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Episodes

× 1: Setting the Scene - Portland OR 2: The Murder of Mulugeta Seraw 3: Building Community Defense 4: The Minneapolis Baldies and Anti Racist Action 5: They Thought We Were Everywhere: the Portland ARA 6: House Defense 7: A Research Capacity: The Work of the CHD 8: SHARPer Times 9: The Story of Jon Bair 10: Less Booted, More Suited 11: Nothing is Final

Episode Three Transcript

Episode Three: Building Community Defense


MIC

This podcast contains lots of swearing and violence, occasional use of the n word, and other content that some people may find disturbing or offensive.

SCOT NAKAGAWA

In Hawaii, I grew up in a very small rural community on a still-active sugar plantation. You know, looking forward to a life in which I assumed that I would work in agriculture. The future didn't exactly look bright, but it looked predictable. I grew up in a family where my parents always knew that I was gay, or at least had some inkling about it, and hated me for it. They also loved me as their son, but I felt that hatred. I felt the intimidation, it was intentional to make sure that I would never actually act on the impulse that they felt I had. I would run away from home in my little rural community and go to Waikiki. I occasionally had to resort to sex work and other ways of keeping my head above water. When you're a gay, homeless teen, particularly in the 70’s, the vulnerability you experience is so extraordinary. There is no place to turn. If I were trying to get by, by befriending tourists at the gay bars, if somebody decided to beat me up, they could do it with impunity. And the cops did target and harass and go after gay youth. There's just no more helpless feeling than being a 15 year old gay kid, standing at one end of a dark alley, from cops who, you know, are about to descend on you. So, I recognized it would be very difficult for myself in this small, culturally conservative community, to make a life for myself and I was a person who had ideas and wanted to do things--wanted to try and experiment and learn and grow. While there's certainly a rich life to be had in rural O'ahu, I set my sights elsewhere and I decided to leave Hawaii and move to Oregon.

CELINA

That’s Scot Nakagawa. We heard Scot talk about the history of white supremacy in the Pacific Northwest in the last episode. Scot’s now Senior Partner of ChangeLab, an Asian American-led racial justice think tank with offices in Oakland and Seattle. Scot moved to Oregon from Hawaii in 1986. He was one of a number of activists who began organizing against neo-nazis after the murder of Mulugeta Seraw.

SCOT NAKAGAWA

You know, it was kind of a big shock to come here, to go from a multiracial setting like Hawaii to a place like Portland, the whitest major city in the United States. And my immediate experience upon getting here was basically getting, being shocked by dominance of a white perspective in this community. I literally came here and thought when I listened to progressive white leaders in the community talking about issues, that they were intentionally trying to exclude people of color. It took me a while to figure out that it was completely unintentional, and that it wasn't just like, hurt-your-feelings racism that has been thrown around but a kind of ignorance bread of the hegemony of whiteness in this community. So, it was kind of a big shock.

MIC

Scot’s description of shock is a common experience for people who move to Portland from multi-racial communities. How do we organize against white supremacy in such an overwhelmingly white environment?

SCOT NAKAGAWA

So, following the Seraw murder, something happened here which really surprised people which is that hate crime statistics in this city went up. Where, typically it's a case where something like that happens in a community, hate crime statistics go down. Hate crime statistics here started to go up and up and up. And so, it was an indication of a problem, something more than just a one-off. There was a real problem here. Portland had a disproportionate number of anti-LGBTQ violent attacks, attacks on African Americans. If you were African American in the city of Portland at the time, you were 10 times more likely to be visited by hate crime than a white person. If you're an African American, often the attacks were organized. There was a very big problem with anti-Asian violence here, it was growing really rapidly. A lot of the indicators that we were in real trouble. And then the Jewish community started to be attacked, and we recognize that this was more trouble than we even imagined, right? Because when white nationalist groups rise and attack Jewish communities, display that kind of anti-semitism, it reveals the sort of political sophistication and connection to movements internationally that we didn't anticipate sleepy old Portland back in those days, would have.

