01-18-2022  2:24 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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NORTHWEST NEWS

The Skanner Foundation Drum Major for Justice 2022 is Teressa Raiford

Through political campaigns, legal actions, founding the grassroots organizing group Don't Shoot Portland and through her fearless determination to speak up against racial injustice, Portland-born Teressa Raiford has made a lasting impression on our city and our state

Paid Workplace Training Internships Program Receives Support From City

Black, Latinx students receive skilled on-the-job training, career coaching, through POIC-RAHS program

Oregon Supreme Court OKs Dropping Bar Exam for Alternatives

The state’s highest court in a unanimous vote “expressed approval in concept” to a pair of alternative pathways designed for law students and postgraduates seeking admittance to the state bar

Washington Lawmakers Kick off Mostly Remote Session

Lawmakers in Washington state have started a new legislative session amid the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and much of their work will be done remotely 

NEWS BRIEFS

Culture + Trauma: An Artist Comes Home

An installation at the Alberta Arts Salon curated by Bobby Fouther is a visioning of the uncensored Black life. ...

MLK Day March Starts at Peninsula Park

Humboldt Neighborhood Association invites the public to participate in the March for Human Rights and Dignity in commemoration of the...

Shabbat Service Honors Martin Luther King Jr.

Congregation Beth Israel's Shabbat Service will be online Friday, Jan.14, at 6 p.m. to honor Dr. King’s work and legacy. ...

MLK Virtual Youth Summit Offers Resources for Portland’s Young African Americans 

With the ongoing rise in youth violence in our community, Highland Christian Center aims to take practical steps to reach our youth...

Underground Railroad Topic of Genealogy ZOOM Presentation

The public is invited to join the Genealogical Forum of Oregon’s African American Special Interest group Saturday, Jan, 15, from...

Portland nurses 'urgently concerned' about health in schools

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — As COVID-19 cases surge in Oregon — forcing some of the state’s largest school districts to close last week due to staffing shortages — a letter from three dozen nurses at the Portland Public School District circulated over the weekend, in which they question the...

Police rescue 2 after home slides off foundation

Police in Bellevue, Washington, rescued two people from a home that slid off its foundation early Monday morning. The Seattle Times reports police received a call of flooding around 4 a.m. and officers, along with fire crews, arrived to find a partially-collapsed two-story home...

UNLV promotes interim AD Harper to full-time job

LAS VEGAS (AP) — UNLV has promoted interim athletic director Erick Harper to serve in the job full time. Harper's hiring, announced on Monday, was effective Jan. 1. He had served as interim athletic director since Desiree Reed-Francois left UNLV for Missouri in August. ...

Army stuns Missouri in Armed Forces Bowl on last-second FG

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Cole Talley kicked a 41-yard field goal as time expired and Army rallied to beat Missouri 24-22 in the Armed Forces Bowl on Wednesday night. After the Tigers took a 22-21 lead on a touchdown with 1:11 to play, third-string quarterback Jabari Laws led Army...

OPINION

OP-ED: A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

January 6th, Voting Rights and the Tyranny Threatening America ...

Support Nikole Hannah-Jones and The 1619 Project

This important and ambitious project pulled back the curtain of euphemistic rhetoric composing American historiography that points only to the good in our history and sweeps under the rug the evil deeds perpetrated against people of color ...

In 2021, Organized Labor is Again Flexing its Muscles

We have seen dramatic change in the makeup of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) under President Biden. ...

Study Reveals Racial Pay Gap for Social Media Influencers

The racial pay gap has long presented issues for African Americans in Corporate America and other industries. It’s now filtered to social media. ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Norwegian mass murderer appears before parole hearing

SKIEN, Norway (AP) — Anders Behring Breivik, the right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in bomb-and-gun massacres in Norway’s worst peacetime slaughter in 2011, appeared Tuesday before a court for a parole hearing. The Telemark District Court must rule whether Breivik is still...

Sinema, Manchin slammed as Senate begins voting bill debate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing stark criticism from civil rights leaders, senators return to Capitol Hill under intense pressure to change their rules and break a Republican filibuster that has hopelessly stalled voting legislation. The Senate is set to launch debate Tuesday on the voting...

