restricted access Post Script: "Don't Forget Our People"
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161 post script “Don’t Forget Our People” In May 2009, Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke at the University of Portland, sponsored by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. Bishop Tutu spoke about racial reconciliation, and reconciliation in all of its forms. To hear him speak and to hear him acknowledge all the support that came from other nations in the world during the antiapartheid struggle, and knowing that he was talking about what we did here in Oregon, brought the feeling of accomplishment and connection all back home to me. He honored the fact that we marched, we protested, and we demonstrated in solidarity with the people of South Africa. They struggled so mightily for their freedom and won it without a massive bloodbath. It was remarkable. As I left the Chiles Center, I ran into several people with whom I worked during those years. One of the women, the late Bonnie Tinker, a Quaker long active with American Friends Service Committee, said that of all people she had hoped that I was present because she remembered what we had done together in that fight. We looked at each other and there were the beams and smiles that come when your heart is full. Our hearts were full of the moment. It was also amazing to see Bonnie and her partner Sara Graham and their grown children at the event; the kids were just little things back in the day. The whole evening was an affirmation of what it means to be a conscious human being in love with humanity and to be in the presence of so many others who share the same belief. It was a magical package. Everything that Bishop Tutu said made me feel like I was caught up in his embrace. He has such a wonderful way with language and uses humor so effectively to communicate. Had I had the chance to personally greet him I would have thanked him for speaking the language of hope and for his sense of humor. Laughter is connected to hope. Even when we are enduring all kinds of pain, it is important to laugh. I would have also told him that I 162 had picked up his book African Prayers in Washington, D.C., when I visited the African Museum at the Smithsonian in January 2008. This was a trip to participate in a National Fred Friendly Production “Minds on the Edge” Mental Health and Public Policy event. This was a highlight in my career as a champion for world class mental health treatment for all. I had made a gift of his biography, Rabble Rouser for Peace, to my pastor, Rev. Dr. W. G. Hardy, Jr. and to Dr. Dalton Miller-Jones, then chair of the Black Studies Department at PSU. Hearing Bishop Tutu was like things coming full circle in the South Africa chapter in my life and I listened to him and the beautiful concert that evening with a deep feeling of affirmation. Affirmation of spirit, of hope, and that all we have on this planet is one another. When it’s all said and done, how we treat one another is what this world is all about. Even as we’re being tested, that’s what it is all about. My work touching West Africa remains ongoing. Back in 1999, while still in the state Senate, I led a three-week trade mission for the Oregon Legislature to South Africa and Zambia, carrying a letter of introduction from Governor Kitzhaber. Dumisani Kumalo was then Mandela’s head of foreign affairs. He put together all of our arrangements and meetings on the South Africa side. President Mandela was away in China but aware of our visit. From the moment we arrived in South Africa, we were treated like royal guests from Oregon. Everyone knew the Oregon anti-apartheid story! People in South Africa—everyday people, not just officials—had respect for Oregon. This respect made me painfully aware, by contrast, that people back in Oregon hadn’t a clue about the stature that the state had earned in the eyes of the South African people’s movement for freedom. On this trip, I brought with me a box of buttons from all of our different campaigns from that movement. With Dumisani Kumalo in President Mandela’s office, we looked at the buttons—like the one that said “Van Pelt Must Go!”—saying, “Oh, remember this event!” “And remember that event?” In the collection is a South African...


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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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