02-19-2017  3:26 pm      •     

Poised to launch itself into a major growth phase, The Urban League of Portland is tapping one of the most dynamic women in the Pacific Northwest to drive their grassroots expansion.
Sunshine Dixon – an artist, activist, organizer, writer, businesswoman – is the League's new community organizer.
She'll be presiding over the Urban League's Do the Right Thing Literacy Festival this Saturday, Sept. 20 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the North Portland Library on North Killingsworth Street.
"I think it's amazing that the word 'together' also says 'to get there,'" Dixon says. "I want to see the community come together, I want to see partnerships develop; I want to see people move forward beyond their barriers."
Born and raised in Oregon, Dixon spent her childhood in the family home just off North Killingsworth Street. She attended Humboldt Elementary School, Ockley Green Middle School, Jefferson High School, Portland Community College and Portland State University.
A turning point in her life was when a local adult recruited her to volunteer with a nonprofit group for the first time.
"Geneva Jones brought me in on the United Negro College Fund recruiting team – she reached out to me and said hey, it's time for you to give back.
"I've had a lifestyle of doing that ever since."
This weekend at the North Portland Library, Dixon is organizing a huge street party celebrating books — right across the street from the block where she spent her childhood years. It's the biggest Do the Right Thing event the League has ever put together.
Midge Purcell, the League's coordinator for organization and public affairs, is enthusiastic about the next year of special programs and the energy Dixon is already bringing to the table.
In addition to the League's Senior Center with its full slate of health, wellness and artistic programs; its community development and political work including its Mayoral Forums held before the primary elections last spring; and its youth programs running the gamut from mentorships to the Portland Urban League Success in Education summer academy, Purcell lists even more important new projects that could enhance the lives of local residents.
Armed with a new grant from the City of Portland, the group is beefing up their outreach programs and encouraging civic engagement.
While the literary celebration this weekend is growing, voter registration programs continue and are set to expand over the next few weeks until the Nov. 4 election.
In addition, the League is updating its 10-year-old State of Black Oregon project, gathering an informational database of statistics on employment, health and social issues affecting the community, and augmenting it with historical accounts of change over the past 20 years.
In addition to doing social services and programs to youth and seniors, the organization also does what Purcell calls "community building."
A key political education project the League has underway is the Social Justice and Leadership Trainings, which culminate Oct. 11. The three-session class has been broken down into three segments: "Understanding Social Movements," "Tackling Inequity Through Policy Change," and "Building a Community Campaign."
"One of the other things is to get people hopeful about the idea that City Hall belongs to them, and how to access those structures," Purcell said. "That's one of the things we're getting into down the road tapping into youth, and Sunshine has some great ideas about how to do that for youth."
Dixon is also already organizing a physical exercise initiative and more youth development projects.
 "I would love to see people understand their value," Dixon says. "So many nonprofits will be in need of things that other businesses need to get rid of — but they don't know each other or what others are in need of."
For more information about the Urban League of Portland, call 503-280-2600.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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