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Giving Back to Our Venerable Institutions

No free riders, please

Macus C. Mundy | 7/30/2014, 11:24 a.m.
"The lives of our African American nonprofit entities are in jeopardy." Marcus C. Mundy former Urban Leadgue of Portland president ...
Marcus C. Mundy

Every one of color has an obligation to support organizations whose purpose it is to serve our community.

Do we honestly believe that without the tireless organizing efforts of groups like the Urban League that legislation addressing our community’s needs would have passed? Do we honestly believe that without the work of SEI, the children they serve would be doing as well as they have? Do we honestly believe that without the work of the Albina Ministerial Alliance for Justice and Police Reform that the victims and families of several of those harmed or killed by the Portland Police Department would have received redress?

Do we honestly believe that without the PAALF raising sand that anybody would have stopped the development of the lot at the symbolic community intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Alberta Street?

No, we don’t honestly believe any of that would have happened without our representatives fighting those battles for us, and having to represent their “race” at every meeting they attend in addition to being organizational leaders, strategists, operations managers, community activists, fundraisers in chief, and black folks living in a Portland that maintains the patina of progressiveness but the reality of a city that wishes African Americans would just go gently into that good night.

So what can we do?

We can support our African American-led and focused organizations that show positive outcomes.

We can accept that not every entity needs to continue to exist, not even our own. We need to actively ferret out those bad organizations that suck resources away from the verifiably good institutions that make our community stronger.

The biggest thing we can do is to give our money and our time, our wisdom and expertise, and, above all, our grateful hearts to entities that have worked long and quietly and hard so that we might have a better life.

The power of the collective is strong. The Montgomery Bus Boycott showed that determination, a good plan, and an entire community’s cooperation could end unfair practices and open opportunities. As far as I know, there was no big grant that funded their efforts. Rockefeller did not arrange all the rides for all the maids that had to get to work without a bus. The church where they met every night was not peopled with corporate sponsors who bought a table, but with the people that had everything at stake: Black people.

No, the power of the collective won the day, true self determination. A population that wanted change sacrificed for their goals. They didn’t wait for someone else to pay the freight. They paid the price themselves to ride the bus where they wanted. They were not free riders.

African American Oregonians, save our institutions, and in so doing, you save yourself. Give. For us. By us. Right now. Give. No more free riders.

Marcus C. Mundy is a Portland consultant and former president of the Urban League of Portland.