NHL pioneer O'Ree says having Bruins retire jersey an honor

BOSTON (AP) — Willie O’Ree has experienced many honors during his lifetime, from becoming the NHL's first Black player in 1958 with the Boston Bruins to being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018. But the 86-year-old says having his No. 22 jersey retired in Boston on...

ENTERTAINMENT

Los Angeles police investigate Ye after battery complaint

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police are investigating after a battery report was filed Thursday against Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West. The incident that spurred the complaint took place in downtown Los Angeles at about 3 a.m. Thursday, LAPD spokeswoman Redina Puentes said. No...

Elvis Costello rocks out from the back porch

NEW YORK (AP) — Elvis Costello's 32nd album rings with the sound of a tight rock ‘n’ roll combo sweating together on a tiny stage, feeding off each other to produce a joyful noise. Yet that's all a mirage. Costello and his three-piece band, the Imposters, were...

Review: Jamestown Revival, more than just a roadhouse band

Jamestown Revival, “Young Man" (Thirty Tigers) The list of really good Americana roadhouse bands that have emerged from the Texas music scene over the years is a long one. The list of those that distinguished themselves by doing something fresh and original, not so much. ...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

AP PHOTOS: Bejeweled camels wrestle for victory in Turkey

SELCUK, Turkey (AP) — Black-eyed Nirvana and Mr. Isa, two male camels from the western Aydin province of Turkey...

In tiny Wyoming town, Bill Gates bets big on nuclear power

KEMMERER, Wyoming (AP) — In this sleepy Wyoming town that has relied on coal for over a century, a company...

Satellite photos show aftermath of Abu Dhabi oil site attack

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Satellite photos obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday appear to show...

Hong Kong to cull 2,000 animals after hamsters get COVID-19

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong authorities said Tuesday that they will cull some 2,000 small animals, including...

Japan ready to expand virus restrictions as infections surge

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's government is preparing social restrictions in Tokyo and other regions as the omicron...

AP PHOTOS: Bejeweled camels wrestle for victory in Turkey

SELCUK, Turkey (AP) — Black-eyed Nirvana and Mr. Isa, two male camels from the western Aydin province of Turkey...

O'Nesha Cochran, the former program director at he newly opened Diane Wade House in Portland, speaks at a May 9 Multnomah County Commission meeting.
By Saundra Sorensen For The Skanner News

The former director of Portland’s first Afro-Centric women’s transition home addressed the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on May 9 to object to her abrupt firing in April, which came soon after positive performance reviews and glowing media coverage that touted her lived experience with the criminal justice system.

O’Nesha Cochran was promoted to program director at the Diane Wade House in Gresham in December. Overseen by Bridges to Change and funded by a $2 million grant from the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge, the house formally opened in early April. The program offers culturally specific counseling, education, employment, mental health, and addiction services for Black women, but according to Cochran had been derailed by empty commitments from a White-run organization that did not include Black leaders in decisions about budget and programming.

“Bridges to Change has been run by cis White men from 2004 to 2015,” Cochran told the board on Thursday. “Shelly Mead was the first White female they gave a leadership position to. It’s been 15 years. They’re the only re-entry program that’s as large as this in Portland. In Multnomah County, Blacks are 5 percent of the population. We are 29 percent of the prison and jail population. Why doesn’t the re-entry program leadership and employees match the people that are coming out of jails and prison? We have no support.”

Cochran said she hadn’t had a direct supervisor since stepping into her role in December, when operations director Mead, whom Cochran regarded as a mentor, resigned after a period of protected leave. Cochran felt shut out of the resulting interview process and said that Bridges to Change executive director Monta Knudson was vague about when Mead’s replacement would be hired.

Mead said she could not comment to The Skanner, and Knudson did not respond to The Skanner’s requests for comment.

Cochran was dismissed from her $47,840-a-year position on April 29, which she says was not even a week into a six-week performance improvement plan implemented by her supervisors at Bridges to Change. Even that pushback had caught her by surprise.

