competing against the interests of our bottom line which should be livability but it's like whoa I need my profit first.
JOE: So that bottom line systemic issue that wow the patriarchy is set to keep those systems in place what would a shift look like I mean it sounds like we are talking about something revolutionary and how we operate our government that would substantially change that attitude and make the bottom line the thing that we are comparing against not a financial thing how do we go about shifting that particular thing “” They're saying the road deteriorate they're saying different things like that so they're not saying that effects of that so they're not jumping on at the idea I'm saying let's forget about the money issue because and let's take care of this because my stuff being taken care of. Seems to me we helped everyone “”
TERESSA: Well we did people first.
JOE: Right. Then there might be a chance that that road might be fixed that much sooner because we're not dealing with somebody who doesn't have access to work and that's costing us a lot more money “” If we didn't have that issue?
TERESSA: Look at our priorities or both we’re downtown right now and look at how many “” we had
And our priorities it's getting all these developments done rather than building the infrastructure and restoring and rehabilitating Infrastructure that we have right now then it shows you that were putting Band-Aids on stuff and we're doing the same thing with the people and no we're going to developed this new and we're going to shut down your Park I'm going to do this new development and I'm not going to fix the roads until the development is done so we can make it “” on you. It's not going to include you because I'm going to have a police station kiosk there to make sure your poor butt is nowhere near it. and we will probably make art on it so that we can show that we’re included and we’ll have somebody diverse make the art you know like that's how they do this.
JOE: One of the most insane things I've seen is the artwork at the end of the Hawthorne Bridge. That piece of artwork called inside out that's meant to look like old building Without being building and there are people living underneath “” it makes no sense to me yet that was the values that are City said what's this is what we want to care we want to provide an empty building “” You know live underneath it in a tent those values don't add up to me. Love public art but I got to say I love my friends and family and my neighbors being housed and safe and protected More than I want public art.
TERESSA: It's 100 degrees today I'm trying to figure out how to get to Cash & Carry get some stuff for some dry ice and get out there and get water to people because guess what I don't even like the water bottles but we need to get water out to our community members because those little fountains we have people are being swept away from drinking public water our priority is not Public Safety and people think that when I say that one of my priorities is public safety that I'm not talking not letting people die in our streets. I mean come on there a lot more we can do it's the political will of the leaders They have to have the focus and what I'm thinking with people first Is not doing what's not necessary right now what's necessary is making sure build a sustainable infrastructure and what that should include is housing and public safety for everyone whether your living inside or outside our public infrastructure should reflect that your housed that this is community spaces that we’re building these ugly infrastructures on can be resting spaces like they have in Seattle where the livability is built into the design of that community in those downtown areas not to make you feel excluded they have these mechanical fire stations where you can drop off your cigarette butts and things of that sort and little seatings where you can listen to live music sit down and relax rather than feeling like a public nuisance. It's like if I'm sleeping out, guess what I'm going to feel some kind of “” the next morning you and how you feel is the last thing that I am thinking about but the city knows that all of this is happening. There needs to be some kind of focus on what it feels like for us, our visitors for the people paying rents down there and the people that are living in the city that doesn’t provide their services and resources they need to be in place so we don’t have people inhabiting spaces where they are not safe.
JOE: Speaking of numbers and doing audits there were two numbers that came out of the “” “” “” there was a further study that showed “” 32000 people were homeless at some point during the year. That's the much larger number than what the previous you know one-night count study was and what not and that 32000 speaks to a much bigger issue that's a big percentage of our population that's being affected by either access to home or access to work or access to other supporting services
JOE: This seems a terrible question to ask, how are we comparing to the rest of our neighboring cities? Um and who, because I know that we hear saying um excuse me what just happened with anti vaccinating in Los Angeles “”
TERESSA: Ours are children though, we are leading the nation in hungriest children, we are leading the nation in housing less children. um in the fact that our focus and our issues are focused on children, people under 25 years old um that's shameful. We are not looking at building and being progressive for our, our children, like what are our plans is it to lock them up? Because we are facilitating that practice, we have the evidence that we utilized our cities resources to provide that process that school-to-prison pipeline and mass incarceration and all that being focused relatively on Multnomah County and how we do things in our district offices, and I mean like we are the ones leading our entire state when we talk about that so since the priority again has always been on policing, we are going go get housing issues, we are going to get domestic violence, we are going to get gun violence, we are going to have mental health um trauma and violence that's happening on the street because we are fostering that, that's what our Investment has put together. It's not anything outside of that, and that is what I said. Our focus has to change to be the health and safety of the community and we can do that with public safety dollars. 52% of our budget is going towards schools if we take police out of our schools and use that budget part, just the part where just that part for what we are giving them to monitor the people, those private citizens that are living in poverty, that can be reinvested in health and safety for community members and it would provide jobs for people that are sane. It’s unfortunate that we don't have these resources, I would really love to see us doing that and guess what we can do because it costs a lot of money to keep putting them through the system, and the jail and the hospital and in the ground.
