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Comments from ONI Bureau Director honoring Midge Purcell at City Council

Good morning Mayor Hales, Commissioners

My name is Amalia Alarcon Morris and I am the director of the Office of Neighborhood Involvement

It gives me great joy to have been asked to speak today about Midge Purcell – a woman I love and admire very much.

Midge had been working with ONI’s Jeri Jimenez (formerly known as Williams), managing our DCL partnership with the Urban League. But I personally got to know her during our efforts on the Portland Plan Equity and Civic Engagement TAG. For over two years, a core group of us bonded over the joys and sorrows of trying to convince our bureaucracy about the importance of equity to Portland’s future. Midge’s insights, clear analysis, strategic thinking and her sense of humor kept us going through the endless re-writes and the frustrations of having our re-writes re-written. During that time someone began calling our group, comprised of Midge, Lisa Bates, Danielle Brooks, Dora Perry, Desiree Williams-Rajee, the late, great Afifa Ahmed-Shafi, and me, the equity ladies. On days that were especially frustrating, Midge dubbed us the somewhat less dignified “Sad Bastards.” And on days when we wanted to walk away we would organize a “sad bastard” happy hour and recharge our batteries and come back to the table.

Midge will tell you that all her efforts were team efforts, and that is true. But it leaves out the fact that every team needs a leader, someone who points out the way – and jumps into the work too. Someone who inspires the team to keep going until the work is done. And that is Midge Purcell. Leadership development, wildly successful get-out-the-vote efforts, not one, but two State of Black Oregon reports and the Ban the Box efforts are just some of the ways Midge has worked to make Portland a better place for all Portlanders. Her work, and that of her DCL colleagues from the Latino Network IRCO, NAYA, and CIO was recognized this year by Harvard University Kennedy School of Government for being one of their top 10 identified Innovations in American Government. I can’t say that enough. It makes me giddy…I’ll probably say it some more…Innovations in American Government. That was Harvard…

Midge is a brilliant woman. She taught me about getting clear and being strategic. About letting go of the battle in favor of winning the war. About releasing personal hurt from injuries caused by systems in service of changing those systems for the better. She taught me that if you can’t change it right now, you can find fellowship, laugh at it, and yourself, and get up and try again tomorrow. All this she did with the utmost humility and generosity of spirit.

I spoke with Midge yesterday and asked her if there was anything she would want me to say today. True to form, she told me to say that none of the work she has done in Portland during her tenure would have happened without the ONI DCL grant that seeded the creation of her department. Though I doubt that, I will take it. And maybe put in for my retirement – quitting while I’m ahead.

I feel privileged to have been a part of Midge’s movement during her time here. Glad to have worked with her and planned with her and grieved with her and celebrated with her.

Saying goodbye to such a positive force is not easy. But it is mitigated by the knowledge that the next Sad Bastards happy hour will be in London. Thank you Midge Purcell for your brilliance and your friendship. We will carry on with your work. Portland’s loss is London’s gain. Safe journeys and God-speed.