BASE – Helping to Build an Inclusive Community in Southern Oregon
By Vance Beach
BASE Founder/Chief Director
There are so many amazing things to love about Southern Oregon. We’ve each got our stories about what brought us here and what made us never want to leave. For people that are drawn to living in this special part of the world, they should be able to feel at home in the place they reside. Many, however, have historically existed here without that all-important sense of belonging.
Black people currently make up less than 3% of the state of Oregon (1% in Jackson County), and understanding this number requires a little history lesson. Many of us are only just learning about this piece of our past: Oregon began as a whites-only state, through a series of Black exclusionary laws that were designed to discourage Black Americans from living here in the first place. These exclusionary laws, even once repealed, effectively disrupted the ability to create and maintain Black community presence.
The Black communities that have survived in Oregon have done so with courage and perseverance, against the odds. At BASE (Black Alliance & Social Empowerment) Southern Oregon, we recognize that in order to create a sense of belonging here for Black people, we must also counter the racial disparities, inequities, and other issues rooted in this history. If we want our Black communities to not only survive, but to thrive, there is work to be done.
BASE is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization that provides a platform through which Black community members can connect, collaborate, and ultimately prosper in Southern Oregon.
We do so with events for the community-at-large, like our commemorations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. We host cultural celebrations like Juneteenth and Kwanzaa and the occasional Food Truck Friday. We have a directory of Black-owned businesses you can access on our website. We support important community-led initiatives, like the Say Their Names Public Art Installation. We provide crucial resources, like Southern Oregon’s first-in-the-nation Equity Liaison Program. Our youth program, AfroScoutz, provides education and empowerment outside the classroom for children of African descent.
Essential to our work are the partnerships we’ve fostered here in the Valley. Our mission is not one we can achieve on our own – nor would we want to. All of the aforementioned programs have been borne out of relationships with other community-building organizations.
One of the best parts of what we do is meeting people from across the community, hearing their stories, and creatively finding ways to work towards our goal together: an inclusive community for all of us. At BASE, we say “A thriving community is when it feels good to be home,” and we want everyone here in Southern Oregon to feel that sense of belonging.
There are lots of ways to support the work we do, including simply coming to our events and showing up for the community.
To learn more about BASE, our mission here in Southern Oregon, and how we can work towards it together, visit baseoregon.org.