BY EMMA GRAY
Nearly one hundred people in Tualatin braved the pummeling rain and frigid temperatures on Saturday December 10th to celebrate International Human Rights Day and recommit to work toward community unity in the wake of a polarizing national election season. Tualatin City Council member Frank Bubenik, as emcee of the event, reminded the assembled group that, “Our community has always prided itself on being a wonderful place to live. By being here today we are all saying that love in our community is paramount and that unity and tolerance are our goals – For International Human Rights Day and EVERY day.”
The event, dubbed Hands Around the Commons, was a citizen-led, public demonstration of Tualatin’s commitment to celebrate its diversity and work to avoid in Tualatin the troubling rise of hate speech incidents being documented across the country. Participants were encouraged to reach out to neighbors and friends and to stand up to racism, misogyny, xenophobia and bigotry wherever it occurs. The group heard from speakers representing the Tualatin City Council, the Washington County Council on Human Rights, and the Horizon Community Church Esparanza Campus. One speaker, Tualatin High School senior Markayla Ballard, inspired the group with her comments reflecting on growing up as a minority in a predominately white community. Ballard shared stories, some light-hearted, some shocking about her own experiences with racism and told the group, “I have spoken out against these incidents, but most of the time, it falls on deaf ears. I have heard ‘they weren’t referring to you’ or ‘stop being so sensitive’. More people need to be more sensitive and I am glad to see all of you here, because I am hopeful that we can be the change needed. It’s a colorful, complicated world we live in and I hope we can work out the kinks by getting involved with the people of our community.”
Participants ended the uplifting event by circling around the Commons fountain, each with a light, and sang the Woody Guthrie classic, “This Land is Your land, This land is My Land.”
Note: For residents that continue to find themselves anxious and upset following last month’s election results, The Human Rights Council of Washington County is sponsoring several Listening Sessions in an effort to provide a safe environment for people to explore their emotions, share their concerns and receive resources where available. One of the Listening Session will be held on Saturday January 7th at 6:30pm at the Muslim Educational Trust – 10330 SW Scholls Ferry Rd., Tigard, OR 97223. Sessions are open to all residents of Washington County.
Emma Gray has lived in Tualatin since 1999 with her husband, two daughters and a multitude of cats. She serves on the Tualatin Community Police Board, is involved in the Tualatin Community Emergency Preparedness Team (CERT) and loves her city!