In 2015, a local book club focussed on self-education about racial justice morphed into a local chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). Faith Reidenbach, a dedicated and energetic local activist, was instrumental in creating our Facebook group, this website, and a monthly newsletter, all of which continue today. The group continued the book club and started holding monthly community meetings, such as “Saturday Dialogues: A Series of Conversations About Racism in Corvallis”. Other local racial justice organizations, such as CARE Albany and the local NAACP chapter, supported and collaborated with Corvallis SURJ.
Important roles for Corvallis SURJ included publicizing events and opportunities surrounding racial justice work, organizing a Sandra Bland memorial and vigil, supporting Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and staffing tables and booths at various events.
In 2016, Corvallis SURJ received a $2,000 grant from the Linn Benton Health Equity Alliance. This generous grant supported direct actions, including protest of proposed anti-immigrant ballot initiatives, partnering with the NAACP to protest police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and enrolling people in One Oregon. We also donated money and time to Casa Latinos Unidos, the local NAACP organization, and Here to Stay, an OSU student group; these relationships have continued.
Corvallis SURJ also joined with the League of Women Voters to promote information about anti-immigrant petitions. We held community meeting to discuss police violence and hosted “White Out? The Future of Racial Diversity in Oregon”, an Oregon Humanities Conversations with Dr. Emily Drew, drawing 93 participants. Monthly community meetings and workshops continued, including classes on “The New Jim Crow”, a workshop called “Responding to Racist Remarks and Actions” attended by 60 people, and a workshop called “Dear White Corvallis” attended by 52 people. That year Corvallis SURJ sent several representatives to the annual Rural Organizing Project (ROP) caucus and made many presentations to local community and school groups. Corvallis SURJ also played an advocacy role in successfully getting the City of Corvallis to expand its Vision Plan to include equity.
In 2017, Corvallis SURJ continued to receive financial support from the Linn Benton Health Equity Alliance. A major program that year was the SURJ 1 to 1 program, an educational program where pairs of learners select topics from an extensive resource list of readings and videos, then have private discussions several times over 8 weeks. SURJ was a co-sponsor of “Know Your Roles: Training for Allies of Immigrants”, which attracted 120 persons over two sessions. Actions to counter white nationalist activity in the Corvallis area included publicizing and supporting local and state rallies, presentations, and counter-protests. We co-sponsored the Corvallis Changemakers conference, which two of our younger leaders attended.
In 2018, Corvallis SURJ supported Casa Latinos Unidos’s Gala and tabled at the Solidarity Fair. We continued the monthly community meetings. We worked with One Oregon against IP22, later Ballot Measure 105, that sought to repeal Oregon’s status as a sanctuary state by canvassing local businesses and voters door-to-door. We co-sponsored a workshop on “Decolonizing Our Activism”, with a second session in 2019. Corvallis SURJ also co-sponsored a workshop on “Becoming a Better Ally for Racial Justice” that drew about 75 participants.
Many of these activities continued into 2019. Corvallis SURJ also was part of a multi-partner activity in support of an initiative to track bias incidents in Corvallis; this initiative eventually was adopted by the Corvallis City Council and supported with a budget. Chapter members were involved in numerous events supporting racial justice. We sent a representative to SURJ NW Regional Gathering.
The pandemic posed challenges in 2020-2021, scuttling many workshops and moving the monthly chapter meetings online. Corvallis SURJ started a month virtual Community Conversations. We helped support efforts to remove racist names from local schools. We then publicized information about candidates for the Corvallis School Board, including their stances on diversity, equity, and inclusion. With the difficulties of meeting in person, some efforts shifted to honing our online presence, with our Facebook group, our monthly newsletter, and our website.