restricted access Chapter Six: The Correcting Influence
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67 chapter six The Correcting Influence The sun was shining on the day I graduated from Portland State University. I have some beautiful photographs of the occasion— spectacular black and whites—in my family collection. The photographs show my mother and father, my son (of course), the person I was dating at the time, Marvin McKinley, my grandmother Alberta Louise Randolph, Mrs. Idella Burch (my sister Faye’s motherin -law), Faye’s daughter Michelle, and some other friends. Faye herself was not present. She had cut short her education at the University of Oregon just shy of graduating, due to her own family pressures. On my graduation day, she was at work. Nonetheless it is a warm memory. Marvin’s friend Walter was the photographer. The pictures show pride in the eyes of my mom and dad and grandmother and Mrs. Burch. It was an extraordinary day, as I was the first person in the family to graduate from college. It was historic for another reason; it was the day Richard Nixon resigned, August 8, 1974. I had watched the Watergate hearings all summer and was aware of Barbara Jordan’s role. Her magnificent voice just captured me, as it captured the whole nation. During graduation, televisions were on in Smith Center and people were caught up in that moment as well. I stepped into Smith to take a look. And then the very next day, I went to work with the State of Oregon Corrections Division as a counselor in a work release facility for women. Despite being on track with a new job, during my college years I had got lost somehow. I have a strong memory of my mother saying to me that she felt that I was changing and that this change threatened to disconnect our relationship. While studying at PSU I also experienced bouts of depression and I would isolate myself from friends and family in order to cope. I would just kind of disappear. I was living on my own and I needed a quality of emotional support that I did not know how to ask for. My mother seemed critical of me 68 and had her own frustration around not being able to communicate with me. I think we both sensed that the changes I was making could take me even further from the reach of family. That frightened both of us in different ways. My peers and friends faced employment and family pressures similar to my sister Faye’s and mine. Mildred wanted to participate in Operation Crossroads Africa but had not been able to get the finances together. That was painful because we had hoped to do that program together. I had been able to get a scholarship. I also got support from the women’s club community as well as another organization of women in higher education. Mildred did not have the same combination of support. I felt hurt for Mildred, my best girlfriend, and even guilty that I was going to Africa anyway. Happily, when I went to New York to find Tyrone, the two of us went together. The material I encountered in Lee Brown’s classes aided me enormously as I moved from college to the world of work again. One telling assignment in an administration of justice class concerned police-community relations. The students were supposed to write an essay about “Officer Friendly,” but I maintained that the typical police officer was experienced as something quite other than “friendly” in the Black community. I brought that awareness into the classroom. In these years I was aware of the Black Panther Party in Portland, especially their free breakfast program and free clinic, though I was not personally involved. I also remember at that time that some people in the African American community were afraid of the young folk who identified with the Panther Party. Anger was certainly felt and expressed when Fred Hampton was murdered by police in Chicago and after police-related incidents in Portland. These events put people on edge and some of that concern carried over into the classroom. Lee Brown’s classes allowed me to make clear and urgent connections between my learning and community life. Plus Dr. Brown was someone who extended himself beyond his department to support students. He encouraged me to apply for a Police Foundation 69 program in Washington, D.C., and later for an internship with the Portland Police Bureau—a paid internship. My work with the Police...


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Subject Headings

  • Gordly, Avel Louise, 1947-.
  • Women politicians -- Oregon -- Biography.
  • African American politicians -- Oregon -- Biography.
  • Oregon -- Politics and government -- 1951-.
  • African American women -- Oregon -- Biography.
  • Community activists -- Oregon -- Biography.
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