JOE: Right and it seems like if that's the case the state would want to be on board with that.
TERESSA: It takes the leadership.
JOE: “” regionals and other members of metro would want to be involved with that as well because it would reduce their needs to take care of that same population.
TERESSA: Absolutely, absolutely, there’s innovative ways dealing with people, but if you don't see people as a priority and you see them has an issue or problem, you’re not going to provide a priority for their safety and their health because those are underlying issues, that's someone else's problem, no that's the cities problem.
JOE: Metro just won a grant or levy, something to take care of, the homeless issues across the region. Is that going to help?
TERESSA: I think again it's the resources and the effectiveness of the leadership. and when I talk about effectiveness of leadership it’s identifying people that can be and key components of what that vision looks like and how those outcomes do we produce through that funding measure. A lot of the measures funding that I’ve seen are still quantifying the people but they're not realistically creating a solid foundation for solution building or redistribution of resources. So again it’s going to come from their determined um will as metro leaders and I think that partnership with the city if the city is inclined as they should be, to work with those leaders on connecting Communities that are affected to build up with the equity measure looks like, it works. we've been doing advocacy in our community and the community has answers they don't know process a lot of times and a lot of times they don't have access to resources but it doesn't stop them Making things happen you said a couple minutes ago that I've been able to champion policy change and do all this work I've created an opportunity to say that the work that I did is a community action plan because I'm not doing by myself I'm not doing research by myself I'm not testimony providing testimony by myself I'm not transporting people to the state capitol and to City Hall and building all these measures to communicate with Community by myself that is a community support system that has been over and over and over-represented by people of that have been harmed like they're fighting back their trauma through experience and process
And it's making a difference because they are speaking from that experience directly to the people that can do something about it and they're helping all of us in the process because it's opening those doors
JOE: Now I'm helping a client right now to purchase a condo downtown an old 1924 building that had been a low-income housing center for Multnomah County for 20 years or so it had been inventively privately owned but they decided to sell I make it a condo And now it's 20 years later I end up selling a client into it did some research on the building and found out that as a result of a hundred or so odd seniors being kicked out of their home in the late 80s there was legislation that happened because of that work to maintain low-income seniors in their housing and would have a larger voice at the state level to prevent the same kind of mechanism that forced them out of their houses. It didn't happen overnight; they weren't able to get active soon enough to prevent that from happening on their building. But because of the action they did.
TERESSA: Oh yes.
JOE: They built a structure that was able to help the next building.
TERESSA: That’s right.