CELINA

Under sleepy old Portland’s veneer of liberal chill, tensions had begun to surface, tensions that white founders had long ago planted in the seeds of a society settled on stolen land.

Racist skinheads in the Pacific Northwest had for some years posed a chronic and now increasing threat to marginalized Portlanders. They flexed power that traveled beyond cornering loners at small and crowded punk shows downtown. Open displays of hate insignia signaled to a growing brotherhood that the Rose City-and eventually the whole region--belonged to them. I’m Celina Flores,

MIC

And I’m Mic Crenshaw. We’re your hosts for this episode of It Did Happen Here- Building Community Defense. We focus on Portlanders who organized in response to the city-wide neo-nazi threat after the 1988 murder of Mulugeta Seraw. We’ll hear from a number of former members of the grassroots group the Coalition for Human Dignity. First up is Abby Layton. Abby Layton was a Jewish social justice activist and young mother who became alarmed by the anti-Semitism on open display in the streets of Portland.

ABBY LAYTON

At that time, it's so hard to remember, although, you know, we're seeing it happen again. But at that time, that time at the end of the 80’s, what we saw was brown-jacketed, neo-nazi soldiers living in Southeast Portland. The idea, which was really scary, was they chose Portland. The reason they chose Portland was because it was the whitest place that they found. So, it's purposely chosen with the idea of creating a movement and then annexing this part of the United States into a separate white supremist country.

STEVE SWASSERSTROM

There was a confluence of movements who targeted the Pacific Northwest more generally and Portland specifically. That's still going on.

CELINA

That’s Steve Swasserstrom, Reed College Professor of Judaic studies since 1987; at which time he was the only full-time permanent Jewish studies professor across the state of Oregon.

STEVE SWASSERSTROM

There's a number of other factors. Portland had a long background originally with ex-Confederates moving here after, uh, after the Civil War. And then a serious problem with the KKK and the housing issues, discrimination of all kinds here, so these folks knew and saw Portland as an, a special kind of opportunity. So, on the one hand it was this growing, green, and diverse place with liberal representation and then you had this activity on the other hand. And they were two separate worlds. That remains true today unless the group chooses to go out and have a, uh, a rally down by the river, you might never know that they're out there.

MIC

These two worlds of Oregon that Steve mentions resemble many states today, split along an urban/rural divide. Generally speaking, though, Portland was progressive and to the left, while the rural areas ran to the right. But there are deep conservative roots within the city of Portland, and the boundaries between liberal Portland and the conservative rural parts of Oregon are porous and complicated. For some perspective on the regional character, where the religious right intersects with the fascist street movements, we introduce M Treloar, Originally a white anti-fascist organizer, street protestor, activist, and researcher from Chicago, Treloar moved to Portland in 1988 after connecting with Pacific Northwest antifascists. We’ll be hearing his insights throughout the podcast.

M. TRELOAR

The change in the economic climate in Oregon where it was making this transition from the timber economy to the modern economy that you see around you now, such as it is, that was throwing all of these folks who otherwise would have had a secure job as adults into a real turmoil as to, "what am I gonna do when I'm grown up 'cause I can't do what my dad did," creating the basis where neo-nazis could do some real organizing, which is still the case. While the boneheads were there, the Oregon Citizens Alliance were always there as well. They had first put forward Measure 8 in 1988. They put forward Measure 9 in 1992 to ban teachers who were gay or lesbian or in some way non-conforming, and then Lon Mabon, who was head of that theocratic group, ran for US Senate on the Republican ticket in 1996. So they were THE major force in Oregon Republican politics. They ran the Oregon Republican Party and they were a theocratic group. And a little bit batshit crazy, they almost won on all of those measures. So while they were doing their "let's attack queer people, let's get rid of abortions," that was going on when Haddie Cohens and Brian Mock were fire-bombed and killed in Salem on September 26th, 1992 by neo-nazis. The two existed side by side. That was the terrain on which they operated.

CELINA

The terrain Treloar mentions describes two social tendencies: an increase in control and conformity we currently experience as Christian Republicanism and the escalating street violence of right wing thugs. These trends converged in a crossroads that normalized and valorized hate. Wider approval by anti-gay, anti-immigrant right wingers primed some of the white working class youth of Portland for recruitment into neo-Nazi fellowship.

