Not all of Oregon’s past is explained by a history book. Compared to other parts of the country, Oregon has a low population of African Americans, leaving some to wonder about the lack of diversity. Central Oregon Community College students are invited to discuss the historical causes in a discussion led by Professor Walidah Imarisha, of Portland State University. “Why Aren’t There More Black People in Oregon: A Hidden History” will be making its first appearance on COCC’s campus on Feb. 29 in Willie Hall at 6:30 pm.
The workshop will open with an interactive timeline that maps out the historical events that have led to a lack of diversity in Oregon. From there, students will be encouraged to discuss the events, their thoughts and possibilities for the future.
“It’s food for thought and brings awareness to what’s going on behind the scenes,” said Karen Aylward,director of the Nancy R. Chandler Visiting Scholar program.
Although this is the first time COCC will be host to this workshop, some students are already familiar with the discussion. In 2011, Gabriela Hernandez and Damaris Monroy attended a discussion as well as a series of other workshops that they were invited to through their involvement in COCC’s Latino Program.
“The information was very good, it’s not something you get into every day,” said Hernandez, the president of the Latino Club. What she learned at the Hidden History event did more than open her eyes to the reality of the black population, said Hernandez; she was also able to apply what she learned to the Latino community.
“It’s a topic that people don’t like to talk about,” Hernandez said on integration of minority groups. She believes it’s partially peoples’ unwillingness to ask questions of different ethnic groups out of fear of offending them that hinders the progress of diversity.
“It’s not being disrespectful, it’s curiosity,” said Hernandez. She hopes that other students will attend the workshop and become more comfortable with openly discussing racial issues.
Monroy is also hoping that the workshop will get a big student turn out and that the attendants will get as much out of the experience as she did.
“I never really saw Oregon as a racist state,” said Monroy. “It was very eye-opening. There are a lot of people who ask the same questions but don’t have any answers.”
Students interested in finding the answers to their questions can attend the event for free and Aylward is hoping for a big turn out. She hopes students will take away a better understanding of what has happened in the past and what needs to be done in the future.
“I hope people leave thinking ‘what changes should we seek?’” said Aylward.