JOE: And they kept working at that and that’s oftentimes especially from the way we wrote history we look at the big man history we don't understand that how the real world changes It's from that I'm going to take my neighbor I'm going to take my friend I'm going to take my loved one to the state to my city and I'm going to show what making a public statement looks like and help them be able to do that and make “”. Are you had mentioned millennials are millennials doing that at the same rate as we were when “”
TERESSA: I was not activating I think the biggest thing that I wanted to do was change Union Avenue to Martin Luther King Boulevard and that was a lot of adults that were engaged in that and they were showing us the sort of process and things of that sort and we have it you know but it’s and we don't recognize either but, but this generation every time I was called, I remember being called out to do a support college because of an assault that happened during one of their symposiums around race and politics and these children were assaulted and there was all this hate language and images Being sent to these different social media applications and they said hey we're having an issue out here or Community is being you know Is being treated bad by these fascists they're coming out here and they're harming students that go to our campus and there's not a lot of people of color here And the ones that are, are literally from parts of the world and this is like really ridiculous can you come help us
And I met up with these students in this library and there's probably like 30 or 40 students and they're like man we don't know what to do and there's a sit-in happening outside and we don't know when to stop and we don't know when to go and all this and I was like okay let's start organizing let's build-up you know what your functions going to look like based on your core abilities and what your experience is and what you're interested in and they jumped up they had their laptops and like in the time that I'm talking to them by the time I was finished they had a picture of me on a website with all these links and information and all of this I mean everything all the social media components all the research all the supporting documentation that they needed in order to encourage people to support them, imaging, videos and everything within 35 to 40 minutes. Okay and I'm watching adults that are like literally agents to change sitting in rooms and having 10 meetings to come up with one compromise for a sentence so that's why I'm not going to be trying to find someone running for mayor in 10 years because I know they are going to probably be more qualified for me and based on their leadership qualifications. They're going to be innovative in the way they serve our community but only if we start making an opportunity for them to have that right now and re-electing the same patriarchs that make us feel comfortable because we recognize them is not the way to go there because I recognize in the same way that America does as part of the problem.
JOE: Just perfect reflection of what's happening locally on a national scale right now we have this “” factor for Joe Biden when there are better candidate women of color women of different religions, backgrounds “”
TERESSA: Very much better. Experience isn't everything like we don't need this savior to come and make things better for us because the same people have benefited from the same privilege that is harmed us and there is no way someone that has harmed me can actually create an opportunity for my life to be better because your experience it's not based on the damage and the trauma that has been an indictment of my life You know like if you're on the hammer side of this if you're the one will they miss power you can't say I'm going to negotiate some of my privilege to help you.
I need all of it to go. I need the construct that makes you feel you are privileged to no longer exist in the leadership or in the focus of our society because it is harmful and it is to the detriment of my safety and people that I love.
JOE: So when you say that I love, I love hearing that! For a moment I put myself in someone that is not near you and what they might hear in that statement might be scary for them.
TERESSA: Well women said it to men and we got equal rights and we still don't have equal rights for all women so until we live that until we really define that in our actions as people in our society and we give up the constructs and the privilege and the thought of having privilege and what that is and not seeking power seeking the support of our community and really being In the solitary focus to build change like intentional change, um you know come on.
JOE: And not just fixing the little problems over here, looking a big “”
TERESSA: Looking at society change there's a lot of leadership in all these barrels and all the managed systems in all the different departments that support community efforts they are not being heard they're not being supported they’re the ones saying that it's unfortunate because they're the frontliners that are not getting the resources to do the work biggest resource is the courage of the people on the top.
JOE: Here's just the right along with metro community I know I've been upset the one community center that I have been frequenting for the last 20 years the Multnomah Arts Center Has had its funding looked at being cut “” there’s services for seniors in the building there’s services for children in that building there's a community policing center as well as singing and dancing and crafts and all sorts of different things that the community on a large scale uses. The city says let's shut that down and that's where the people go to have community, what good is the city if it's not providing a space for community.
JOE: I don't understand the thinking at all.
TERESSA: And in finance let's say that agencies that are seeking grants for their funding they usually create more innovative practices of outreach or create innovative products based on some new experience of the people that they provide services to. they don't say hey we're going to go out of business because we’ve helped so many people the evolution of their services happened and indentured to serve more people. The city doesn't see that, they say oh okay this building is old and we're putting too much money into it and we don't have a lot of people that are in there they have to look at it like what more can we be providing in this space what evolution has happened in the community that needs that we can utilize a space that we own as an asset that provides outreach to community what can we provide that's an evolutionary services support community where they are now and put that into that space and build that innovation to market and bring people back into those spaces so that we can still use money like we were talking about the police center that can be a help resource in that community space because guess what communities are not that healthy when you have people that are living on the streets. And we know that you know building that health asset, that public safety asset that brings in federal dollars because, guess what, health and maintenance for a city is a provision that could be provided along with city recreation, arts, and services.