MIC

Throughout the timeline of this podcast you will hear people describe events using the language referencing “before” and “after” Mulugeta Seraw’s attack and subsequent death. Seraw’s murder immediately grabbed the local headlines. It's important to remember he was human. Mulugeta Seraw was a young Ethiopian man, a student, a soccer fan, a diligent worker, and a father. With his death, Mulugeta’s life became reduced to the event of his murder and, unfortunately, became synonymous with the politics of his murderers.

CELINA

It’s hard to describe the effect the tragic incident had on Portlanders. It wasn’t shock at the brutal murder. This was, after all, a city that had been under a quiet siege. It was the realization that the problem was deeper than the brutes themselves. That the city was not addressing regular attacks on its citizens. That the police ignored ongoing violence of murderous youths. That the only place left to turn was to each other.

M. TRELOAR

After the death of Mulugeta Seraw, a group of Ethiopian students, mainly centered around Portland State University, called for a rally. And so, Ethiopians did the initial organizing, and hundreds of people showed up. And this white guy showed up, asked to speak. So it turned out, that was Neil Goldschmidt, governor of Oregon. He realized that there's a movement here, and it must be co-opted because there's anger here, and there's also something going on here that's, I'm sure he recognized it as a Jewish man, these are neo-nazis and we have to deal with it. So I don't want to completely dismiss his concerns. But just say that from the start there was always an active effort to take this new movement and put it back in traditional Democratic party stuff.

MIC

But the fascist movement could not be contained by liberal political maneuvering. A political solution would not protect the growing number of people getting assaulted on the streets. Scot Nakagawa and M Treloar elaborate:

SCOT NAKAGAWA

So following the Seraw murder, a group called the Coalition for Human Dignity was formed. It was a coalition between the city of Portland and a variety of different community organizations here. At the time, things like the Fellowship of Reconciliation, The American Friends Service Committee, The Lesbian Community Project, etc. Groups that were concerned about hate crimes here.

M. TRELOAR

I ended up coming to one of the first couple of meetings of the Coalition for Human Dignity and there were already attempts to draw it into the mainstream of Portland politics. By that I mean, they were meeting in the city council chambers. So, people were sitting down and using the same chairs and the same mics as the city council and running the meeting that way. I was uncomfortable with it from the start. I just thought, there's no way that the very people we wanna work with are gonna wanna come in here. But there were already a number of people in the group who wanted to make this part of the normal political process within Portland, but at the same time, be antifascist. And also, there wasn't a whole lot of clarity about "how do we deal with these Nazis? What are we gonna do?" So the real basis of the group had not been laid down. There were 75 people in that meeting and a lot of enthusiasm, but I suspect everybody listening to this podcast has been at a meeting like that. A lot of enthusiasm, but as to "one month from now we'll be doing this, two months from now we'll be doing this," that wasn't there at all. There were good, experienced organizers in the group. Susan Wheeler who unfortunately passed away several years ago, had been in Portland for decades. She'd worked with the Black Panthers in the 1960s and 1970s. She knew was fascist groups were. She came from that classical analysis. So she was there. But there were also a bunch of punk kids, and then, you know, frankly, the college kids as well who had good hearts and didn't like Nazis.

STEVEN GARDINER

I'm Steven Gardiner. These days, I once again work as an assistant research director on issues of racial and immigrant justice.

CELINA

Steven Gardiner came to work at the Coalition for Human Dignity in 1990.

