I DO BELONG HERE

By Salome Chimuku, Ainsworth UCC, Portland, OR

profiling endGrowing up in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in Portland, there were some things that were normal and expected. Such as that you’re inside before dark, say please and thank you or even being questioned by the police. In my 23 years of living I can say that I have been stopped over 25 times in my life. None of these have led to me being arrested, but it has left me with a strong impression of being publicly incarcerated.

I say publicly incarcerated because there is a pattern to all the stops. I was somewhere they thought I shouldn’t be. “What are you doing?”, “Where are you going?”, “Where is home?” All of these questions come under the guise of keeping me safe, but in actuality it makes me feel like a soft version of incarceration and segregation. Over the years it has conditioned me into knowing where I can walk somewhat free of questioning. Even when I worked for the Oregon State Legislature, if I left work late, I would be stopped. It got to the point where I stopped traveling to those places all together. 

A NEED FOR WATCHING

by Aleita Hass-Holcombe, Corvallis United Church of Christ, Corvallis, OR
SOA WatchSchool of the America’s Watch (SOAW) is a grassroots, nonprofit founded in 1983, when the US-fueled war in El Salvador was raging. Each November, SOAW gathers at Ft. Benning, Georgia, to raise awareness that human rights atrocities in Central and South America are still happening. Those responsible for these atrocities can often be traced back to individuals trained at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISEC), formerly called the US Army School of the Americas (SOA).

In November of 2013, 1400 people converged at the gates of Ft. Benning. Sunday, November 24, was a commemoration of those who have died as a result of the far-reaching effects of SOA training. During that November weekend, SOAW held many workshops that focused on our culture of military violence.

Abolishing The Death Penalty in Oregon

By Jim Ruyle, Hillsdale Community Church UCC, Portland, OR

At the Spring Assembly of 2009, the Central Pacific Conference of the United Church of Christ adopted a resolution that the death penalty should be abolished. It urged all local churches and affiliates to preach and conduct education to inform their congregations and others of related issues and join in cooperation with the Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty or other groups to lobby the Oregon Legislature for a ballot measure to abolish the death penalty. This followed a long and consistent history of opposition to capital punishment by the United Church of Christ, which helped start the movement in 1969. Since our own resolution, more states have ended or suspended capital punishment. In Oregon, Governor Kitzhaber suspended capital punishment subject to action by the legislature and the voting public. Building on this momentum, Oregon can also eliminate capital punishment with help from the United Church of Christ and other members of the faith community.

But Oregon has an obstacle, shared by two other states, that allowance of the death penalty is in our state constitution. Elimination of the death penalty will require legislative action to provide for a vote of the public and then a vote in favor by the public. This requires ongoing education to persuade the people of Oregon that the death penalty should be eliminated.