Two sisters organize Black Lives Matter vigil in Beaverton
With masks on and signs in hand, community members in Beaverton line up every weeknight in the Raleigh Hills neighborhood for a demonstration in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The BLM vigil, organized by Carol Halvorson and her sister Roberta Colas, follows nationwide and local protests after the killing of a Black Minneapolis resident George Floyd. In late May, a bystander recorded a video of Floyd dying as a white police officer restrained him with a knee on his neck for several minutes, ignoring Floyd's pleas for air. The video went viral, prompting massive outcry, criminal charges against the four police officers involved and street protests that have stretched into fall.
Halvorson was initially inspired by the protests in Portland but feared the large crowds due to the coronavirus pandemic in early June.
Now, 17 weeks later, the two sisters are joined by several community members to peacefully support the movement. (A similar vigil has been ongoing beneath the "big flag" in Forest Grove, on the opposite side of Washington County.)
"We've had very positive reception for the most part, (such as) people honking and people waving," said Halvorson. "A lot of people come and stop to say, 'Thank you. We really appreciate what you're doing.'"
She added, "One man who was Black stopped and said, 'You don't know how much this means to me that you're out here every day.'"
Halvorson said the goal is to have people in her neighborhood, which is predominantly white, see other community members promoting Black Lives Matter.
But not everyone is happy to see the vigil on the sidewalk.
"We've had some negative people cuss us out, yell at us, spit and that kind of stuff," recalled Halvorson.
Despite the sometimes negative feedback, Halvorson is determined to follow in her mother's footsteps.
Althea Halvorson, Carol's mother, made a name for herself as an outspoken advocate of social justice and civil rights in Portland and beyond. She died in 2014 at age 98.
To show solidarity toward the fair housing movement, Althea Halvorson would pose as an interested renter to uncover landlord discrimination against Black families seeking the same residence.
Carol Halvorson remembers the fear and resistance she faced in their neighborhood.
"I was in high school waiting for the bus, and a friend of mine told me, 'My dad said your family is going to be the most hated family on the block for what your mom is doing.' I thought, 'I'm proud of her,'" she said. "And now, we're continuing in her tradition."
In 2008, Althea Halvorson was presented with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award for her activism and community service.
As for the vigil, Carol Halvorson hopes that the continuous event reminds people of the ongoing struggles that the Black community faces every day.
"The goal is to keep people's awareness that it's still an issue," she said. "A lot of times, people who are white, especially, go out to one march, and then you go back to your lives, and racism doesn't affect you directly because you're white. We're not going to stop just because the days have passed. It's still an issue, (and) we still need to be aware of what's happening."
The vigil features signs that say, "Black Lives Matter" and "Silence is Complicity." Some attendees fly the American flag, Halvorson added, "to show the struggles of injustice and not just at war."
She adds, "We love our country and we want to see a change. It's not working for Black and brown people, and it needs to change."
As for how to go about that change, Halvorson says it helps her to do something, such as attend the vigil, instead of sitting at home waiting for change to happen.
"Otherwise, I would just be home, frustrated and angry," she said. "So, (the vigil) is a focus for the frustration and anger. The anger that I feel when I know it's not just George Floyd. … My sister and I both have grandchildren, and we're an example (to them) that we're not just sitting around doing nothing. That we're doing something to make changes."
The Black Lives Matter vigil is held every weeknight from 5 to 6 p.m. along Southwest Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, near the Raleigh Hills Fred Meyer.
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