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80 chapter seven “She Who Learns, Teaches” —African Proverb During my marriage to Richard, I had accepted, in 1979, a position working as a case manager at the Urban League Senior Service Center. That opportunity came through a call from my friend Norm Monroe, who urged me to apply and who later encouraged me to apply for Director of the League’s Northeast Youth Service Center. My years at the Urban League of Portland were good, rich years in my life. I learned much about the meaning of community that I put directly to work. I was deeply involved in the African American community through the program that we built at the Urban League. We focused on claiming our young people in a way that would keep them from having contact with the juvenile justice system, and for those who had already had that contact, we reclaimed them. We helped those young people and their family members to get information and alternatives to prevent further penetration into the juvenile justice system. It was important to the success of this program for our counselors to be in the schools. We were one of the first Youth Service Centers in Portland. There were five Youth Service Centers in the city at that time and the Northeast Youth Service Center was administered by the Urban League. Our initiative was unique; since our counselors were located in the schools, they could have immediate contact with students who were identified as being at risk. By being on site, our counselors also had a link back to parents and other resources in the community. The program was all about being where kids were, being available to parents, and being both preventative and interventionist. Our program succeeded in getting Multnomah County funding under the rubric of culturally specific services to citizens. This money in the early 1980s represented the first time that an African American community-based organization gained a significant amount 81 of funding from the county—or from any funding source—to deal specifically with the needs of African American youth and families. It was a coup at the time, especially since there were other established organizations around, like the Morrison Center, who claimed to be serving the needs of so-called minority youth. We made another argument: in order to really make inroads with youth exhibiting negative behavior, they needed to be connected with people who looked like them; skilled, trained people who were part of their neighborhood and community. This funding allowed us to move the Urban League Youth Service Center program forward. And I’m very proud that we were able to do that work so successfully. Our counseling program was full of stars. We had Jasper Ormond, one of the very few African American clinical psychologists to ever work in the state of Oregon. Now he’s based in Washington, D.C., and doing wonderful work internationally. We had James Mason, who later achieved a Ph.D. and went on to manage the state Office of Multicultural Health in Oregon. Ben Priestley was a counselor very active in the Black United Front. Ben edited and published the national publication of that organization, the Front Page, and went on to groundbreaking work with the Housing Authority of Portland. Now retired, he has written a book with several other men of his generation about living with cancer. At the time, we knew that we had something special going on; that something special was a heart for service. We had love for community and a love for our people, Black people. We also believed that all people of good will could make something positive happen for young people who were struggling in school. Putting that team together was an important phase in honing my ability to recognize talent, pull that talent together, and then find ways to unleash our collective gifts in the community for good. Years later I returned to the Urban League to serve on the board; that service was an energizing and very affirming experience as well. To accomplish the funding piece with Multnomah County we used the collective thinking of everyone at the Urban League. We had great writers on staff. One in particular was Renee Watson- 82 Taylor. Renee is today a member of my church, Highland Christian Center, where she also plays an administrative role, continuing her service to community. We came together in retreats—some at my house—where we could strategize together. We always considered how...


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