Letter to Editor: It’s Time to Take a Stand (Friday September 29th)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Tillmaook County Pioneer did not receive this letter from LaNicia Williams until today (Oct. 3) due to problems with emails (ahhh, technology.) This provides background information about the racist graffiti at the North County Recreation District (NCRD) skate ramp last week and LaNicia’s perspective of the situation, and plans for a community meeting today.
LaNicia Williams, founder of the Oregon Coast Love Coalition, invites the community to a meeting to talk about this issues as well as to begin planning for the OCLC’s future events and program on Oct. 3 at 6 pm at NCRD.

Good afternoon,

I wanted to share a letter I have written to my community of Tillamook county. My original intent was to offer an opinion regarding the national debate of protesting the flag, national anthem and disrespecting our armed forces. In light of the hate crime which just happened in Nehalem, I offer this instead.

It’s Time to Take a Stand!

I have been writing for 20 years. Outside of writing the tribute for my grandfather’s memorial, this is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. I have been a member of the Tillamook county family since January 2015 after spending my first couple months on the coast in Cannon Beach. I had never been to the north Oregon coast before. I had no idea it existed, did not know one person here and definitely didn’t know how being a part of this community would change my life for the better. Sure, I’ve had my share of challenges since living here, both personally and professionally, but I assure you I have never loved being in a place more than I love calling this area my home and calling you my family.

When I initially began to consider sharing some of my thoughts with you, I was ready to “school you” on the difference between disrespecting the anthem, flag and our armed forces versus peacefully protesting the issue of racial inequality in this country. I was prepared to share with you how this country was built on the basis people of color would never truly be an equal part of this society. I was prepared to share with you statistics and reasoning, and urge you to open your hearts and your eyes to an issue we shouldn’t still be dealing with.

Instead I want to share with you some things I’ve learned about the plight of some in our community and within our schools. Over the last year I have had the privilege of meeting some of the bravest living among us. Because of their ages I won’t share their names, but I will tell you who they are. They are the children of mixed race growing up in our community. Having spent time with some of these young men and women, I have heard from their lips what has been their experience growing up in Nehalem, Manzanita, Rockaway and even Tillamook. Of course it’s easy to love the beauty and nature surrounding us and I assure you they do. Even with all the beauty within our community in its environment and people, some of these children have had some of the ugliest experiences right here in the place that should be safe for everyone.

Stories have been shared with me from previous students of color within the Tillamook and Neahkahnie school districts, even to the point of receiving death threats simply because they looked different. Some of you may have been in attendance at the Hoffman Center in Manzanita back in January as we had a discussion around Helen Hill’s book, “A Brief History of the Fear and Intolerance of Tillamook County”. There, a previous student of our school system spoke of his experiences of racism and hate which was compounded for him not just being a person of color but also a homosexual. It was harrowing to hear him share his story and an experience most in the audience may not have known had happened during that time.

Fast forward to the young people of multi-racial heritage who are in our schools now and what their experience has been. Even as these children are receiving a wonderful education, they are also sometimes the victims of ignorance and hatred. Do you know how you would react to your child coming home crying because other kids were picking on them just for the color of their skin being brown? I know it’s hard to accept or want to deal with, but this is the reality for some parents when they pick up their children from school. Can you imagine sitting in a room where the civil war is being discussed and feeling like all eyes are on you because you’re the “black” kid in the room?

Then something happens this week that tells me I can no longer be silent about what I know is happening around here. I for one don’t want to be the Black girl of the community making such a big fuss around race. Sure I am always happy to have discussions about cultural differences (because they are real) and even more difficult conversations about our country’s history and my life experience as a person of color, but I have a duty to the children in our community to be their advocate and voice. On Wednesday, September 27th, some graffiti was discovered at the skate park behind NCRD. “Kill niggas,” it said in black paint. “C. W. mooo’s” was painted exactly over those other words in white paint. It could be a coincidence one of our kids of color was invited to the skate park and his initials are C.W., but are we willing to take our chances with that? The mother of this child is now afraid for her son to not be in her sight. How would the narrative be if this was your story?

The Tillamook sheriff’s office has been contacted and a report was given, yet almost 48 hours later no investigation has taken place. NCRD has painted over the graffiti. Community members are outraged while some are just chalking it up to kids being kids. What if this was your kid? I invite you to join me in action. Let’s urge the sheriff’s office (Deputy Mike Hanratty, 503-842-2561 or mhanratty@co.tillamook.or.us) and the district attorney’s office to do a full investigation of a hate crime that happened in Nehalem. Let’s urge the superintendents of our school to make it a point to educate our children on the difference between free speech and hate speech as well as compassion and an understanding of our differences. Let’s advocate for the children and families around us who feel alienated and afraid to fully acclimate into our community. Let’s urge each other to take a stand for the present and future of our community so everyone feels safe regardless of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, economic standing or anything else that would divide us because of difference.

LaNicia Williams is the owner of Coastal Soul and founder of the Oregon Coast Love Coalition. If you are interested in being involved, please email coastalsoulnw@gmail.com or call 425-243-3765Seasoned with love,

LaNicia Williams, Visionary

Founder, Changed Living/Coastal Soul