JOE: And there's already a senior nutrition center in that building, so how can we build a health center?
TERESSA: Exactly so build it. We have veganism that’s happening in Portland. We have all these community gardens that are helping fund families food in Multnomah County Health Department and different agencies come on let's build in a kitchen in this space let's provide healthy eating courses let's provide a space where we can do community feeds and volunteer work for people that are also seeing a housing issue that's happening that's creating the homeless issue that's providing a hunger issue in our communities like make the space the space that helps us innovate our community outreach. We need more political services to be funded for social outreach and why not use a space that's already there and art, we need to use art for social change we use art for to communicate better things that are necessary art brings community together we have all we need to build a better society, we don't use it.
JOE: And the city actually says we have city arts tax that suggests how much we are committed to doing city arts.
TERESSA: You get people involved an education and volunteerism and that does affect them directly through art when we talk about gun violence when you utilize art that brings communities together you know when we talk about police brutality when we utilize art like the theatrical versions and the stuff that's happening in museums right now it gets people to have these discussions and these dialogues and usually when you become affected by information about what’s happening in your community you become effective about doing something about it you become a part of that productive unit that makes a difference you don't just keep going the other way you've been affected you've been brought in I watch people stopped at our table all the time during Sunday Parkways and there's always a dad on a bike with his arms crossed that his engagement engagement of his child getting free books about people from different communities that their children are excited to get and their realizing we are giving away free backpacks that are fully loaded with supplies for kids and there's no sign up sheets and that those arms becomes uncrossed and you have free water for me and you're using this from community support and not getting grants you're not out there hustling like really wanting to make sure that we're safe in our community right now and you're not out here trying to indoctrinate us with anti-police language or anything it's just like you just want to know us you want to know us and you want us to know that families that are affected by gun violence give back and make art and still live and have courage like damn who's going to argue with that and where is the division we feel the same way you know.
JOE: And it's funny because it's not the conversation that we hear from our mayoral candidate we here everyone talking about gun projects here in it schools and it ends up being some kind of over stepping and I rarely get the idea from our elected officials that they have core values as or set of values that's been built as much as yours has because the amount of activism that you done and all the different types of communities you've been exposed to. An elected official is going to get to hear from certain set of the population they don’t hear it and you are with everyone else all those others that feel disenfranchised from going and speaking to their elected official they see someone that is approachable that is from the neighborhood and are an running an organization that’s called Don’t Shoot Portland with the intent of protecting the people from being shot.
TERESSA: With the community action plan and it even says Don't Shoot Portland a community action plan which is basically let’s look at the root causes of violence whatever it is and then we're supposed to cap in it and the cap is the community action plan people are like why do you have like bullet holes what is this cap thing and i was like its the community action plan because we were talking we glorify violence and we see children growing up in there like in families that are shooting and we are looking at this and we're saying what's wrong with him why are they doing this and they're busting caps right and that's slang on the street well what if we busted a cap that didn't have include violence that was anti-violence but didn't directly say that but had a community action plan that plants those seeds and grows those efforts and that's what we've been doing.
JOE: How long has Don’t Shoot Portland been around?
