Diane prepping for a Fair Housing Training at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds
How did you first become involved in fair housing?
Before I joined the staff at FHCO, I had a history of working for social justice-as a human services planner, director of a shelter; grant writer, political campaign organizer and public policy advocate (proud that I worked to raise Oregon’s minimum wage!). I am also proud that I worked at organizing peace organizations throughout the Pacific Northwest
When I worked as Housing Advocacy Manager at Community Action Organization, a part of my position was doing fair housing intakes and trainings. I immediately fell in love with the work. I volunteered with FHCO to set up a fundraiser for them-a performance of Raisin in the Sun at Artists’ Repertory Theater- and I organized a networking group for all the organizations involved in fair housing at that time. Then the position of Education and Outreach Director at FHCO opened up and I was so excited when I was offered the position. I’ve been excited ever since!
What has been special at FHCO?
Working with the Education and Outreach team, first as E&O Director and, more recently, as a part-time E&O Specialist, I’ve had the honor of working with creative and talented colleagues, developing strategies to spread the good news about fair housing throughout Oregon;
Travelling all over the state-absorbing the issues and challenges of each area, exploring the local history of discrimination & civil rights activism, and meeting wonderful people who have taught me a great deal;
Cultivating relationships with so many service providers, housing providers, jurisdictions and activists. And I know many of these relationships will continue in the future;
Having the opportunity to keep learning more and more about the intricacies of fair housing from FHCO’s wise enforcement staff.
What do you consider your major accomplishments at FHCO?
Looking back over the last nineteen years, I see my primary accomplishment as having developed a robust E&O program and then transitioning it over to our current E&O Director, Shyle Ruder. Shyle has great vision and energy and is taking the work to the next level. (Recruiting Shyle to FHCO was a major accomplishment as well!)
I advocated for years to deepen FHCO’s statewide focus, and that is now a reality, thanks to the commitment of our Executive Director, Allan Lazo. We now have FHCO staff based in both Southern and Eastern Oregon.
I feel proud of having educated and built positive relationships with housing providers. I remember when I first started at FHCO so many housing providers had strong negative views of fair housing and imagined FHCO as an entity trying to trap and punish them. In my trainings I emphasized a collaborative approach-where we all appreciate the importance of civil rights and work together to learn how to address confusing and challenging issues. In addition to the trainings, I developed educational guides for a wide range of housing providers. So many providers have contacted me with questions over the years or contacted me just to let me know how much they appreciated the training. For that I’m grateful. One warm memory I have is a landlord who never missed my trainings when I came to town and hand embroidered a set of dish towels for me as a thank you gift.
I made the historical context of housing discrimination central in FHCO’s outreach and education efforts-so it wasn’t simply “this is the law”, but conveying why we have these civil rights laws and why they are so important. I did this by creating our traveling historical display, Anywhere but Here, which has reached people at venues in every area of the state, integrating the history into our trainings, and creating our historical bus tour, Fasten Your Seat Belts, It’s Been a Bumpy Ride, which has raised awareness of Oregon’s history of discrimination and segregation among thousands of passengers from all walks of life for the last twelve years.
I’ve organized many events over the years, especially events commemorating Fair Housing month in April. It’s hard to pick, but I think my favorite was bringing Kevin Boyle, author of the wonderful book, Arc of Justice, for a series of events in Portland. There were also a variety of other memorable events: conferences, top-notch speakers, performances, public forums, luncheons, children’s events and collaborations with a wide range of organizations, including the Oregon Historical Society, Oregon Jewish Museum & Center for Holocaust Education, and Portland Center Stage.
What will you miss the most about leaving FHCO and the fair housing movement?
I will miss all of the wonderful people I’ve worked with at FHCO and our partners all over the state. (I’m looking forward to all the lunches and drinks I’ve been promised after COVID ends!) So many people have influenced me and helped me to grow and expand my perspective, especially Pegge McGuire and Hannah Callaghan, who were on the FHCO management team with me for years, and my E&O teammates, Louise Dix, Jo Becker, Glenda Moyer, Eleanor Doyle, Rebecca Wetherby, Sam Goldberg and the aforementioned Shyle Ruder. And I’m so very grateful to those I’ve presented with on our historical bus tours-I have learned so much from each of them: Ed Washington, George Nakata, Marlene Wallingford, Randy Blazak, Bea Gilmore, Sally Leisure and, especially, the late Valerie Otani.
I will miss having the opportunity to work with all the great new FHCO staff who have recently come on board.
I will miss being part of a civil rights organization that is making a difference. FHCO has educated so many on their rights & responsibilities and has assisted so many who have been victimized by discrimination.
I will miss doing the trainings! I guess as the child of two teachers, I absorbed their passion for educating others about the world around us and how to make an impact.
What are you looking forward to most in retirement?
Well, my plan is to get to “neutral” before I say yes to any paid or volunteer commitments. I’d hoped to travel, but that will have to wait for a vaccine. Reading, hiking, biking, being a news junkie, working in my garden and having more quality time with family and friends are at the top of the list. And then who knows?
Any other thoughts you want to leave us all with?
I’ll miss sharing food with my FHCO colleagues-I remember lugging in my crock pot oatmeal when we had morning potlucks, savoring the Mexican takeout lunches we shared and walking over to the nearby bakery with Rebecca for incredible cardamom pastries. And I’ll miss playing my kazoo- off-key- for our office birthday parties before we dove into the cupcakes.