My View: Ballots, boycotts create lasting change
The recent MyView by the Rev. Chuck Currie ("Honor King, fight for social justice," March 27) lays out lots of theory, but gives short shrift to analysis, strategy, tactics and winning specific campaigns and new laws.
King and his nonprofit, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) never shied away from organizing pickets, boycotts, marches and strikes, in city after city, North and South alike, to fight poverty, the Pentagon, and institutional racism and oppression.
In light of 2018 being the 50th anniversary of King's assassination in Memphis, it is also vital now — with the Parkland High School massacre fresh in our memory — to look at systemic violence. The My Lai massacre in Vietnam, the assassinations of both Robert and John Kennedy, the murders of students at Kent State and Jackson State when Nixon invaded Laos and Cambodia — are all events that speak to a historical trend that many of us at Portland State believe today has culminated in the Trump-NRA juggernaut.
But what is to be done?
As a VISTA volunteer in Macon, Georgia, many years after King's murder in Memphis, I worked with SCLC against job discrimination and for better housing in Georgia's second-largest city. Two thousand African-American Maconites marched and protested through that city's streets (with the support of 50 of us white allies). Marchers chanted, sang and boycotted white-owned businesses in Macon that were refusing to hire black workers. Joseph Lowery, at march's end, gave the keynote address.
Recently, pro-gun-control protesters marched and walked out in 800 cities worldwide to protest Trump and the NRA continuing to hide behind Second Amendment propaganda, while mass murders continue to occur from Columbine to Sandy Hook, and now, to Parkland, Florida.
We are happy to notice that Currie and other religious leaders are organizing the 2018 equivalent of King's 1968 "Resurrection City" in Washington, D.C., in that year's Poor People's Campaign. Civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance is, absolutely, a time-honored method of protest, from Gandhi, to King in our country, and even to Archbishop Romero in El Salvador, circa 1980.
However, there is no substitute for economic boycotts (against NRA supporters) — and for exercising our "right" to vote, by actually voting. At Portland State, where our Portland chapter of Gray Panthers is based, elders and youth alike are excruciatingly aware that only 15 percent of young voters actually vote in midterm elections.
In Portland, in May 2018, we have the opportunity to reverse this troubling trend. After all, Trump, the Republicans and the NRA are counting on low voter turnout in order to preserve and protect the status quo.
Portland Gray Panthers, along with our affiliate, Progressive Student Union, has chosen to support four candidates for local office in the upcoming May primary: Jo Ann Hardesty for the open seat on Portland City Council, Julia DeGraw for incumbent Nick Fish's City Council seat, Kayse Jama for incumbent Rod Monroe's state Senate seat, and Maria Garcia for the open seat on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.
The importance of voting cannot be understated. Ballots and boycotts are both underused, we believe. While elders among us may recall assassinations of our leaders and massacres like My Lai and shootings of students at Kent State and Jackson State — the Valentine's Day Massacre at Parkland is fresh in all our memories.
There are several Portland-area businesses that are ripe for boycotts when they act to protect landlord profits or put gun sales above the lives of our children. As Parkland student organizers Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg and others can attest, a new world is coming where we can build a future in which love and justice (values trumpeted by King) conquer hatred, death and oppression — every time!