Michele Coppola 0:29
Don't Shoot Portland is a grassroots community advocacy network formed in 2014. They work through numerous pathways be it activism, direct community education or legislative policy, towards cultural change and ending systematic racial discrimination. Their activism and advocacy has had a major impact on the City of Portland. And this month, Don't Shoot Portland is hosting a number of workshops that are aimed at addressing discrimination and empowering individuals. Today on KBOO News in Depth we are lucky to be speaking with Tai Carpenter and Teressa Rayford of Don't Shoot Portland about their work in 2020, and the upcoming events that are happening this month. We should also mention that Teressa is a candidate for Portland mayor, as well. Teressa, Tai, thank you so much for being here today. So we want to talk a little bit about these workshops that you have going on this month. Let's start with the one happening this Thursday. It is the Reclaiming Freedom Expungement Clinic, in collaboration with Community Law Metropolitan Public Defenders. Expungement, by the way, for those who don't know, it refers to the legal process that erases or seals prior criminal convictions. Criminal convictions can be a very big impediment to getting a job, getting an apartment, or even going back to school. And this sounds like very important work. So can you tell us how these clinics came to be?
Teressa Raiford 1:50
Um, yes, so the expungement clinic that's happening on the, on the 19th, the one that's coming up for fair housing, and that one's happening through the Oregon- Legal Aid of Oregon and its focus towards the March 1, induction of some new laws around housing. And then also the expungement clinic that we're doing with the Community Law Center. That one is actually paid for by cannabis tax dollars from recreational dollars that are being paid for recreational use of cannabis. And so the city put together about $100,000 connected with Metropolitan Public Defenders, and they created a Community Law Center. And right now, what we're doing is a part of the pilot program which is being utilized to provide free services to basically see if you're eligible for the expungement and also to inform people about what it is and so our space right there on Killingsworth in Northeast Portland is going to be one of the six spaces that we provide this service through the city.
Michele Coppola 2:52
So can you tell us, let's talk about the expungement clinic first, who is eligible for this particular clinic and service?
Teressa Raiford 2:59
Everyone is out eligible. This is for all Oregonians. So people that live outside of the city of Portland are also eligible to receive these services. And so as far as qualifications and eligibility, they have to connect with the lawyers that will be there on the day to provide the service. But it's open to all residents and it even covers evictions.
Michele Coppola 3:20
Teressa Raiford 3:20
So, some people are thinking like, oh, cannabis, cannabis dollars, this must have drug related crimes. But no, it's for everything. It can cover evictions, it can cover traffic violations, low level offenses and different types of, you know, criminal connected-
Michele Coppola 3:37
So for people who might not realize what kinds of you know, what kinds of offenses and so forth can be expunged? And what is that process like? If they want to take it on.
Teressa Raiford 3:46
Right. And that's one of the reasons why we're wanting people to show up to the event because we actually have lawyers that are going to show up and answer those questions because what we learned about criminality in Portland is that you can't just look at one thing and 'Say, hey, we want to deal with drug offenses so that people can get access to housing.' We've over represented communities of color in our justice system. And so there's a lot of low level offenses that have turned into felonies or have been without debt being paid to them. And so they're continuing to be warrants. And so we want people to come in and actually speak to the lawyers so that they can find out where they are actually at. One of the things that was explained to us is that they will identify the eligibility requirements for people. So we don't want people to assume that, oh, this isn't something for me come and speak to the lawyers let them accommodate an opportunity to speak to you one on one about your intrinsic situation.
Michele Coppola 4:43
So people of color are obviously much more likely to be convicted of these low level criminal offenses and drug offenses. And you mentioned a little while ago that these clinics are paid for by cannabis tax dollars. Can you talk a little bit about the expedited expungement process for cannabis convictions?
Teressa Raiford 4:59
Yeah. Right now all we know, and this is something that we've been told by them, they don't really have a developed process for this clinic. All they have is the dollars. They have the intention. And right now, again, it's a pilot. So I don't think that we get we've received enough information to kind of know exactly what the whole development of this is. But again, we have a phone number that's available for people to call if they want to know ahead of time. But just like what I'm learning, every day, you have to sit in front of a lawyer to find out if you even have a claim, and that some people don't know. And because of displacement, you're not getting your mail, you're assuming that you have charges, you're assuming that time has run out for certain charges. And a lot of people they literally don't know- when we talked about the expungement clinic, the first thing people were saying was, wow, I wonder what can be expunged. And when you ask someone who has been charged primarily for poverty related offenses, there's a list of things and I can't go into that because it becomes- its- it's like a hamster wheel was like 'Okay, so when I lost my kids and I owed the state for childcare or-'
Michele Coppola 6:08
It's like a domino effect.