TERESSA: I would say for 9 years my nephew got killed on September 26th 2010 and I was home and I was advised by Mayor Adams to have conversations with people that worked at Multnomah County Health Department and I kind of start going to the city hall meetings and these gang task force meetings and all these different agencies for everything that has to do with my nephew's life as a 19 year old in Portland because I want to understand why did his life why did he lose his life why did he die why did he have a gun when he died why are other kids dying why did we propagate that we are a community against violence when they died with pastors and politicians and community leaders that didn't have answers and didn't have resources and did it in my opinion I didn't understand now through the audits an intention to stop the violence but they're quantifying how many children were dying I needed to answer those questions then and I started from the time that happened and never stopped. Trayvon Martin got killed by George Zimmerman in Florida and people in our community contacted me because that happened after my nephew’s death. Yashanee Vaughn was killed by Parrish Bennette Jr here in Portland and her body was left up at Rocky Butte the city Portland knew and the police knew but they wanted to save the the killers life that the proximity to the politics and I couldn't get away from that either because of how how bad it felt to watch a 14 year old child go missing for that amount of time and none of our city's efforts to be used in order to to help her family identify where she was at. I watched the community have to organize from their home without any of these leaders that are saying stop the violence to help find the gunshot victim that was murdered by her 14 year old boyfriend and left on a hill that we all know on our in our community as a space that is supposed to be like you know like a safe space or sanctuary for people I seen the in the let's say the the acquiescence of people to ask questions about why are children are failing or why we're not being housed or why mass incarceration exists I've been getting those answers and it's been because of my nephew’s death it's been because of Trayvon Martin's death it really creates an even bigger opportunity after Mike Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri and when I say a bigger opportunity it's because since I was out there and accountability people counted on me to help them be educated on what they need to do to demand accountability and I utilized my leadership and where I was at with that work outside of like Moms Demand Action and Ceasefire Oregon and some of the agencies that got me to the White House to meet Michelle Obama. I use those processes to share what community that was affected and just wanted to protest and I don't know if when a protest happens how people go home without a call to action but when I have created an opportunity to use education of what I’ve understood and sharing processes in navigation of the systems with thousands of people and really millions of people across the world through social media that's what helped developed Don’t Shoot Portland as an effective change agency for people in here in our community.It was the national and global solidarity of movements that helped give us more effective outcomes from our leadership and that's the shame in everything is that the local things that were happening while they did affect people in a very drastic way the lens that was reflected on us through our commitment to protest in nonviolent direct action and the tens of thousand of people that joined in that made a difference. That was the community action plan that actually got us audits those were the community action plans that got us the recording grand jury bills and state legislator and the revisions of some of these measures that were “” and audits on DHS and our housing prices and everything else it was those bodies on the ground and the informed community members that were coming to those protests. And the information that we were able to promote out to them like media we were creating our own media like that if there's a picture that have a link to a Change.org petition or a video that has information that tells you to contact your legislator and with a link that tells you who that person is where they actually live shutting down City Hall to do a tour that shows people where the bureau's are located so I can go in there and effectively be heard like I just that transition of power to the people based on their trauma of violence it’s crazy stuff it’s crazy.
JOE: I am looking for a parallel trying to find out where does this go where can we be “”. When I came out as a teenager it seemed like AIDS was going to be a death sentence to all of us. So similar to growing up on the streets we're growing up in a violent household you might think that gun violence be the natural outcome of your life, it’s the lens in which you look at things. I just met with a friend that's been working with HIV positive people for decades and now we're in this situation where rather than HIV patients and people with AIDS passing away they are living very long long lives and we're now into take that little bit of statistics and we did with changing our health systems we had to ignore gay men for years until we started education we had our newspapers that got our pictures out in front of people and we showed people what a gay person was we had straight people that were picking up the newspapers learning about what it meant to be gay and have AIDS and realizing wait a minute this isn't what I thought it was.
TERESSA: It was an intervention.
JOE: Right, so what you're describing to me about how we're working with the policing systems across the United States might have some opportunity for change. It's probably not going to happen all over all at once but it's probably going to happen in a certain city, you know. For instance Chicago one of the biggest cities that we think of when it comes to gun violence elected Lori Lightfoot who has made that part of her center issue is to deal with the issues there.
TERESSA: She was a district attorney, she was a prosecutor actually so...
JOE: Right, so a lot of whom are being paid from getting those audits done looking at the actual data and information and looking at ways to seem almost too simple.
TERESSA: Okay, unless you have a policy that mandates that upholds the patriarchy of white supremacy we are in America on stolen land.
JOE: We are still fighting so many different systems to get up there.
TERESSA: We're trying to dismantle the system that got us here because it's never been okay it was never built on reasonability it was trauma when you come and you dominate a land and you commit genocide and then you build up like we’re in the year of 1619 it's 400 years since first people were enslaved and brought to this stolen land as cattle as monetized enslave people that's the tragic history of dominance and violence and we're still building on it at some point our generations have to say I don't want that inheritance I'm here we're here what are we going to do to better ourselves in society that we've created that it's not okay and intentionally dismantle it and I believe that the generations that are coming behind us because of the leadership from the generations that allow us to be who we are and I'm talking about me and you sitting across the table from each other and knowing our lives experience. That generation is going to have the power to make the real direct change. We have to make sure that we take it from the people that have it now.
