Eric K. Ward

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Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Western States Center executive director Eric Ward issued the following statement:

“The current scene at the Capitol is a fitting end to the Trump era. This president has relentlessly fueled conspiracy theories and repeatedly spurred his supporters — including white nationalists and militia members — to violence. There is no excuse for throngs of Americans attacking the national seat of democracy in an effort to block the peaceful transfer of power. Blame rests squarely with Trump and his many enablers.

“Responsible elected officials should publicly condemn the attack on the Capitol and urge all protesters to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights. The violence has to stop, and our elected leaders must lead. We can see that Trump is seeding extremism and political violence for years to come. It will take a concerted effort, particularly by responsible Republican and conservative leaders, to safeguard democracy and stave off bloodshed.” …


By Eric K. Ward

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The election of Donald J. Trump as our nation’s 45th president spurred me to leave a job in philanthropy to return to the Pacific Northwest where I believed the region would once again be a proving ground between the white nationalist movement and those who would choose to resist it. The torch-bearing white nationalists in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us” spurred Joe Biden to get back in the game. …


By Eric K. Ward

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Hey, look around it’s all so clear/ Hey, wherever we were going, well we’re here/ Hey, so many things I never thought I’d see/ Happening right in front of me ~Brad Paisley, Welcome to the Future

“Welcome to the future.” That Brad Paisley lyric is what came to mind as the results of this historic election were confirmed. That and: It’s time to breathe. And time to dream, again.

Over this past year, as bad as it’s been, I’ve often thought: we’ve already won the war. By that I mean that the majority of Americans believe in an inclusive democracy. They believe Black lives matter. …


By Eric K. Ward

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Barbara Smith, Audre Lorde, Cherríe Moraga, Hattie Gossett, Helena Byard, Susan Yung, Ana Oliveira, Cherrie Moraga, Rosío Alvarez, Alma Gomez, and Leota Lone Dog were co-founders of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press; discovering their writings at Mother Kali’s feminist bookstore in Eugene in the mid-1980s changed my life.

Updated to reflect the early results of the Nov. 3 election

Folks wonder how I’m managing to stay calm, cool, and collected in this time of such intensity. It’s largely due to the voices of so many incredible women of color. Women whose words create winds of unfolding possibilities, whose courage shines down on us like the starlight above, whose footsteps rustle along the quiet earth setting the pace for the coming of spring.

Listen. Can you hear them?

“To all the counted outs, the forgotten abouts, the marginalized, and the pushed asides. This is our moment. We came together to end a 52-year family dynasty. That’s how we build the political revolution.” …


By Eric K. Ward

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A trip to Kentucky to meet a ghost: the Old Stone Jail in Shepherdsville, hearing my music for the first time.

“Not always got along. Too much to ignore/ But still you find your way and she stakes her claim/ Another day but she knows you’ll be alright/ It’s all right Kentucky night. Kentucky nights make it right.” ~ Bulldog Shadow

One hundred and sixteen years before Louisville police fired the 32 rounds that killed Breonna Taylor, a hail of bullets was aimed at another African American woman just south of the city. Mary Dent Thompson, a sharecropper in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, was the target of an extrajudicial killing — like the one that took Breonna and countless other Black lives. Only 28 years old, Mary was dragged from a jail cell in the early morning hours by a lynch mob. Hung up from a tree. …


New guidance helps families and caregivers protect vulnerable children and teens from white nationalist targeting

By Western States Center staff

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It’s a gross understatement to say that 2020 has been a year of unprecedented challenges for parents and caregivers concerned with helping young people make sense of the world. First, the COVID-19 pandemic hit; then, news of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. We’ve witnessed months of sustained racial justice protests that erupted in response to those killings and deadly backlash to these protests. After a stressful and contested back-to-school season, the 2020 election is now just days away. …


By Eric K. Ward

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Photo courtesy of Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, Commissioner-in-Charge of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, who answered our call to action by devoting readerboards to messages reading “Portland United Against Hate” and “Black Lives Matter,” giving a visible signal to the whole community.

I don’t often use Medium to toot Western States Center’s own horn, but you know you’re doing something right when Black multi-media giant BET publishes your organizational analysis of white nationalism in the same week a noted rabbi calls your organization’s work on antisemitism “essential torah” and the elected officials of a major city put out a press release to thank your team for the training they delivered on these subjects.

I especially want to praise our program team’s strategic and effective leadership over the past two years, as we’ve contended with the determination of white nationalists — and their Defender in Chief — to make our hometown of Portland, Oregon the front line of their war on inclusive democracy. …


By Eric K. Ward

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Pledge your dissent from the authoritarian takeover of our democracy underway.

“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.” ~ Harriet Tubman

We’ve lost a great friend and champion.

We’re reeling. It’s been body blow after body blow to the body politic.

We’re mourning. It can feel overwhelming.

The presidential election results will likely be contested in the courts this year, decided by the highest court in the land, the court now missing its strongest antiauthoritarian voice.

When I heard the news of her death, I heard the dogs, the shouting; I saw the torches in the woods. Those prophetic words came to mind: Don’t ever stop. …


By Eric K. Ward

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I won’t lie. It’s bad. Very bad. Off-the-charts hazardous smoke not likely to dissipate for at least a week, despite the predicted rains. These photos were taken 12 hours apart. The right photo is the more recent one.

For us in Portland proper, danger from fire isn’t the issue for now; smoke is. I can’t even begin to describe just how hazardous it is outside. Not only are the city’s vulnerable populations in serious jeopardy, but so are the displaced rural populations being welcomed into sanctuary here.

Disappointingly, in the midst of this historic natural disaster, state infrastructure is showing itself to be completely inadequate. It’s no longer an issue of bad governance; the deeper issue is depleted resources. …


By Eric K. Ward

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Even as Portland and the nation continue to be rocked by authoritarian and vigilante responses to racial justice protest, it’s important to return to the underlying conditions that result in these moments of crisis for our democracy. I’m asking you to stay with me while I turn your attention to another piece of the puzzle.

As I’ve been saying recently, when it comes to inclusive democracy, winning the peace is as important as winning the war. …

About

Western States Center

Based in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain States, Western States Center works nationwide to strengthen inclusive democracy.

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