Teressa Raiford 6:09
It's a domino effect, you have so many different things. And so the- the thing that I'm excited about is that since this is a pilot, all of those different interests and ideas and questions about eligibility and what is required, maybe that can help them develop with this purpose of these dollars, these dollars can affect because this is a different stream of revenue that we haven't had to support, you know, social justice, or social change.
Michele Coppola 6:36
So let's talk a little bit about another one of your workshops this month that is happening on Wednesday. This is in partnership with Legal Aid of Oregon. It's about the new Fair Access In Renting city ordinances that go into effect next month. A lot of people might not even be aware that these ordinances are going into effect. What are some of the most important things that people need to know about that? Tai? Or Teressa.
Teressa Raiford 6:59
Yes, just that is new information is coming through Oregon- Legal Aid of Oregon. These are affected housing. Yeah, there's a whole page that we sent. Yeah. And you gotta excuse my eyes. I keep telling her to read 'cause I'm like, I can't see anything.
But yeah, I guess it says it lowers the barriers for people with criminal records. This is legislation that just passed. And the clinic that we're having with Oregon Legal Aid, is basically to explain to people what this means, because we've had so many different changes over the last couple of years regarding housing, that a lot of people seem to be confused about where they stand, especially in regards to evictions. When we talk about affordable housing, there's still those barriers that you have to get through in order to be able to have access to housing, even if you can't afford it. And so I think that these new laws are addressing some of those issues and these clinics are meant to educate people and again, getting the information directly from the lawyers through our referral service keeps us in a position to be advocates and not to give people legal advice or not to try to, you know, have people protest because they don't know what their rights are, but to actually be proactive in providing that information.
Michele Coppola 8:09
So, you know, what we need to make sure that people are clear on is this isn't necessarily going to make housing, you know, more affordable, but it does make it more available, because there are a lot of barriers for people who have criminal records, limits security deposits and application fees. But it is not funded by the city and there isn't a mechanism to enforce those rules right now. So what you're hoping people get out of that particular workshop and clinic is information. To know what their rights are.
Teressa Raiford 8:35
We want them to get the information. We want them to know what their rights are. And one of the things that we did was last year, we started the legal referral service. So when people find themselves in between these different opportunities, we also have legal access. We have access to lawyers that people can utilize in order to kind of dismantle some of the things that are creating the barriers but again, having that information given to you directly from the lawyers so that you're able to ask those questions and find out what your position is, that helps us provide that service to them in a more effective way.
Michele Coppola 9:09
While you can't give legal advice, you can refer them to people who can give them exact legal advice.
Teressa Raiford 9:13
And it makes our work easier, because there's so many community members with questions and it's hard when you don't have access to lawyers it's hard to get somebody that can actually spend time answering questions.
Michele Coppola 9:26
Sure, sure. There's also another event happening on Saturday, the 22nd of this month, it's called Liberated Archives for Black Lives. That's in partnership with the City of Portland Archives and Records Management. Now, how do archives and records play into Don't Shoot Portland's goal of ending systemic racial discrimination?
Tai Carpenter 9:44
Well, just the fact that we can look into Portland's history. We all know the current landscape is very- it's, you know, it's it reigns with white supremacy and various systemic discrimination. That's been rampant throughout our city and the state of Oregon. So by going through the archives, we're able to kind of uncover pieces of history that have been deliberately covered up or just not made available for people that are searching for self identity, seeing where their family came from, and what their families roles were when, you know, when we built the City of Portland. So it's important to have these archives so that we can actually show that the unity of our different diverse neighborhoods is still here. And there is a reason for us to connect and not be so separated as it may seem.
Michele Coppola 10:32
If people have roots in Portland, this is going to be a way for them to actually trace that
Tai Carpenter 10:36
Michele Coppola 10:36
You know, and see them for the first time. It makes them accessible and easy to access.
