2019 marks thirty-two years of Women’s History Month in existence. Women’s History Month started as Women’s History Week in 1980. This year’s theme is “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Non-violence.”
In keeping with this year’s theme, we are sharing stories of Portland women as champions of peace and non-violence, and catalysts for change in our communities. These women are high school seniors advocating for gun safety in schools, members of social justice-oriented youth outreach collectives and much-needed role models in our communities.
Read more: Pride Northwest
Image description: Pride Northwest festival on South Waterfront
Pride Northwest brings visibility to the issues, talents, and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community. Less spoken to, but equally important is our commitment to building, strengthening, and making our community more resilient and grounded. We believe in working together to lift all of us— whatever our identity.
From the very first Pride marches in 1970, we have celebrated our identity and demonstrated the strength of our people. Pride Northwest has pushed back against the heteronormative dominant culture of oppression and violence, of division and exclusion, and continues this very important work.
Pride’s history is founded in the courage and leadership of women like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia River—both transgender women at Stonewall, participants of the first Christopher Street march. Their efforts still help LGBTQ+ people everywhere. Women like Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, another Stonewall veteran continue to fight for trans rights and equality in California.
Portland’s LGBTQ+ community has its own history of strong women. Lesbian women Renee LaChance and Marty Davis defined what it meant to have professional media focused on and lifting the LGBTQ+ community. Melanie Davis continued that tradition well into the 2010s. Both transgender and cisgender women like Shannon Scott, with the Human Rights Campaign, and Nancy Haque, Executive Director for Basic Rights Oregon have worked, and continue to work for legal and systemic equity for all members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Words by: Debra Porta, MPA
Executive Director, Pride Northwest, Inc.
Image description: Faith Pauken holding a microphone at the 2018 Spirit of Portland Awards. Photography by: Justin Katigbak and Nikki DeLeon
“Success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in peoples’ lives.”
— Michelle Obama
As women, we have been culturally conditioned to invest our self-worth in social media likes, catcalls, and in what we wear. Our virtue is judged by a willingness to follow rather than to lead; self-sacrifice as the barometer of strength and resilience.
I was born into a home of strong women, uplifted by kind hearts. This nurtured me, in turn, to grow into a strong woman. In my home doing things “like a girl” is high praise than an insult. Watching women become their own champions, inspired me to take action to make a difference in my community.
Non-violence is the most powerful weapon in our world today. You must welcome everyone into your movement, even those running against you. By working with others to demonstrate the power and beauty of non-violence as an arsenal against oppression and destruction, members of my community have become agents of change.
Women like Michelle Obama also inspire me to embrace my femininity, to unapologetically stand in my truth so others can do the same—so we are all agents of change for a better community and a better world.
Words by: Faith Pauken
Faith is a 2018 Spirit of Portland award recipient. And is a senior at Lincoln High School who formed the “Never Again Club,” in response to the Parkland shooting to advocate for safer schools.
Image description: Amira Tripp Folsom at a podium. Image courtesy Oregon Youth Reform
I continue to embody non-violence through prevention work. In recent years, with the rise of mass shootings occurring more frequently, I have realized that not only do we need legislative reform, but also internal reform. Because I envision Oregon as a place free of gun violence, it’s important to not only look at the effects of gun violence but the reasons it occurs in the first place.
What I have been focusing on is community outreach and organizing tactics through the organization Oregon Youth for Gun Reform as an executive member of the Community Committee.
Words by: Amira Tripp Folsom
Amira is a 2018 Spirit of Portland Award recipient and part also part of the CENTER Youth Collective. It stands for “Create. Engage. Notice. Teach. Empower. Remember.”— a social justice-oriented youth outreach center in North Portland.