February 26, 2024

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Lyndsie Leech speaks out against racism, antisemitism

7 min read
Noting overt antisemitism and racism in Eugene, Ward 7 Councilor Lyndsie Leech encouraged citizens to speak out: "Because if you're not vocally saying your stance against it...you are just helping to continue that process."

Eugene City Councilor Lyndsie Leech speaks out against antisemitism and racism. At the River Road Community Organization (RRCO) Feb. 20:

[00:00:10] Councilor Lyndsie Leech: Well, I want to just kind of introduce myself, but also give you all a chance to ask questions and get to know me a little bit. I’ve been kind of talking with (River Road co-chair) Jon (Belcher) about the neighborhood plan. I’m hoping some of you can join as well. We go to Oakshire, we have a beer, and we talk about what is up and coming and what I can do to help you all achieve your goals.

[00:00:37] I will be meeting with (city planners) Terri Harding and Alissa Hansen, to see how we can move forward with the plan and implement at least some pieces of it more quickly, in a more urgent way than I think it has been addressed in the past couple years.

[00:00:58] I am working also pretty intensively on the Zip-O-(Laminators) noise that is really affecting our neighborhoods, and that has been a struggle.

[00:01:09] Clare Strawn (RRCO co-chair): One of the patterns of relationships that some people have noticed working in collaboration with the city is a kind of a lack of accountability, of follow-through. And I’m wondering if, with your fresh eyes, if you see any ways to work on that, get traction on that problem.

[00:01:30] Councilor Lyndsie Leech: Yeah, I think in so many ways the council job should be a real living-wage job… I know we don’t have maybe the resources to be able to do that. But I think it would give people who are very skilled and knowledgeable the opportunity to do that as a full-time job and put the attention, put all of that time and effort into following through with each of these things.

[00:01:59] Susan Kittleson (RRCO board): Hi, Lyndsie. One question I have, you know, one of the challenges that we’re facing on the RRCO board is a lack of interest in participation, especially among the younger members of our community. One thing I know when you first came on board, we were like, ‘Oh, she’s in River Road,’ but you weren’t part of RRCO. Why weren’t you part of RRCO? And what recommendations do you have for us to try to get more younger people in our community involved? Because we don’t want the same voices constantly speaking. We want to represent everybody, and yet we can’t do it if people aren’t stepping up and being a part of this.

[00:02:36] Councilor Lyndsie Leech: Absolutely. I think for the most part our young families are struggling a lot—struggling with the last few years of the pandemic and all the isolation. A lot of ’em are having mental health issues. I know that ‘cause I work with so many of them with my job at WellMama. And they’re in this like time of their life that they’re incredibly busy and I know that because I’m living it still too. You know, you’re hustling back and forth from work and school drop-offs and activities and it’s hard to fit everything in.

[00:03:06] I came on pretty fairly new and came into this area, I mean, only a year ago. I don’t really think that I was that aware of how active it was and what you were working on. So I absolutely think we need to do something to engage younger people in a way that they’re able to.

[00:03:25] Seven o’clock in the evening I know is a real, pretty a difficult time for young families with young kids. And luckily my kids are getting used to it. But yeah, how can we do something that’s going to get the word out a little bit more to those people and really talk about the things that matter to them.

[00:03:49] I care about the neighborhood plan now that I really know about it. But what’s really affecting our younger people is that they absolutely cannot afford rent. They are often having to work two, three jobs just to pay for living costs because it’s extremely high right now, but wages haven’t increased.

[00:04:09] So if we start thinking about ways that we can support our younger people in our neighborhood and bring connection and community back in where they really feel like they’re cared for. I think that could help.

[00:04:22] I was really excited about this feeling of connection when I came here 13 years ago. Then when I had kids, I never felt like people wanted me there with my kids in a lot of community spaces; that it was not as welcoming as I wanted it to be. And so one of my many missions in life is helping to create spaces that everyone feels like they can belong or that there’s spaces that are for them and that they’re cared for in, in those spaces.

[00:04:52] Mysti Frost (RRCO board): What’s your experience dealing and or advocating for BIPOC communities and what’s your understanding of their experience in our neighborhood?

[00:05:11] Councilor Lyndsie Leech: One of the things I did when I came on to WellMama was ask, ‘Why are we not really focusing on our most vulnerable communities in a bigger way? Because they are experiencing all of the things in a more intense way because of any number of things: bias in the medical system and overt racism in our community.

[00:05:31] And just in barriers, like language. So I, one of the first things was to start writing grants to fund the programs that we needed to. So we hired all bilingual staff for the majority of our group-level services. We did just a lot of equity work and we’ve been really focused on how can we serve the people who need it the most. And if we can serve them, then we can also just serve the broader community as well because it’s not going to be exclusive to them.

[00:06:00] So I just think that that framework is how we should approach all of our work, that we’re really only as strong as our, weakest or our most vulnerable people. And if we can build them up, then we’ll build everybody up and we can all be on a kind of more level playing field. So I think it’s incredibly important.

[00:06:20] Mysti Frost (RRCO board): I just want to—I’m not sure if you’re aware: RRCO has a social justice committee and an emergency preparedness team that both are very active and yeah, I think that it’d be great for you to join meetings at one of those groups as well.

[00:06:42] Dan Isaacson (RRCO board): Just this past weekend, we here in River Road and Santa Clara experienced a bunch of incredibly antisemitic, hateful, disgusting fliers that were put up.

[00:06:52] And I was wondering if you can speak to the need that our communities have, and the importance of that work—the social justice work.

[00:07:01] Councilor Lyndsie Leech: It’s absolutely important. I was shocked and dismayed, hearing the reports. They said over 50 people had called into the EPD (Eugene Police Department) about these fliers.

[00:07:12] So the good thing is that there’s a lot of good people out there too who are like, ‘This is not okay.’ And we need more of that. We need to be as a community joining together and saying, ‘We do not support this.’ And only with very vocal outrage, are we going to be able to (hopefully) move forward.

[00:07:34] Because if you’re not vocally saying your stance against it, and you’re doing nothing, then you are just helping to continue that process. You’re not making it better, you’re—you can make it worse by not doing anything. So we all have to do something and I think we can make some statements at the council level now and then.

[00:07:54] I haven’t been assigned committees yet, but I’m hoping that I’ll be assigned committees that fall within my skills and my experiences and one of those is like the Human Rights Commission and Human Services. So I hope to be able to continue that work. Thank you for that question, Dan.

[00:08:17] Brenda Wills (RRCO board): Lyndsie, I’m not sure if you’re aware, but in regards to the hate literature that’s been out, there are two community groups that have been leafleting anti-hate literatures in those neighborhoods following that, and that will happen again this weekend. If you could come and join us, that would be lovely.

[00:08:34] Councilor Lyndsie Leech: Okay. So there you go. There’s my personal email. You’re all welcome to send me any questions ever you have, please do contact me. I’m here to support you in our neighborhood, so, I appreciate your time and letting me come and talk to you tonight.

[00:08:51] John Q: Councilor Lyndsie Leech and the River Road community agree, confronted with overt antisemitism and racism, people should speak out: ‘You can make it worse by not doing anything.’


[Editor’s note: In 2021, the Associated Press changed to the new style “antisemitic” from the previous style “anti-Semitic,” which some thought gave credence to the idea that Jews are a separate race.]

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