STEVEN GARDINER

I'm a military veteran. And so, I got out of the army and almost immediately started doing anti-imperialist, anti-militarism, and peace work, particularly Central American solidarity kinds of work through student groups, supporting the Sandinistas and supporting a more democratic system and El Salvador, as well as the anti-apartheid stuff. Portland seemed as if it were being invaded by skinheads, by neo-nazis, boneheads. They were in the music scene. They were intimidating people. They were committing bias crimes. And then there was a murder. So what should we do? And this was the origins of the Coalition. Several of the founders were people I'd gone to school with at Lewis and Clark College, or friends of mine from various kinds of activist spaces. They asked me, “well, would you like to start working with us?” Which I did as a researcher at first, a writer, editor, I did a lot of field work inside of neo-nazi organizations, not the skinhead type, but more Christian patriot sorts of groups, and then eventually became the research director and executive director at times when there was no one else to do it. The original coalition, it’s important to keep in mind, it was kind of a one-off in the aftermath of the Seraw murder. There were folks, of course, from the religious community, particularly from the Metropolitan Community Church. There were people from the Jewish community. There were people from the Black community, from the Urban League and from Portland State. That would have been people who came out of Abdi Hassan’s classes. He was another immigrant professor, from Somaliland. He was one of the founders. So it was a really broad coalition, including folks from the mayor's office and the Metropolitan Human Rights Commission. Those kinds of folks as well. So it was actually an uneasy alliance if you want to think of it that way, because you had folks all the way from city government and very mainstream institutions, to some people who were pretty radical in their politics.

CELINA

Again, Scot Nakagawa.

SCOT NAKAGAWA

That coalition attempted to address the problem in the community but fell apart over the desire on the part of people who are in the community in that coalition, to go to Idaho to protest an Aryan Nations Compound. So, the city pulled out of the coalition at that point, because we were concerned about insurance liability.

STEVEN GARDINER

And then after that, a core group of people stayed together and retained the name Coalition, even though it became sort of a standalone organization that mostly worked through forming strategic partnerships with people in the Black community, people in the Jewish community, immigrant community and LGBTQ space, to try to bring folks together to recognize that they were fighting a common battle, whether it was against the neo-nazi skinheads, or against the Oregon Citizens Alliance. Even though we were always clear, these weren't the same enemies, but they were the same kinds of threats to people's dignity and life, and to the basic tenets of democracy.

SCOT NAKAGAWA

At that point, they hired me to staff the committee and try to rebuild it. I made the decision in part because right around the same time that the Seraw murder happened, I was attacked by a group of neo-nazi skinheads. They didn't harm me in any way, but they did terrify me. You know, it was terrifying. I was riding my bike home from work and they tried to run me off the road. It was very clear to me who they were. If you know the Hollywood Fred Meyer, it wasn't there at the time, what was there was a construction site, and so on a bicycle I was able to get away. I reported it to the police, because friends of mine encouraged me to do it. And a friend who had access to the law enforcement data system asked me about my report and whether I'd filed it, and when I said yes, she told me that it was never actually filed by the police. It made me feel like there's some kind of problem here that's bigger than just a bunch of angry white youth going around and expressing racism, you know. When institutionally the police are not seeming to respond to this, and when the city's concern about insurance liability is preventing it from being able to take coordinated action with members of the community, there just seemed to be a really big problem. The other big issue with the police was that they were also reporting, through their gang enforcement team, that there were no neo-nazi skinhead groups in the city of Portland, that there was no organized racist activity and that people were exaggerating. So the Coalition for Human Dignity formed in order to respond to this problem and specifically created a research operation to monitor and document and report on the activities of neo-nazi skinheads and professional neo-nazis.

MIC

This new formation of the coalition was younger, leaner, non-institutional, not obliged to appease the city. It critically examined the role of the police turning a blind eye to the violence and targeting of various groups. It stopped trying to win the hearts and minds of liberal Portland and instead turned its efforts towards exposing the fascism police and city officials chronically minimized.

M TRELOAR

The folks I was working with were the, the punk kids, the young college folks who, I was older than them and had some experience, but they were obviously the ones who were gonna drive this grouping. The ideas I put forth were the ones that they were putting forth, as well. Number one, there's a subculture here in Portland, a punk subculture that we need to drive the boneheads out of. The second thing that the Coalition for Human Dignity did that was different, was to openly state we were going to drive the boneheads out of Portland. And that was controversial. People had not said, "oh, that's our task. Drive them out." The third thing to say was we're not gonna meet in the city council chambers anymore. We had to go out and find a place in the community that ended up being the Metropolitan Community Church, which was also the stronghold of queer organizing for that decade. So we were meeting in the basement there, which was a good place. We could pretty much invite people from every community in Portland there without them feeling intimidated.