JOE: Excellent I was I was just going to be my question is how do we deal with the our generation and older I get really concerned about some of my elders who aren't paying attention to the young kids who might be aware of the “” but they might not be aware of the all of the movement that is happening at a much younger level because they are so much more communicative and frankly so much more impressive.
TERESSA: Yes they're using every form of media they're using animation and they're making their own YouTube channels their influencers. They’re way faster than us and my thought is I'm not going to spend a lot of time trying to educate elders when I can provide resources to our children that are fighting for this access to education they don't want to come in and just take the mantles they want to understand why they're there they want understand what is this and how is that and I would love to spend my life giving them that access and giving them this information so that they can have it I don't think that they should have to fight for it and you know and if I was to spend my time trying to convince the wheelers and the dealers on how to compromise with our human rights and dignity then I'm going to be wasting my time and the City of Portland's time as a leader and so there is no compromise there I'm moving forward I'm looking forward I am a mom I'm a grandma I'm going to educate my children and give them this inheritance that belongs to them this is their world they're going to inherit our mess I'm going to give them the tools so that we can dismantle it. You know and it's going to happen Joseph.
JOE: Really into that. I asked Joann Hardesty after she had just been elected. We had we have this report that came out that said we need to shift how Portland elected City officials to a regional system because of something I don't know what that something is because now that every other city has done it I've only found that only time that the report came out was after there were two black women on the ballot. So it only makes me think that question that I don't think most people are putting those two together that we had black women. So what do you think about that […] in the report and I don't know that if we hadn’t recently re-elected positions that we would have wound up what that race and we would have wound up with an African American.
TERESSA: And we definitely would wind up with one that’s a winner. The things about politics it's that we can always make something a staple to get people to feel invested, right and I believe that we've already talked about Vera Katz and how she's an effective leader and she's working within the same systems in the community. Anybody that has the intention of serving people, people first and that priority is in place and is going to be able to work with every system that they have. On the chance to take away a priority of inclusion that's what our patriarchy system does. It says oh no you can't advance to this level because it's too complicated for you and because of the complications of this system no one can become a good leader unless we change that system which means you're going to be in later after we make these mandatory changes and that is going to help all of us because we're the last city to adopt a different charter and it's hurting us so bad no it's the leadership that's hurting us so bad it's acquiescence of leaders and the relationships appointed stakeholders that have no accountability and have no direct engagement with the community that is a lacking our outreach and management and support systems of this city and audits don’t lie. Ok so our liveability and sustainability are based on ineffective leadership and it's only ineffective because it doesn’t list the people on the front lines. I’m not just talking about activists Bureau managers or supervisors and the people that have been on working in the systems is that 20 in 30 years those are assets those are people that as they retire I no longer connected to us that you are going to lose valuable relationship priorities for changing the systems and enhancing the parts of our city in the way that we achieve the extension of the public services because they have not been listened to and they have our goods and they have that experience connecting those ideas to help us build those efficient processes I mean the only reason that I demand audits because I want to figure out how to do it better it's not to basically say that someone did something wrong and we're going to mad at them and they going to need to be removed it's just that the system that allowed it to be wrong inherently just supportive for whatever was supposed to give us an achievement and now we have a mirror and a blueprint on how we make it better we need somebody that will support that and take those things and say hey we don't need to worry whistleblowing because we listen to people that say something is wrong in our city we're not going to alienate them I'm not going to fire them and tell them there's a gag order or you can't get hired or anyting those are valuable components city leadership if we take a back of them if we use those experiences to we make something happened that's how I do work that's how I've been able to do my activism I didn't know that I how is even an activist I was just upset my nephew dying and I didn't want other children to die I wanted to support families that were coming to me because I have a presented that platform and I couldn't believe it when I had grandmothers is coming to me that just needed health support and I couldn't believe it when I had families come to me that just needed housing support and I couldn't believe when people were coming to me because children that were in our foster care were also game letters of support when are foster parents that being stripped and being victims of the sexual violence it's like none of that had to do with guns and my nephew dying but people need that someone that was approachable and accessible I could actually just teach them what they need to do I didn't do the work for any of these people I sat down and said ok I just told them this is what we're going to do we're going to meet at a coffee shop with our laptops and I'm going to show you how to do this or who we need to contact let's go to this event let's talk to them in person the only thought I had was that their priority as elected officials was that they work for me and I was going to show him how that works by showing it so.
