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Hundreds Partake In Eugene & Springfield MLK Day Events

Melorie Begay/ KLCC News


The cities of Eugene and Springfield celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday with marches that attracted hundreds of participants at both events. In Eugene, the local NAACP chapter centered their event on women’s suffrage.

One of the speakers at the Eugene event was Deleesa Meashintubby. She’s a pastor at St. Marks CME Church, the oldest African American church in the city.

Credit Melorie Begay/KLCC News
Marchers in Springfield head to Springfield High School for their annual MLK celebration featuring student artwork.

“Women have been suffering for a long time, but you know what? We’ve come a mighty long way too, and the doors are being opened for us,” she said. A key lesson from Dr. King’s legacy was his ability to start a movement that has lasted for decades.

“What we need to do is to prove that what one person started with a group of other people can go a long way because this is a lot of years of history,” Meashintubby added.

Meanwhile, the march in Springfield celebrated Dr. King's values and awarded student artworks that represented his legacy. The City of Springfield also handed out free lawn signs with MLK quotes.

Credit Melorie Begay/KLCC News
A Springfield marcher holds up a free lawn sign that the city distributed during the march.

As part of KLCC's ongoing election coverage, KLCC's Melorie Begay spoke with several black women voters about how they're feeling about election season. In Eugene, she spoke with Jazzmen Vega-Heath who works in property management.

The theme for today celebrates 100 years of women’s suffrage. How do you feel about voting today?

Vega-Heath: I feel like we have so far to go, especially with who we have in office at this time. I feel like it’s important for us just be seen and make sure that we’re heard no matter what. No matter how often people try to oppress us and silence us. I think it’s important to be vocal even when you’re scared, speak up.

Credit Melorie Begay/KLCC News
Jazzmen Vega-Heath

Heading into the 2020 presidential election, how are you feeling?

Vega-Heath: I think it’s very scary times. I can’t honestly say I’ve seen any candidates that I deem worthy of coming in and following. I mean our president right now has caused so much hatred and has fueled that. It’s nerve-racking because who’s going to come and clean up? We had so much that had already needed cleaning up [prior to his candidacy.]

Do you feel seen, as a voter of color, by any of the candidates running for office?
Vega-Heath: Not at this time. But that’s why it’s important for people of color to make sure that they go and talk to candidates and see what their views are. A lot of people don’t visit with candidates, or their legislators. A lot of legislators have office hours where you can go and talk about issues what issues are important. You’d be surprised by what issues [legislators] brush aside because they don’t see it as important. I did a sit in for making education more accessible for student parents, and I sat and met with a couple of legislators. They didn’t deem that it was important for student parents to have data collected to see how many of us are affected.

What do you think candidates at either the local, state, or national level can do to productively engage with communities of color?

Vega-Heath: Stop trying to buy them and actually meet them at their level. And see what their needs are. We vocalize our needs constantly. All we want is to be heard and action be put in place for the things that we request. (End.)

In the neighboring city of Springfield, I spoke with Chanel Hoffman. She works in the healthcare field and moved to Springfield from Redding, CA 11 years ago.

We’re entering into an election year, how do you feel about the presidential election now?

Hoffman: I’m a little blasé. I’m kind of numb to it. I used to be excited. It’s a whole different game now, like you can vote, but it’s like the votes don’t matter. At least that’s what I’ve seen in the past.

Credit Melorie Begay/KLCC News
Chanel Hoffman

Do you feel at all represented by any of the candidates?

Hoffman: No, not really. It’s just one of those “well, we’ll see.” We get what we get, and we don’t throw a fit. See how it turns out and just ride it out. That’s kind of how I feel about it.

What can candidates do to better represent communities of color?

Hoffman: Just be genuine and sincere. Don’t gas us up to try to get our votes. Just be genuine in what you’re saying, what you’re for, what you stand for. They need to be truthful. We need the truth now.

You mentioned that you feel blasé about elections. Is this because in previous experience candidates didn’t follow through?

Hoffman: Yeah, because they switch [their platform] and then it’s like wow, slap in the face. (End.)

Copyright 2020 KLCC

Melorie Begay is a multimedia journalist for KLCC News. She was the Inaugural KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She has a bachelors in Multimedia Journalism from the University of New Mexico. She previously interned at KUNM public radio in Albuquerque, NM and served as a fellow for the online news publication New Mexico In Depth.