Portland State University and its partners on Monday considered not just who we are and who we want to be as a community, but how to get there.
Leaders from PSU, Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU), Portland Community College (PCC) and the City of Portland spoke up about anti-racism during the Community Blessing and Dedication Ceremony for the Fourth and Montgomery Building on PSU’s campus.
The speakers were responding to a recent hate incident this past May on the construction site for the building which is slated to open later this fall. The speakers expressed their belief in the strength and opportunities that their partnership could provide during the ceremony. The speakers, who stood in PSU’s Urban Plaza with the in-progress structure standing behind them, also agreed that change could come if we work for it together.
PSU President Stephen Percy and the other leaders highlighted how they planned to ensure that change could come and hopes for racial justice could be realized. PSU has enacted new policies and practices to promote equity and strengthen an inclusive culture and PSU has created a racial equity fund that will contribute $1.5 million over the next three years to anti-racist work. PSU has also established a campus safety committee with a focus on achieving safety while maintaining “racial justice and human dignity,” Percy said. In addition, this October, PSU will convene for a racial equity summit, which he said would envision “a just and equitable future” and chart a course toward that future.
“Friends, this work runs deep,” Percy said. “It requires passion and compassion, commitment, authenticity and sustained work.”
Co-leading the meeting with Percy was Portland NAACP President and Rev. E.D. Mondainé. Mondainé said this nation must hold true to the equality on which it is founded.
“This moment in the fierce urgency of now, we must stand together or not at all,” Mondainé said.
The 175,000-square-foot building, which Andersen Construction will complete in late November, will house the PSU College of Education, PCC’s dental programs, some City of Portland offices and the joint OHSU-PSU School of Public Health.
OHSU-PSU School of Public Health Founding Dean David Bangsberg said that his school has room for students seeking to end racism, climate change and COVID-19, but “there is no room for hate in the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health.”
PSU College of Education Professor and Dean Marvin Lynn agreed that this community is saying no to hate.
“We will not be terrorized by those who seek to threaten and divide us,” Lynn said. “We say yes to advancing opportunity to all people. We say yes to Black Lives Matter.”
Lynn said he and his colleagues also say yes to the opportunities that this new edifice holds.
“For the first time in history, the College of Education will have a permanent home with all of its academic programs and supporting administrative units in one place,” Lynn said. “Because of a generous gift from Christine and David Vernier and an anonymous donor, we will have a state-of-the-art STEM classroom that will serve as an amazing resource for students, alumni and for STEM teachers across the region.”
The collaboration of multiple groups is clear in the diversity of services the seven-story building will contain: low-cost mental health facilities, classrooms, offices, retail shops and a dental clinic.
“Throughout history, it’s been coalitions of the willing, like this one between OHSU, PSU, Portland Community College and the City of Portland around shared values, goals and objectives that have transformed society,” OHSU President Danny Jacobs said. “The people, programs and things that will occupy this space will provide tremendous opportunity. It’s up to us to act.”
PCC Chief Diversity Officer Tricia Brand also shared how crucial this partnership is, especially as the city and nation have catalyzed a “movement for justice, recognition, reckoning, reconciliation and, now, renewal.” She said this partnership exemplifies innovation.
“This is a clear example of how resources can be leveraged for the best outcomes in Portland, and we are engaged in a collective reimagining that must first begin with a moment of renewal,” Brand said.
Andersen Construction CEO Joel Andersen said he has begun to reimagine how his workers and colleagues go about their approach to issues of discrimination on the basis of race and sex, establishing the Safe from Hate campaign.
“This will be the moment that changed us,” Andersen said. “I can give you my word on that.”
The City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability Director Andrea Durbin said her organization is also committed to prioritizing racial justice in its work.
“That’s the commitment we’re making, and it’s important to hold us to that,” Durbin said. “We are committed to taking action for racial justice.”
PSU Vice President for Global Diversity & Inclusion Ame Lambert also pointed to the work that’s in store to prevent further incidents of discrimination.
“To those who are for this work and even to those we are against it, we invite you to watch us move forward unbowed and unafraid towards an envisioned future of equity and justice where Black lives indeed do matter,” Lambert said. “Onward.”
College of Education Coordinator for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Andres Guzman said that it was profoundly important that these leaders chose to unite and create this ceremony to “make meaning out of all the pain and violence — both past and ongoing — that this act of terror conjured up.”
“This is what today represents and why this event is so significant for our community: to mark symbolically a shift away from the trauma and pain towards healing and hope,” Guzman said.
Truly, this day has been a milestone as leaders united to take a stand against hate and share their hope for the future. OHSU-PSU School of Public Health Assistant Professor Ryan Petteway shared his passion for change with a poem:
“So as we gather beneath a listening sky
to bless these grounds,
feel the pulse of the ‘fierce urgency of now’
echoing the earth beneath our feet,
in the violence of silence between
This is our Land.”
Smooth-toned musician Alonzo Chadwick concluded the ceremony with his performance of Sam Cooke’s “Change is Gonna Come.” As Cooke says, “It's been a long, a long time coming.”