CELINA

Here’s Abby Layton:

ABBY LAYTON

The Coalition for Human Dignity was born with a dedication to monitor and research right wing and neo-nazi activity in the Pacific Northwest. We had a parent group, the Center for Democratic Action, with Lenny Zeskind, who is a genius in terms of this work. And he personally trained the people in the Coalition for Human Dignity to do this type of research.

MIC

Leonard Zeskind is a longtime activist and researcher of right wing and anti-Semitic activity. He is an award-winning author of several books on white nationalist movements. Zeskind's long history in organizing, research, and anti-fascism influenced the Coalition’s direction towards intelligence gathering and building a broad base of support in the Portland community.

LEONARD ZESKIND

They were building community defense. And that meant getting the community involved. So they held conferences and marches and gave out information, so they weren't just focusing on whatever left group was available. They were focusing on building community defense. It was a wonderful thing to see.

CELINA

An organizing principle differentiating the Coalition for Human Dignity from other grassroots groups in Portland at the time was a focus on research; this scrutiny both proved to the city that the nazi scourge was widespread and revealed a clear organized network of fascist creep onto the very walls of the city itself. M Treloar describes this foundation.

M. TRELOAR

I have to give immediate props to a crew of people from Lewis & Clark. Let's identify some of them. Krista, Gillian, Scot, Jonathan, several other folks and they can kick me in the head next time they see me if I've forgotten their names. They were the basis for the research aspect. Nobody really had a real handle on, how big is this problem? So one of the first things we did was just go out and photograph and count some of the racist neo-nazi graffiti that was sprouting up all over Portland and there was a lot of that. So that was one of the first things that that grouping did was just document. And then documenting stuff like how many attacks were actually occurring on individuals, neighborhoods, etc. The Coalition started documenting that stuff and started releasing it and that was very important and it gave us a basis with which to speak to community groupings, with which to speak to the media, and with which, amongst ourselves to have some sense of this is going on. Yes, there are hundreds of these people and to get some idea of the interplay of the various groupings, which, which did become important a little bit later on.

JONATHAN MOZZOCHI

I came out of a very left-wing activist background so I was involved in South African anti-apartheid work, Central American solidarity work, I had traveled to central America in the mid-1980s and worked with the solidarity groups around the Sandanistas and against American imperialism there, against the Contra war.

MIC

That’s Jonathan Mozzochi. Mozzochi was a Portland area activist and writer, who became one of the primary coordinators of the Coalition for Human Dignity. He was their intelligence director; he led the Coalition's research work on neo-nazis, hate groups and the religious right.

JONATHAN MOZZOCHI

The Coalition for Human Dignity was, I think, a very genuine, organic expression of a community need to fight an insurgent, racist right. So you had community people. We were not public officials, we weren’t professionals, and the left in Portland at that time was the Portland Alliance, you know there was work around farm worker campaigns, anti-racist campaigns, there was the movement to change the name of Union Avenue to MLK Boulevard, which was very controversial. Some of that opposition was racist. My activism, in the early 1980s, began to take a focus on what at that time, and what I continue to believe today to be the two pillars of the American form of fascism. And those two pillars are the Christian right and the white nationalist movement. Those are the two main pillars of American fascism. And if American fascism is ever to totally take power, and move into a regime phase, it'll have to go through those two movements. So that's part of what the Coalition for Human Dignity, part of what CHD was formed to focus on, was to have a research driven approach to fighting the right.

