When asked to describe her relationship to MRG, Teressa Raiford, Don’t Shoot Portland’s (DSP) Founder and Lead Organizer, said “MRG saved my life.” She went on to say, “it’s a lot going on [in the world today] you know? The world is not like it was yesterday. We’re post-Ferguson, and a lot is happening and we’re on the front line. MRG, it’s a safety net not just a partnership.”
Rewind to 2010. MRG and Ms. Raiford had never met and DSP didn’t exist. While visiting from Texas, Teressa, was exposed to community violence too close to home. Her nephew, Andre Campbell, known as “ACE” to family and friends had been shot by Portland Police. The reality of how much Portland had changed in her 15-year absence, the disconnect of family and community, gentrification, and increased police brutality sparked her activism.
During the past 6 years, Teressa has gathered hundreds, if not thousands, of folks together to do the work of community activism. Through marches, rallies, forums, educational workshops, legislative actions, and ultimately, the creation of Don’t Shoot Portland in 2014, Teressa found a calling.
Since 2014, DSP has been actively working to create safety and awareness in communities of color. While testifying before various elected bodies, building community partnerships, and being responsive to the various needs of community, DSP has become a Community Action-Plan that incorporates activism, education, strategic partnerships and community liberation from violence and oppression.
The frontline work of challenging systems of oppression and engaging in peaceful protest in 2015 resulted in her being arrested on the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown at a community celebration of his life, and eventually being exonerated of any wrong-doing in 2016.
She counts her survival and the survival of DSP to MRG. “The community was asking me, ‘what are we going to do this year for the anniversary of Mike Brown?’ I didn’t have an answer for them because I had already depleted all of my energy.” Teressa continues, “MRG came out right in time.”
DSP and Teressa attribute the success of the 2016 Community Art Project, an annual celebration of the life of Mike Brown, as a major success and the launch pad for new partnerships and revitalization of their grassroots organizing. MRG funding helped Don’t Shoot Portland strengthen their educational programming and community outreach, and enabled them to provide critical seed funding to other grassroots groups. Collaborating with #PDXFormation, Black Lives Matter Dancers, and Marcus Cooper Choreography helped build and expand the educational, empowerment, and community engagement platforms DSP had already established. “It was perfect timing! People will cherish the gift for years to come.”
Article co-written by Tony Funchess and Stephan Herrera