Central Oregon activists are staying engaged and optimistic in their efforts to bring about change for a variety of social issues, thanks in part to online platforms that keep them connected.
Mylea Parker, is one local leader comfortable in her online role.
“Internet activism can be beneficial,” Parker said.
She has seen this firsthand. Her Instagram has over 2,000 followers and according to Parker has become a resource for current events in Bend and Portland.
Parker is a Black Lives Matter activist is also a board member with Central Oregon Black Leaders Assembly, another BLM activist group with an online presence. Parker stepped into her role recently as she “felt compelled to be out in the streets” back in late May after the death of George Floyd. She also credits the election and COVID-19 for inspiring her to get more involved, because Parker, like many in the country, reached a breaking point. She now is a local leader in the effort to inform and mobilize her community.
However, Parker doesn’t do it alone.
She works with the help of other local organizations like Central Oregon Diversity Project. The Central Oregon Diversity Project was co-founded by Kerstin Arias and Josie Stanfield. Their goal is to provide a platform for “resolution, progressiveness, and diversity.” CODP functions as a way to mobilize and inform the community.
The CODP Facebook page now has over 2,400 followers and reaches the social media feeds of many Bendites. This level of community outreach has provided the community with opportunities to speak with Bend city council, Bend police, and even Mayor Sally Russel.
Jace Bracelin with Central Oregon’s chapter of the Socialist Party (another progressive activist group) stresses the “power” CODP brings to local mobilization. These opportunities for the community to make their voices heard may have never happened if not for the mobilization efforts of the group. Arias said, “it was at a point where we just got tired of watching.”
According to Arias, however, these gains came at a cost. On top of being heckled by counter protestors, some leaders have reported death threats and are being followed home by strangers. Arias is unfazed. “We’re gonna make this country a better place or stop saying it’s the best country to live in,” Arias said.
Another local leader is Michalla Garcia. Last year she founded A Safe Sister, a nonprofit providing resources for survivors of rape and sexual assault. Garcia is passionate about many issues, but houselessness, racial inequity and mental health are the cornerstone of her platform.
Garcia draws her passion for social justice from her own life experiences. She was raised Jehovah’s Witnesses which she described as an “extreme religion” in terms of what “you can and can’t do.” She also is a survivor of sexual violence herself.
Garcia started a campaign for City Council over the summer before dropping out and endorsing Anthony Broadman. Garcia did so in hopes of better serving her community.
Garcia realized on City Council she wouldn’t have the time to focus on issues she feels most passionate about.
“I’m not gonna help people who don’t need my help, it doesn’t make sense,” Garcia said.
Garcia also works closely with groups like CODP and COBLA to organize and mobilize. Garcia, like many others in Bend are working on “shedding light on everything we should be focusing on right now.”