SCOT NAKAGAWA

There was a board of directors that was made up of a group of very active community leaders here. So, I basically supported their leadership. And we built around us a rapid response team, and a youth organizing program, and a variety of other things. But we did those things together. In Oregon, there were, at the time, about two dozen white nationalist organizations, what we used to call white supremacist organizations, that were active throughout the state. They weren't just neo-nazi groups. We quickly discovered that in order to track the neo-nazi groups, we needed to have a statewide operation in order to get a sense of the whole of what was happening. We also needed to look at the activities of groups a little bit closer to the mainstream, like the Oregon Citizens Alliance, and we began monitoring and doing research on them. We tracked the evangelical right here and actually published a report on them called Rolling Back Civil Rights: The Oregon Citizens Alliance at Religious War. We published something called Organized White Supremacy in Oregon that was authored by Jonathan Mozzochi. We reported on these things to the media, we reported on them to community organizations, and we mobilized people to take action by joining demonstrations, doing some door knocking, organizing rallies, things like that. Some of the direct action things we did were to, you know, identify where key neo-nazi organizers were employed or lived, and then protesting at those sites in order to put some pressure on their employers and landlords. That worked to some extent. But, you know, we did a variety of those kinds of things.

GILLIAN

I went to Lewis Clark. That's how I got involved. I wasn't as core as, like, Scott, Jonathan, Pat. I wasn't a person who went to meetings and knew the big picture.

CELINA

That’s Gillian, another Lewis And Clark college student involved in the early formation of the Coalition for Human Dignity.

GILLIAN

There was official mainstream rallies and community organizing work. And then of course, the intelligence-gathering work that Jonathan was heading up and Steve was really involved in and I did a little bit support here and there with informers that were in various organizations. I think the intelligence gathering was really important. That's something that helped with preventing violence against people of color, and helped put together the pieces of who all the different on-the-ground players were and where they lived and knowing what cars they drove and doing some following of them, figuring out, like what their plans were. I think of instances where a group of people I worked with did things like disabling neo-nazis' cars in order to reduce the possibility for gatherings that neo-nazis were holding in a public venue. Then, there was a part of it that seemed to be really crucial which was supporting the people who were most directly in the line of fire and were [inaudible] alternative posed to neo-nazis. And being physically present. Just showing up and helping separate or barring doors. That physical presence was helpful. I mean another way of physical presence was keeping close track of neo-nazi graffiti, which was just exploding everywhere. And doing counter graffiti. The idea was not taking the city approach of covering it over with white paint, but leaving it there to be seen so that people were aware this was occurring and countering it with counter messages. I wouldn't want neo-nazis to feel like this power structure was against them, but actually that their views were not welcome. It was pretty central, for me at that time. Not only the anti-fascist work, but also involved in a couple other things like Homophobic Silence Documentation Project and some other work that was core to feeling like I had a role in the community.

SCOT NAKAGAWA

It was a very different time in the city of Portland. There was very little young leadership and we were all people in our 20’s when we first started out with the CHD, and we were a racially diverse group of people in the leadership of that organization. All of those things made us interesting and different to people, and allowed us to be able to exploit all the different connections that we had, in order to be able to make these relationships happen. There was also longtime leadership in the organization who made a really big difference to us in grounding our politics and helping us to understand what it was that we were doing, and who we should be relating to. So among those people was Susan Wheeler, who passed away a number of years ago. She was the treasurer of the CHD. She did all of our bookkeeping for us for years for free, out of her living room. She was, at one point, partner to somebody named Don Hammerquist and Don Hammerquist is a historically significant actor in politics in the United States in that he is a person who's one of the fathers of the radical anti-fascist movement.

ENDER BLACK

Yeah, he’s the founder of this Sojourner Truth Organizing Committee in Chicago.

SCOTT NAKAGAWA

Yes. He also was the leader of the Communist Party USA in Portland. Susan helped him to organize the chapter here, and it was a particularly large and, I guess, active chapter, I don't know that much about that part of that history. After they separated, Susan went down South and met Ronnie Williams and helped him to escape extradition back to Alabama from Oregon once they settled here. That effort having been successful, then brought her to the attention of the American Indian Movement and so she was involved in things that [inaudible] Offense/Defense Committee and the Justice for Dennis Banks Committee. That historic work of hers, and then work she did in the peace movement, was really useful to us, because it helped us to understand police repression, and it helped us to understand, just political organizing strategy in general. People don't give her very much credit because she was a very quiet person, who behind the scenes would make contributions to the organization. But without her, I'm not sure the CHD would have been able to survive its early years because the twenty-somethings who were the most visible people involved didn't have the strongest basis in organization building. So, you know, it was an intergenerational thing, and I would highly recommend to people now to think about that. That people of the older generation whose deep experience in community can be very, very informative.

