Dear Oregon Walks’ Supporters,

Izzy and I, along with our dedicated board and committee members, are working hard to absorb and incorporate our equity learning and practice.  It’s a crucial part of the mission and promise of Oregon Walks–to promote walking and create conditions that make walking safe, convenient, and attractive for every person in Oregon.

I’d like to spend a little time outlining some of our learning and how we are adapting our programming and advocacy during this era of physical distancing.

Our first order of business was to connect with our community partners and find out how we could best partner. We learned many people are not feeling safe leaving home during the pandemic. One case manager told us, “Many of my clients are telling me they literally feel trapped at home because they don’t have face coverings and are getting conflicting advice about how to stay safer outside”. Too many folks do not have enough (or any) access to face coverings or reliable information about how to walk “covid-aware” and more safely when they walk out the door. With these discussions in mind, we created “walking kits” we will be distributing in food boxes, community health clinics, and homeless shelters. Each walking kit will have a face covering, pedestrian light, current public health guidance for walking outside of the house, and links to community support services and resources. We are feeling very excited about this project.

While we focus locally, news of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery–another Black man killed–shook us to the core. It was a stark organizational reminder that no walking kit can erase the terrorism white supremacy culture inflicts. This, along with the anti-Asian racism many of our community members are experiencing in the public right of way, give us deep pause as an organization and make us more committed than ever to engage mainstream active transportation professionals and public planners in expanding the focus of our work to create a more broad understanding “safety”. Safety is not just walking kits. Safety is not just sidewalks. Safety is not just street lights. Safety is not just lower speed limits. Safety is uprooting white supremacy culture that permeates every system in the US — including criminal justice, economic, transportation, education, housing, and healthcare systems.

Because of this, Oregon Walks and some of our partners, will be offering a series of virtual conversations (we just bought a Zoom subscription!) called “Talk the Walk, Walk the Talk” — and many of these discussions will be conversations with folks who are working to operationalize equity and safety in the public right of way. We invite you to lean into this learning and community building with us. We are aiming for a late-June launch of these discussions: details to follow.

  • If you would like to be a panelist in these discussions, please email me directly at jess@oregonwalks.org.
  • If you would like to contribute to our campaign to create walking kits, please donate here.
  • If you know of an organization that would like to receive walking kits, click here.

Keep calm, walk on, and join us as we seek to uproot structural oppression and make walking TRULY safer for everyone.

Sincerely,

Jess

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