“Here to Stay” People of Color in Rural Oregon navigate barriers during the COVID-19 pandemic
How Connie is transforming the lives of Josephine County BIPOC residents
A report out from Cave Junction, OR
Connie is a retiree, community leader, and a SO Health-E advocate who has served the BIPOC community for 10 years. After retiring she continues to fulfill her aspiration of lifting up BIPOC people by remaining an active member of the community. Connie works towards creating a more inclusive society towards all. She describes herself as a person of color working in the rural areas of Josephine County mainly in the Illinois Valley. Her efforts continue to shape the lives of BIPOC community members in Southern Oregon.
Connie facilitates the Josephine COVID-19 relief designed to help BIPOC folks, hard of hearing community members, and LGBTQ people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this relief fund about $10,000 of this funding has been distributed. During her time serving the Illinois Valley, she finds that not many people have applied for support. Connie argues this is tied to the community dynamic, one in which people are not always friendly and community oriented-especially to people of color. She mentions that Black, Indigenous, Latino/a/x, and Asian people find themselves isolating themselves from the local community. Additionally, the support and availability of resources for people of color are scarce, oftentimes unknown, and the resources that are available are not used. Ultimately, it can be said that people are afraid to ask for support or don’t know how to attain it.
Connie’s experience when going into the local county office was not a pleasant one. She states that she did not get a warm fuzzy experience from the institution and the workers there. Connie believes that all in all, this type of experience makes people uncomfortable and adds to the isolation and lack of support people are experiencing/receiving. In Connie’s words “people will need to get used to it. People of color are here to stay and our community dynamics need to adjust for the change that is coming.”
Connie’s goal is to work on building a safe environment for all BIPOC individuals. The goal is to make all voices in the shadows heard and valued. She also states we need to hire more people of color in all institutions---banks, medical facilities, stores, etc. She advocates for more representation and awareness of the vital role that people of color play in many ways within Josephine County. One of her other goals is to make resources to people in the Illinois Valley known as well as accessible.
Connie believes that the biggest need in the Illinois Valley is missing major public institutions. She commented that we need to work on making major establishments accessible. All in all, there is a need for things such as additional medical services, a social security office, a nice and affordable grocery store, and a small Walmart.” Another area that could use work is public transportation which does not run on weekends.
Ultimately, Connie believes that her biggest takeaway from this experience has been bringing spotlight to the resources available to the BIPOC community and strives to find new ways to do outreach to get people the resources they need.
What Connie would like elected officials to know: Oregon needs work to eliminate the “bad reputation” it has for the way it has treated people of color and needs to work towards creating a “welcoming atmosphere.” She questions officials about what community leaders can do alongside established organizations to make sure people are not underserved and marginalized; starting with health. She argues that health encompasses many things--houselessness, food, law enforcement, all things that affect health…. She wants her voice to be heard to together build a strong foundation to help all BIPOC communities.