MIC

A core strength of the Coalition for Human Dignity was an ability to cross pollinate. With intergenerational, queer, and multiracial leadership, the CHD built bridges across Portland’s divergent activist community. Its many relationships to other groups extended the influence of the Coalition far beyond its membership roster.

SCOT NAKAGAWA

The CHD did have a lot of contact with a lot of different groups. I was a staff person at the CHD. I was also a member of ACT UP in Portland. I had a very strong relationship with leadership at the Lesbian Community Project, and in a variety of other places in the city. My connections became the organization's connections and the organization leadership at the board level also brought many relationships to the organization. The Lesbian Community Project, at the time at which the CHD was working actively with them, was lead by a woman named Donna Redwing, who recently passed away, sadly. Donna and I basically conceived of this Homophobic Violence Documentation Project. And did a little speaking tour around the city to talk to different groups of people about it. I assembled a small volunteer base and then the project got developed at the Lesbian Community Project with a core of volunteers at the head of it. That was basically how that worked. The CHD also helped to create a bridge between ACT UP Portland and groups like Anti-Racist Action and Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice. So we introduced those people, we were kind of the bridge organization there. It's always the case, in my experience, that LGBTQ people can, if allowed to, serve as bridges. Because the LGBTQ community is a cross-class, multi-racial community made up of people from every walk of life. So your relationships of course are going to be cross-cutting.

CELINA

Scot brings up an important piece of the Coalition’s mandate; that it was about relationships. We see today how easy it has become to polarize and divide ourselves from each other. From the beginning, the Coalition for Human Dignity fundamentally understood the importance of relationship building. Community defense is as much founded in mobilizing alliances as in deterring adversaries. With effective bridge building, the Coalition demonstrated multiple strategies to uproot white supremacy.

SCOT NAKAGAWA

The legacy of white supremacy today is structural racism, which is the way that society is organized. The fact that communities are located where they are relative to services, the pattern of investment, the representation that people of color enjoy within various different kinds of institutions; it is cultural, it's political, it's economic, it dictates where you live, it takes a variety of things about you. People don't often know that the one most powerful determinant of one’s success in life is your original zip code. So in a segregated society, that makes a really big difference by race. That system of inequality continues, but that's a historical construct. Nobody who is alive now was part of creating that. That original blueprint was created by entirely different people. The thing is that, while we were not the architects of structural racism, we are its inheritors. And we don't all inherit the same thing as a result of this legacy. Some of us inherit real assets and privileges, and others of us have inherited terrible disadvantages. In our lifetimes, we get to determine whether or not we will pass that legacy on to yet another generation. In order to avoid doing that, we need to understand that we have to take on anti-racism as a first principle in progressive politics, and at all times. Because our future is contingent on our being able to work together.

ERIN YANKE

Thanks for listening to Episode Three of It Did Happen Here: Building Community Defense. There are show notes with links, transcripts, and other relevant content at our website, ItDidHappenHerePodcast.com. This episode, interviews were by Annette Newelle, Celina Flores, Claire Rischiotto, Ender Black, and Erin Yanke. Your hosts were Celina Flores and Mic Crenshaw, and this podcast is produced by Celina, Mic, and me, Erin Yanke. Our next episode is about the founding of Anti Racist Action, back in Minneapolis, how they went national, and ended up in Portland. Music in this episode is by Xylo Ziko from the Free Music Archive under the creative commons license, and our closing song is by Crackerbash, “Song for Lon Mabon” - an anti-Oregon Citizens Alliance anthem from 1993. Thanks to the bands for the music, thanks to the participants for sharing their stories and experiences, and thanks to the Marla Davis Fund, KBOO Community Radio, and to the rest of our production team: Icky A, Julie Perini, Moe Bowstern, and thank you for listening.