This year’s 3-day Summer Institute at Portland State University provided a variety of activities, scholar sessions, and collaboration that all focused on the history of Civil Rights in Oregon. The Institute, which was attended by 38 teachers from around the state (the largest Institute in recent years), focused on diving deep into the issues of the 14th Amendment, White Supremacy, the progress of civil rights, and tribal law issues in our state.
On the first day, attendees participated in the Fair Housing Council of Oregon’s bus tour through Portland that took them to sites of discrimination often glossed over in our history books. The teachers stood on the site of Vanport City and heard from scholar Ed Washington, who grew up in Vanport and experienced the traumatic flood that wiped it out in the 1940’s. The tour also took teachers to the site of Japanese internment at the Expo Center, and heard from George Nakata, who grew up in Portland’s Japantown and was held with his family in the animal pens of the then-Portland Assembly Center in 1942 to await their transport and imprisonment in a concentration camp in Iowa for the duration of the war.
The first-hand experiences of these Portland residents brought to life the discrimination and unjust treatment that so many have had to endure through the years. After many stops along the way, the tour took the teachers past the site in Southeast Portland of the 1988 murder of Mulugeta Seraw by white supremacist skinheads. Dr. Randy Blazak described the incident and its aftermath in a preview of a further session he had the next day at the Institute about white supremacy and hate speech in Oregon. After the bus tour, Institute Attendees were able to explore the “Racing to Change” exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society and enjoy an evening dinner there and conversation with state Senator Lew Frederick, who described his experiences in the Civil Rights Movement and with discrimination both in Oregon and around the country.
On Tuesday and Wednesday of the Institute, teachers had in-depth scholar sessions with retired Justice Jack Landau, who talked about the 14th Amendment and Oregon’s own constitutional struggles with due process and equal protection. Later, teachers heard again from Dr. Randy Blazak about the renewed growth of white supremacy hate speech and actions around the state and how the laws deal with these issues. On Wednesday, law professor Robert Miller, of Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law, took teachers through the basics of tribal law and how civil rights have been addressed for Native Americans in the US and Oregon constitutions. Throughout both days, teachers learned the strategies of using Mock Trial and We the People constitutional hearings in their classrooms as ways to actively engage students in these issues. This year’s Institute was accompanied by digital resources and ongoing conversations for the teachers to continue to collaborate with each other as they prepare for their new school year.
Civics Learning Project thanks this year’s expert mentors, Barbara Rost, Susie Marcus, Karen Rouse, and Janell Cinquini for providing constant and inspiring guidance and instruction for the Institute Attendees. We especially thank Marilyn Cover, CLP’s Executive Director, for her leadership and teaching which, as always, inspired a new cohort of Oregon teachers going into the 2018-19 school year!
We hope to see YOU at the next Summer Institute!