Black Voices United is the brainchild of organizer and educator, Nichole Watson. Currently, she is a fourth-grade teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary in the Portland Public Schools district and a former-facilitator of Parent University courses offered through The Black Parent Initiative.
In 2017, while Nichole and the concerned parent-community sought to engage in critical PPS issues, including the District-Wide Boundary Review Committee (DBRAC) meetings, the reopening of Tubman and Roseway Heights Middle Schools and the PPS (Zone 4) School Board election; a troubling and pervasive problem became evident; many families in the black community felt disengaged, that they lacked a powerful voice, and didn’t know how to navigate local elections and participate in the political process. Thus, Black Voices United was formed.
In 2018, BVU organizers and local partners including: Portland African American Leadership Forum (PAALF), Black Parent Initiative (BPI), Maranatha Church, Lori By Desgyn and Women First Transition & Referral Center, came together to co-plan and host a candidates forum for both the Multnomah County Commissioner, District 2 and City Council Commissioner, Position 3 elections. The most important objective of this forum was to educate and empower the public, with a specific emphasis on the Black community, to provide an opportunity for community members to learn more about Portland’s commission form of government and the role of a county and city commissioner.
We believe in order to achieve racial equity, we must be intentional to design and facilitate a more inclusive and responsive political process.
Navigating our local elections can be overwhelming for even the most involved citizen. The reality is that the Portland Metro area has dozens of local governing boards, and yet very few of those seats are currently held by people of color, and even less are held by those that share the identity of Black voters.
We are conscious to proximate the issues and empower the individual! These principles represent the foundations for building a path towards creating a more inclusive and responsive political space for the black community. The vision is to, eventually, extend our organizing structure and advocacy from the ‘North’ to the ‘Numbers’.
“Even where space for civil society is fairly open and accessible, it will inevitably shrink and disappear in the absence of citizen participation”
-National Democratic Institute
Our hope is to create safe spaces for communities of color to engage in local and national issues that impact their quality of life and the lives of their families.
Our expansive goal is to unite as many voices as possible in this movement. If knowledge is power, then we must be diligent in providing spaces where "knowledge" can be pursued.
Our vision is to redefine the culture of civic engagement in the state of Oregon. We envision a community of informed citizens who hold elected officials, school board directors, district leaders and school administrators accountable.
We envision spaces where voices are liberated and not silenced. Spaces that inform, empower and inspire the voice in those who are frequently excluded from the discussion.
We envision a coalition of voices fighting
for a better Oregon because our liberation is tethered to the liberation of our neighbor.