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Damp But Determined, Educators Hold March For Black Lives

Brian Bull

Teachers showed support for black lives today outside the federal courthouse in Eugene. As KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, this is the fourteenth straight day of events calling for justice reform and Black empowerment.

At least 500 people stood in the rain, to support students of color and diversifying school courses. Many talked amongst themselves about whether or not to continue having police present on school campuses, or on increased funding for mental health counseling.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Bobbie Willis, a South Eugene High School journalism teacher, started the event by thanking her fellow educators for showing.

Bobbie Willis, a journalism teacher at South Eugene High, began the event by thanking her colleagues.

“It says something that you all would spend this day here," said Willis. "It says what I know in my heart is true about the most skilled educators out there, that the heart of teaching resides in the openness to keep learning. And to learn, we must first be still.”

After some speeches, attendees marched to the 4J District building. Many dressed in red to support teachers, or black to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Churchill High School teacher Jennifer Spurlock, at today's event outside the Wayne Morse federal courthouse in Eugene.

 On Homogeneity and History

At today's event, teachers also acknowledged the sparse numbers of Blacks in the Eugene area.

Churchill High teacher Jennifer Scurlock says between this and Oregon’s racist history, many families are hesitant to move or stay here.

“We hope by intervening through education as an educator voice, that we can push against that and say ‘No no no," she told KLCC. 

"We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that you and your family and your children and your children’s children, feel safe in our community.’ That’s why we’re here.”

On Representation of Educators of Color

Kevin Summerfield, another Churchill educator, says it’s also important to hire teachers of color, to challenge common perceptions of African-Americans. He told the crowd about his earliest interactions with students.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Churchill High educator Kevin Summerfield takes his turn at the megaphone.

“They got to not just see somebody who’s on TV, not no rapper, not no gangster, not no thug," Summerfield said to the crowd. 

"They got to see somebody important who is spending his time to help educate them on what it’s like to be in the skin that I’m in.”

Census data shows that African-Americans make up 3 percent of Eugene’s population.

WEB EXTRA: Watch Educators March launch from Wayne Morse Federal Courthouse towards 4J District Building in Eugene.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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