I have been outside of City Hall on hunger strike for over 50 days, here’s a short explanation of my perspective. I was raised in Northern Virginia with an abusive father who left my family in utter dysfunction. I graduated H.S. with IB Honors, and enrolled into college on a scholarship from the Rotary Club. My future was jeopardized the longer I remained near my broken home, so I fled to the West Coast in search of more promising opportunities.
I gravitated to Portland. For two months I lived in a shelter for at-risk youth before transitioning into housing. I now study at PCC with a 3.25 GPA, and avidly volunteer with a dozen non-profits, including Portland Homeless Family Solutions. I’ve invested thousands of hours into serving others, because I never want to inflict any harm into the world like I experienced as a child.
My small sacrifices were never enough to quench my concerns over the increasing gap of inequality in our society, as systemic racism, sexism, ableism, xenophobia, and homophobia prevails while basic essentials are denied to invaluable human beings.
The Occupy Movement inspired me to optimize my role in life. I amplified my voice to inspire others, motivating my run for Mayor of Portland. I was endorsed by both the Green and Progressive Parties, placing 5th out of 23 candidates.
I’m pleased by the success of the Movement and my Campaign, but there’s still an intolerable level of apathy towards our socioeconomic crisis. Some expect our leaders to solve the issue for us, yet the interests of the highest income-earners tend to dominate the conversation. I view my activism as a way to insert morality, instead of money, to influence politics.
I chose to hunger, because the crisis cannot be ignored any longer. It’s a dangerous tactic, uncommon in American culture. I felt it was necessary, overcoming this epidemic will take a heroic amount of sacrifice. I have frequent medical and psychological supervision to ensure my first strike is practiced safely.
Locally, the largest injustice I’ve observed is R2D2. A community of houseless individuals have provided themselves a safe place to sleep without government assistance, but are criminalized by the City, despite more working families entering homelessness throughout this recession.
The cycle of homelessness cannot be escaped without having a safe place to sleep. The “Housing First” theory states that permanent housing is more cost-effective than hospitalization, mental/drug treatment, or incarceration of the houseless population. Ending homelessness must address a mixture of amending our anti-camping policies and funding for affordable housing, benefiting Portlanders of every background.
I respect City Council for their tireless and often thankless achievements that keep our City working. I look forward to serving in their Commissions, although I believe that the bridge between activism and politics must precede the solution.
There is no determined end date for this protest, but there is a rare chance that our Progressive community and local government can take advantage of this visibility to broaden our approach in combating poverty.
I expect so much from humanity, and still have so much hope. Thank you.