This week, Oregon Black Pioneers made a $1000 contribution in support of an upcoming scholarship opportunity for Oregon students. The Avel Louise Gordly Scholarship for Oregon Black Women is a fund hosted by the Oregon Community Foundation. The fund provides support to young Black women who graduate from any Oregon high school who wish to pursue higher education. When the scholarship launches, recipients will be able to use awarded funds towards their tuition and expenses at an Oregon college or university, or at an historically Black college or university anywhere in the United States.
The namesake of the scholarship is Avel Gordly, the first Black woman elected to the Oregon State Senate. Gordly was born in Portland in 1947. After high school, she enrolled at Portland State University, earning her degree in justice administration. In the 1970s and 1980, Gordly was a part of Portland’s Black United Front, spearheading the group’s anti-apartheid campaigns. In 1991, Gordly was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Oregon House or Representatives, a seat which she successfully ran for in 1992. In 1996, she was elected as an Oregon State Senator. She would hold the position for 13 years.
As a legislator, Gorldy served on the Joint Ways and Means Committee pushed for reforms in the Senate caucus system, and expanded press access to legislative meetings. Gordly co-chaired Governor Kitzhaber’s Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Health and created the Governor’s Task Force on Environmental Justice. She also represented Oregon in a trade delegation sent to Africa, where she visited 17 African nations. After retiring in 2009, Oregon Health Sciences University opened the Avel Gordly Center for Healing, dedicated to culturally specific mental health and psychiatric services, and she was awarded the Edwin C. Berry Lifetime Achievement Award by the Urban League of Portland. She remains an adjunct professor at Oregon State University.
Oregon Black Pioneers is proud to be one of the first contributing organizations in support of this important scholarship opportunity for Black women in Oregon. While the call for applications has not yet gone out, others interested in supporting the scholarship can do so through Oregon Community Foundation. For more information about the scholarship, please contact Patricia Schechter and Carmen Thompson at Portland State University.
Oregon Black Pioneers is an educational non-profit based in Salem. Since 1993, OBP has used research, exhibitions, and public programs to tell the seldom-told stories of people of African descent in Oregon. OBP’s vision is to be the premier source for information about Oregon’s African American heritage. For more information please visit oregonblackpioneers.org.