Media Room

​REMARKS AS PREPARED

Governor Kate Brown
Black History Month Proclamation
February 4, 2020

Good afternoon everyone, and thanks Jamal Fox for the kind introduction and to all my legislative colleagues for being here on the second day of session. 

It’s moments like this one where I get to step back and see the big picture and re-orient myself around our statewide goals. 

My goal as your governor is to build a better Oregon, for everyone . And Black History Month presents us with vital moments to reflect on the histories of Oregon peoples. 

It’s important to recognize that not everyone has the same experience in this state we call home. And we know this: Oregon has a long history of discrimination and racial inequality. But slowly, incrementally, we are working to change that. 

And Oregon has had some incredible change-makers. I want to take a moment to mention three that have influenced me: Senator Margaret Carter, Senator Avel Gordly, and Senator Jackie Winters. I’ve taken the lessons I’ve learned from them to build a beloved community here in Oregon. 

From Senator Carter, the first African-American woman to serve in the Oregon Legislature, I learned that its critically important that our elected leadership reflect the diversity of our communities. 

When I chaired the Senate Rules committee, she pushed me and I pushed the then-Governor to diversify our boards and commissions. One example of our recent work is the Port of Portland Commission, now chaired by an African-American woman, Alice Cuprill-Comas. And for the first time ever, a majority of women on the commission--definitely the most diverse commission ever. 

But our work doesn’t stop there. When I​ became a lawyer in 1985, there was one woman on the Oregon Supreme Court. 

We now have a majority woman court, with the first woman chief justice ever in Oregon’s history. And of course, our first African-American appellate court judge, Justice Adrienne Nelson. 

Still, we have more work to do...representation matters. 

And in this work, it’s critically important that Oregon remain a sanctuary for all of those in need. 

That’s something Senator Avel Gordly seared into my brain. She was the first African-American woman to serve in the state senate. When we were fighting for protections for farmworkers she said, “No person is illegal.” 

And those words have stuck with me as I continue to fight the Trump Administration's horrific immigration policies with action, executive orders, and tweets. 

And those words inspired me to fight back against the Trump Administration and continue to welcome all who call this place home. 

And, finally, it is through Senator Jackie Winters leadership that I am reminded that we all deserve a second chance. 

She fought hard to pass the first modifications to BM11 affecting youth, and that’s why I was so proud to sign it and continue her legacy through our work reviewing requests for clemency and pardons. 

Even though Winters is no longer with us, we must continue the fight toward an equitable justice system for all. And with your support and your love we will continue to build in Oregon a beloved community. A place where everyone can thrive. 

So in honor of Black History Month, I hope we can all take a moment to reflect on our histories. We must learn from the past so that we can continue to push Oregon forward. 

Now let’s sign the proclamation! 

WHEREAS: In February, Oregon recognizes the significance of this month for its Black community members, as a widely recorded date of the first enslaved Africans reaching the shores of the Americas over 400 years ago; and 

WHEREAS: Oregon acknowledges and honors the history of Black community members and their contributions to the foundational pieces of the building of this country and state, from the history of American chattel slavery, through Reconstruction, Jim Crow, segregation, civil rights, and the invaluable social, cultural, and economic investments to our communities; and 

WHEREAS: Black community members for generations have courageously led the pursuit of justice and equality. Struggling to overcome the past, yet still moving forward, Oregon strives to live by the founding principles that all people are equitably treated; and 

WHEREAS: Visionary Black leaders and organizations continue to speak to ensure that Black achievements are in our history books and cultural celebrations for new generations. While taking on the challenges to advance reforms and break down barriers, we also recognize that despite progress, racial prejudice is still alive and thriving in America; and 

WHEREAS: As individuals, we must come together to end discrimination by advancing equity and opportunity for Black Oregonians, and proudly join with the Oregon Commission on Black Affairs to continue to build an Oregon where every person can realize their dream and the promises of America. 

NOW, THEREFORE: I, Kate Brown, Governor of the State of Oregon, hereby proclaim February 2020 to be BLACK HISTORY MONTH