Marcus Larson/News-Register ## McMinnville High School senior Cecilia Flores, center, outside the McMinnville Police Station last week during a protest she organized with the help of several friends.
Marcus Larson/News-Register ## McMinnville High School senior Cecilia Flores, center, outside the McMinnville Police Station last week during a protest she organized with the help of several friends.
• 

Bader: Students organize for cause resonating across the country

The Tuesday afternoon of June 2, a group of McMinnville High School students organized a rally at the McMinnville Police Department in solidarity with nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality. It drew 400 to 450 people.

Christine Bader is co-founder of The Life I Want (www.thelifeiwant.co), a story-telling project she is conducting with Eva Dienel. The aim is reimagining a future of professions that work for all. She is also an alum ambassador for The OpEd Project, a social enterprise whose mission is to broaden the range of voices in public discourse. A former Amazon executive, she left corporate life in Seattle to resettle in McMinnville.

The event was organized by senior Cecilia Flores, 18, with the help of four friends. She was joined afterward by two of them — Kaiya Miller, 17, and Leobardo Maldonado, 18 — in a virtual roundtable discussion with local writer Christine Bader.

Originally from the city of La Puente in Southern California, Flores moved to McMinnville in fifth grade. In the fall, she plans to enroll at Linfield College, soon to become Linfield University, to prepare for a career as an educator.

Miller recently finished her junior year at Mac High. Originally from Scappoose, she moved here in third grade.

Maldonado grew up in McMinnville. Also headed to Linfield in the fall, he plans to become a high school history teacher.

 

Tell me how the protests came to be.

Flores: On Friday of last week (May 29), I stayed up late with my mom, showing her the videos of the protests and the brutality going on within the protests. We went to bed and I was thinking, “I live in McMinnville. People are moving on with their lives like nothing is happening, as if there’s not this giant movement across our nation.”

I woke up and told my mom, “I’m going to the station. I’m going to stand out there with signs that say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘End Police Brutality.’ I don’t care if it’s by myself.”

I had signed a few petitions and shared them, but it didn’t feel like enough.

 

What did your mom say?

Flores: She knows that I’m a really outspoken person, so she was like, “Go for it.” My dad was cool with it too, which was pretty crazy, because he’s from Mexico. Over there, you’d get killed for doing that.

I wasn’t protesting Mac PD specifically. But Mac PD is a part of the justice system, so (local police) also need to hear what has to be said, even if it’s not happening here, even if they weren’t the ones who put their knee to the neck.

We had people say mean things. We had some people honk in support and put their thumbs up. Some people screamed, “All lives matter.”

Miller: One guy said, “I’m super Republican, your classic Trump supporter.” I was nervous.

Then he offered us his opinions and we offered our opinions. At the end he said, “Keep doing what you’re doing, and standing up for what you believe in, and defending your way of life. Even though I might not agree with you, you should still stand up for yourself.”

It was really cool.

 

Leo, when you first got the text from Ceci on Saturday, what went through your head?

Maldonado: That’s not really that safe, because I know Mac is a very conservative town.

 

Have you had experiences that made you fearful that something might happen?

Maldonado: When my mom and my sister went to Walmart, they were talking in Spanish. And this lady started talking about how in America they speak English and to go back to their own countries.

I’ve seen people change to the side of the street if I’m coming up to next to them. I get mean stares just for being somewhere.

I’m not scared for my life. I just feel like I’m not trusted because of my skin color.

Flores: It was really easy for people to get away with racism at our high school. I’ve had stuff said to me, like I was going to walk home and it was raining and they’re like, “Oh, it’s raining, Brownie, what are you going to do? Your skin color is going to wash off.”

That made me re-think, when Leo said that. So that’s why I was like, “OK, let me invite some friends.”

We’re trying to figure out our next step, because we’re new to all of this. This kind of happened out of nowhere, and it feels wrong to put a protest on and then just go back. You’ve got to keep the momentum going.

What do you wish for McMinnville out of this?

Flores: My first goal was, McMinnville needs to wake up and look at what’s going on around the country. Now people are forced to talk about it, because it’s like a giant elephant in the room.

Now I want accountability here in McMinnville. I want people to be called out when they are being racist or when they are being inconsiderate or bigots. I think that’s what needs to happen next here in order for real change to happen.

Miller: The superintendent was asking us what we think needs to change in schools, and Ceci brought up how teachers need to be held accountable for calling out racism in classrooms.

Flores: Obviously, this stuff isn’t being taught at home, so it’s time to bring it into the schools. It needs to be taught. We have freedom of speech, but when does that speech become hate speech?

Maldonado: I hope that we can get a conversation started about how we can make people feel a little bit safer.

At school, you’re supposed to feel safe, right? Some people don’t, and that’s really sad.

Miller: I want to make racism less of a political topic and more like a topic that can be discussed as what it is, and not danced around. Because there are a lot of political aspects about racism, but I feel like it’s way less political than it is just a human right.

 

Kaiya, what have you learned about how to be a good ally?

Miller: In the past week, I’ve learned more about how to be an ally than I have in my whole life. I’m trying to use my privilege as a way not to shield people of color, but defend them or be an advocate for when people that maybe are white and uneducated say something snarky.

As another white person, I can say, “Shut up. That’s not right. You can’t say that.”

 

What do you want to say to the readership of the News-Register, which is mostly white and older than you?

Flores: I would say this isn’t a political thing. This isn’t a religious thing. This isn’t about sexuality or race. It’s a human rights thing.

Like people should be treated equally regardless. If you can’t handle that, you need to check your heart.

Maldonado: It sucks that we’re still fighting for the same things that many past generations have fought for.

 

Has this experience changed or shaped your aspirations?

Flores: I already had in mind to become a teacher at McMinnville High School so students can have someone like me to help them — where it’s like, OK, she’s a teacher and she’s a woman and she’s of color. To be a role model.

Doing this motivated me even more.

A lot of what happened this week is because of awesome teachers that showed me you can accomplish anything. I just want to do the same for another kid.

 

Anything that a particular teacher said to you?

Flores: Ms. (Erin) Brisbin, my history teacher. She said, “Don’t ever stop speaking what’s right. No matter how uncomfortable it makes people feel, no matter how much people are against it, just do not stop.”

Comments

@@pager@@