JOE: Speaking of shutting up the last thing I'm going to ask you about is this between the last time we talked and today we had big national news about you know the huge riot that was “”. It started out with the Proud Boys protest coming to town from wherever they come from and we had talked about having a large response that would essentially drown them out and that following Wednesday the City had kind of a meeting or something saying the same thing “” and then come Saturday not much happening in that way all the national news had been about “” we do know that the police escorted a group of Proud Boys across the Hawthorne Bridge the claim is that they were attempting to leave and get back to their cars but the messaging was not good the result that I came away with was that while although we didn't have any massive, anyone hurt or anything like that which is a good thing what it looks like it was more support for extra police and militarizing a response for people that are looking to “”
JOE: What would you have done differently?
TERESSA: I wouldn't make them feel at home I wouldn't give them opportunity to even have a permit in our city I have a really a my thought about free speech as an activist as someone that has been arrested while protesting and has been acquitted as a protester by a jury I believe that there's a difference between free speech and hate speech and I believe that when you have a city where just in March we prosecuted Russell Courtier and Colleen Hunt for the murder of a black child that was killed by Russell Courtier a known white supremacist a member of the European kindred and we just named a street after Mr Seraw who was murdered by the Metzger family and some other races back in the 80s that if were saying that we're sanctuary a city if you know a building stronger hate crime initiatives if our district attorney is even bringing forth and prosecuting these type of crimes why would our city permit a known hate group that has been identified by Southern Poverty Law Center as such and has been connected to murders across the country like that of Heather Heyer’s why would we allow them to have a permit why would we provide any resources that are paid for by our taxpayers to support them the initiation of providing that permit I would rather go to court to argue of free speech mandate against hate speech then provide that to them because guess what a city has better resources than an individual and if you want to say and provide sanctuary for your city than you have to stand up for it.
JOE: What a fantastic court case that would have been what a statement that would have sent we are more willing to go to court over protecting our citizens than to allow that kind of hate into our communities, kind of backward yeah right?
TERESSA: Exactly do they have the type of situation to you know like come on can you disprove that you've created circumstance where people have been harmed and murdered because that’s same weekend the city did know and I'm sure they had conversations with the District Attorney's that they were going to indict people that showed up so they allowed it to happen and they know that they had a indictments for people so you know it's not safe even though provision of taking them over to OMSI where families are was unsafe who's practical idea was that to move a known hate group, near a place where or a region, where there’s going to be diverse community of children and their families those children being exposed to that type of hate in 2019 just the exposure of it militarization the weapons their hate weapons, they’re tools of destruction of violence come on
JOE: And what I heard in the lead up to it and why I didn't show up was because I had heard that the police were interacting with representatives from both sides and I don’t “” if I were to go so I don't know what that mechanism why is the police communicating with these supposed leaders made me very uncomfortable is not the group of people I look to see to provide my safety and support the group that I look to is my peers the people that look like me and I don't want the police working with them in that way it seems very backward.