We’re putting you on a performance improvement plan. We feel you lack leadership skills

“On April 10, I’m on the front page of The Oregonian,” Cochran told The Skanner. “On the 11th, (Bridges to Change executive director Monta Knudson and director of treatment services Katelyn Bessette) called me into their office and said ‘We’re putting you on a performance improvement plan. We feel you lack leadership skills.’”

Cochran said that plan was put into place on April 25, when she returned from an approved vacation. In a copy of the signed plan Cochran showed to The Skanner, Bridges to Change administrators advise Cochran to be more conservative in her personal social media postings, and criticize Cochran for an incident in which she allegedly spoke negatively about a probation officer to a client. She was also reprimanded for the way she handled a client discharge -- a process she says she had not yet been trained for.

Cochran agreed in writing to the terms of the performance improvement plan. On April 29, she was dismissed "due to an ongoing pattern of failure to demonstrate effective leadership and professionalism,” according to the termination letter she provided to The Skanner.

Cochran says there had been no incident that would have constituted a fireable offense.

“They didn’t even give me a week to do anything,” Cochran told The Skanner. “I was tokenized for a purpose.”

Diane Wade House resident assistant Shalontelle White-Preston agreed, telling the board that “after the ribbon-cutting, it seemed like the glitz and glamor left, and the real faces came out. And I just want to say it’s unfair. I’m still an employee there, and I see that all the struggle that the women are still facing without the care and the support that O’Nesha has been bringing to the table.”

The house is named for a beloved parole and probation officer who served Multnomah County until her death in 2010, and who worked with Cochran during the latter’s incarceration. Wade’s mother told the board by phone that she was “dumbfounded” to hear of Cochran’s firing, saying it did not seem true to the spirit of her daughter’s namesake program, or to her daughter’s work.

Cochran sees her firing as retaliation for her complaints to Bridges to Change administrators about “implicit bias, racism, and not having senior leadership” in the program.

Diane Wade House resident Philisha Davis said that Cochran’s sudden absence, and a lack of explanation from Bridges to Change, were re-traumatizing to her and other clients.

“I feel nervous since O’Nesha left,” Davis told The Skanner. “We’ve got severe PTSD, we feel safe, then we feel like a tornado ripped through. And they’re treating us like how we were when we were little, when we got molested or raped or something like that. We didn’t talk about it and you swept it under the rug. That’s how it’s being treated.”

Cochran also found the experience to be re-traumatizing.

It was just the trauma that I went through as a Black woman, and it’s the trauma so many people in the community go though. By trusting the system one more time.

“I was suicidal,” she told The Skanner. “I haven’t felt suicidal since I was 18 years old. It was just the trauma that I went through as a Black woman, and it’s the trauma so many people in the community go though. By trusting the system one more time. Not only did I trust the system, I vouched for it.”

Allegations of Cochran’s lack of professionalism do not sit well with her supporters, many of whom include Black women who have worked for Multnomah County in the past and found it to be an uneasy fit. Many testified to the board that “professionalism” is coded language that gets to the heart of the program’s purpose: a culturally competent place of healing for Black women who have often been accused of being aggressive, or otherwise incompatible with predominantly White institutions.

Cochran and her supporters called for an audit of the program and asked the board to ensure the program had Black leadership.

“What was done to me was wrong, Chair Kafoury,” Cochran said. “And me and you stood together, we held hands and we said we were going to fight together. Fight with me now.”

Kafoury offered to meet with Cochran after the meeting. According to Kafoury’s office, no meeting has yet been scheduled.

“The Chair’s office is undertaking a deep examination of what happened at Bridges and what needs to occur so that women at Diane Wade are successful in their re-entry to the community and to their continued recovery,” Multnomah County communications director Julie Sullivan-Springhetti said.

“I am 110 percent dedicated to the Diane Wade House and its Afro-centric focus,” Kafoury told The Skanner by email. “I am committed to wrapping resources around the program staff and the women living there. I believe in the spirit of Diane Wade and the impact this house will have on individual women and on our entire community.’’

The Skanner Foundation's Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast

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