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OR Rivers Vital to State's BIPOC Communities


Wednesday, November 23, 2022   

Oregon is home to a plethora of rivers, but those waterways are not always accessible to every community.

A new video series highlights how important these places are for people of color, and how a bill now in Congress could protect more landscapes.

The organization "Love is King" released the videos, which feature diverse voices talking about the personal significance of rivers to them.

Lisa Collins, assistant professor of educational leadership at Lewis and Clark College, was among them, and thinks protecting rivers in Oregon is critical.

"Being able to have water sources that we can go to be in, be near, is vital to not only our personal livelihood, but our community well-being," Collins asserted.

Collins argued the River Democracy Act, introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., is a key piece of legislation. The bill would protect more than 4,000 miles of waterway in the state, and the rivers were selected by Oregonians.

Brian Chou, an outdoor industry consultant in Portland, was also part of the video series. He loves fishing Oregon's rivers with his daughter, and said it isn't just about catching a fish. In the stillness of the river, he is also fishing for perspective.

"It's a priceless resource," Chou explained. "I find that people of all walks -- regardless of what story that you're in, what chapter you're in your life -- anybody can come to a river and the river has no judgment. It is a place of purity and peace."

Jocelyn Rice, designer and founder of Black Earth United, is seen paddleboarding the Tualatin River in the video series, and said she enjoys the solace of rivers.

"It's a nice escape, even within the city," Rice noted. "Which is something I also love about living here and was happy to showcase, is that we have places that you can take a bus to, or you could drive, but you can access our waterways within city limits. And that's something that's such a gift."

There are only a few weeks left for Congress to pass the River Democracy Act this session.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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