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Photo by Garth Guibord
Welches Walk delivers Mountainís message: Black Lives Matter posted on 07/01/2020

Approximately 150 people came out on Saturday, June 13 for Welches Walks for Racial Justice, joining cities across the country and around the world in a peaceful demonstration in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man killed in Minnesota by a police officer. Welches Schools alumni Cristina Saldivar, Madeline Kenney, Brooke McAlester, Jenny Covington and Maria Burke organized the event.

“It was great for us to see that turnout,” Saldivar said. “It was special for us to see we were not alone.”

The walk began at the intersection of Hwy. 26 and Welches Road and travelled down Hwy. 26 to Woodsey Way and into the baseball field next to the school. There, the group knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the first reported time that the police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck, and then broke into small groups to discuss race.

The effort started after the organizers recognized a lot of interest in the community, including seeing Black Lives Matters (BLM) signs, while also wanting to make a local impact.

“We were feeling very angry and we wanted to figure out a way to open up this conversation to more people than just our immediate friends and family,” Kenney said.

The event brought out people from all parts of the Mountain and beyond, from local families with young children to retired teachers who once taught the organizers when they were students.

Tom Well, who taught at the Welches School for 32 years before retiring in 2009, joined the walk while carrying a sign that read “Not too old to stand up for change.”

“Being the white guy, haven’t really understood the oppression that a lot of people of color have had to live with,” Well said, while noting how proud he was of the organizers. “As I’m becoming more educated and seeing more things happening, it's really opening my eyes.”

Well, who recalled growing up in Portland and seeing signs on doors such as “whites only” and the Selma march, noted he believes the global demonstrations seem different this time and real change could be in the works.

“It needs to happen,” he said. “For me, it needs to start at the top and we need to have a person that is compassionate about other people, cares about other people, lift people up and not push them down.”

Bryan Tull, a Brightwood resident who will have two children at the Welches Schools this fall, noted  that his family comes from a diverse background, including Native American, Chinese and more, and wanted to stand with the community at the event.

“I feel like we pass off as white,” Tull said. “We’ve been sitting on our privilege for too long. I wanted to make a difference and show our kids there’s other people not doing as well as we are.”

Lisa Aschoff, whose husband’s great-great grandfather, Adolf Aschoff,  was one of the early settlers in the community, noted she grew up in the south where she witnessed racism and recognized that she needed to step up and join the effort.

“I feel the flame moving around the world,” said Aschoff, adding that she has a grandchild who has a white mother and a black father. “It's astounding that we have an ear all across the world. For me to stand back and not put my energy behind this would be wrong.”

The walk also included Shemar Lenox and Jaylen Welch, both Gresham residents who have similarly organized an effort in their community to bring more awareness of the BLM movement, called the Gresham Standup Movement. They hope to implement changes within the schools, police and more.

“We felt like there wasn’t really anything being done in our community,” Welch explained, adding that the group plans on more protests this summer, including going to Washington D.C. in August. “Gresham is very white populated, and we need the white voice just as much as we need everybody else. We need change and we need it now.”

Organizers of the Welches Walks for Racial Justice also created a website, https://welcheswalks.weebly.com/, spearheaded by McAllester, offering a variety of resources and links to help keep the discussion going. McAllester noted that the site points people in the right direction to better equip them for that discussion.

“I just want people to start listening,” she said. “Some listen to certain voices and not others because it fits the narrative.”

“It's easy to be in our bubbles and surround ourselves with those who align with those values,” added Saldivar. “There’s so much more we need to be listening to.”

The organizers of the Welches Walk for Racial Justice hope to offer more events in the future, including a movie screening and trivia night.

By Garth Guibord/MT

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