TERESSA: It's disingenuous when you see the conversations and all the different media around those connections when you see what's happening across the country with law enforcement agencies and even some of our military agencies interacting on these websites with these different groups and having is very strategic conversations about what to do to activists and how to “” them and how to take your own right to murder people or to harm people like there's more than enough evidence that is hopefully being looked at by FBI and other agencies that has created criminal circumstances for my kind of freedom of speech where we have no violence no intent no people speaking of it we would hope that they would use those as mandates for public safety to say well that it is not okay this is extreme violence that we are allowing we're saying that we don't want to stop mass shootings and we’re I don't see any kind of methods that are being promoted to stop that but it's the same thing with these hate groups there's no methods are being provided to stop them and so when we say that law enforcement agencies we should look up to them to provide safety for us without those mechanisms actually existing or being attainable or accessible that's propaganda for our community or state police it's basically supporting state violence and increasing the likelihood that yourself or me or our children or community would be harmed by them because we allowed them to have structure I knew we were going to have a problem with these groups when we allowed Joey Gibson to come into City Hall for coffee I remember I look at it videos from protests that we did in 2014 and 2015 where they would show up and I would see their little signs on them they would be over there with their little bullhorn and I would tell people don't engage with them did not provide them a platform I look at the same videos now and I'm like these are the same people I had three to five people on the side and no one was looking at them or talking to them except for maybe a toxic cis white male and I would always have to say hey don't give them the platform come over here and let's just chat but we would never give them that because a provision of a platform creates an opportunity for you to share your indoctrination and if it's violence if it's to humiliate people why become part of the problem.
JOE: Right and it just seems like we're trying to take the freedom of speech lines so far that there’s no responsibility for freedom of speech you know we've always had some form of responsibility “”
TERESSA: That’s white supremacy, it's upholding white supremacy it’s saying not it’s you have to prove to me that you're not bad but I'm great and whatever I say is not hate you know what I'm saying is good it's the good America it's who we are its part of our values it's patriotism it's the real justice it's you know that real American way and if you say anything else you're indecent you're beneath us your other and the values were marginalized or at risk or just disadvantaged the other people we have segregated systems to show who the others are we can actually identify who the people are through the othering and we're supporting that still so that on top of all the organized hate groups you need systemic change that knows what that looks like knows what it feels like and can tell the difference it's not going to support it it's not going to allow it permitted it's not going to negotiate with it.
JOE: What, This is my last question.
TERESSA: This is the longest podcast ever, what are you writing a book here?
JOE: Right I just love it. So at the end of the six years of two terms of being mayor what is like the biggest thing you'd like to say got accomplished? What would that look like?
TERESSA: I mean just the innovation of policy, changing mandates moving systems that create oppression sweeping of “” stakeholder groups and bring in fresh wind re-evaluating some of our outreach bureaus like the bureau of civic life the art bureau the ones that mandate the social order of inclusion that it still don't. Re-evaluating how we build infrastructure and build sustainability here and how many “” are removed and how many infrastructures look rehabilitated you know looking at our infrastructure and see did change happen here you know how is our evolution as society how are people treating each other here how are we working with businesses to practice public safety and how are we measuring our children's outcomes in our education systems by developing the jobs and opportunities that don't just place them in county and city and state jobs but creates an innovated mom-and-pop types situation that way used to have where kids could you walk down the streets and every neighborhood was an arts district or science district or technology district or you know a community outreach district you know I see downtown Portland with all the hubs with all the different Central City Concern and all the Multnomah County Health Department and all these different agencies if that turned into a public safety district a healthy district that's momentum for the entire city you know what I'm saying a healthy district with walking and biking and food and services and the provision of healthy access to city bureaus and resources that intentional method of developing our parks to provide community building efforts and putting those recreational resources out there so we don't divide community but we provide for our community just the holistic stuff the basics, come on, you know that corny stuff that neighborhoods enjoy when it comes to making them more accessible to the people that inhabit them.
JOE: Essentially, wanting to be here.
TERESSA: Wanting to be here, want to make Portland comfortable for all of us and I know my daughter just got here from Denver and her friend Britt came down and she’s never been to Portland she's like woah are those real flowers running across the street and touching them but then she left this morning to go to Fred Meyers and had to walk past people that are sleeping outside and you know she didn't see that yesterday when she walked north on 18th but when she walked west on Burnside she could see all of it and you can't keep hiding the blight and we can't keep saying that blight exists because of those people it's just us, we are our city’s leaders what is your focus in your community if it's not to provide health and safety to the people that are building the economic infrastructure and supporting it then you got a problem because your bottom line is not taking care of. To me, the bottom line should be the people.