Tai Carpenter 10:40
Yeah, exactly. Not just, you know, and even we're encouraging people to come in and bring in your old photo albums, old newspaper clippings, and we're going to walk side by side with them at this workshop, to learn tools of the archivists and you get to learn about preservation and cataloguing and how to even do that research in the first place. Because you'd be surprised at the different educational tools that you can learn by simply digging into the past. So it's been very, very cool just for us to, you know, personally look into our histories. And then when people come in with questions, we have those same questions. So we all get to discover it together. And that's really awesome.
Michele Coppola 11:18
So this is a very big year politically, Teressa you are running for Portland mayor, correct?
Teressa Raiford 11:23
Michele Coppola 11:24
Yep. And you know, it's it's obviously a big year politically for a lot of other reasons. What is, Don't Shoot Portland hoping to accomplish this year? What kind of political outcomes would you like to see in our area, specifically? Obviously, on a national stage, there's a million but...
Teressa Raiford 11:38
Absolutely. Well, in the last decade, we watched the Occupy movement, we saw the uprisings against gun violence and police brutality. We saw the centering of communities from indigenous cultures be put together and what we're looking for is a return on that investment. We're looking for allies and comrades and all the allegiances that we've shouldered together, to come together so that we can make an impactful next decade for our children. And the fact that- let's say that the primaries are going to be on May 19, which is Malcolm X's birthday, and all of these different things that are happening this year, it's very exciting for us, especially with the engineering of our legal outreach and those services, the partnering with the City of Portland's Archives so that we can start building community and rebuilding and establishing relationships that have been lost to decide- we're looking to be inspired this year just by connecting with our community in a way that we've never had the opportunity to do before and the beginning of the program as you said the new space that we're in that we're- we're- we're inhabiting is the former Albina Arts Center which in our community was a space where our- our family, my grandmother, my mom, you know our neighbors, the [unclear] and Gahlena Avidon all these different community members grew up in this space where we're now occupying for these workshops, so we're hoping that this engineering of community action that it inspires the next generation to just be as civically engaged as they can and to participate.
Michele Coppola 13:12
So let's run through before you get out of here, we do want to run through your workshops and clinics that are coming up very quickly here. The first one that is happening is on Wednesday, right? Okay. And that is the FAIR, the FAIR city ordinances the Fair Access In Renting workshop that is happening and that is happening, where? At your new location?
Teressa Raiford 13:32
Yes, at an 18 NE Killingsworth. It's right there on the corner of Killingsworth and Williams Avenue, the former in other words, also the former Albina Arts Center, it's open to the public, free, we'll have snacks and beverages. Tai, do you remember what time it is?
Michele Coppola 13:49
I was about to ask, what's the time on that? And while you're looking that up, the second one is going to happen on Thursday, and that is the Reclaiming Freedom Expungement Clinic,
Teressa Raiford 13:56
Right and that's the one that's by the City of Portland and Community Law Center. And again, that one's open to the public. If you don't know if you have expungement opportunities because of old criminal stuff, or you know, old evictions, it's a good time to come there and to find out and I think that sharing those ideas about what can be expunged, what can be repaired. That's what this pilot is about.
Michele Coppola 14:20
Okay. And then on Saturday, February 22, the Liberated Archives for Black Lives is happening as well, is that also happening at the same location?
Teressa Raiford 14:27
Absolutely it's happening at the same place. And we're hoping that a lot of the people that grew up in that community are encouraged to come out and to share their ideas about what expungement- I mean, not expungement- what liberated archives could mean for our community. Just being in that space, a lot of community members are looking at us archiving and preserving their items there, but also moving them to where our items are, at the city and to use space in that- in those spaces to kind of preserve them against like abuse and all the things that happen to old materials.
Michele Coppola 15:01
We sincerely want to thank you both for the work you're doing and for taking the time to be with us this evening. We've been speaking with Teressa Raiford and Tai Carpenter of Don't Shoot Portland. You can find more information about the expungement clinic, the FAIR Housing workshop and the Liberated Archives for Black Lives event at Don't Shoot Portland's website dontshootpdx.org. We will also post those details on our website at kboo.fm/evening News for KB news. oh for KBOO News in Depth -easy for me to say- I'm Michelle Coppola. Thank you.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai