OBP Statement on COVID-19

Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Contact: zachary@oregonblackpioneers.org

The pandemic caused by the global outbreak of COVID-19 has led to the death of over 131,000 Americans and counting and has had devastating consequences on our nation’s health system, economy, and public institutions. Black Americans and other people of color have been disproportionally affected by this crisis, as our communities face greater insecurities in healthcare access and our workers are more likely to be employed in industries which cannot ensure safe social distancing measures.

Even as case rates continue to accelerate, many businesses and social spaces in Oregon have begun to reopen. States that ended their shutdowns early have seen sharp increases in the spread of the virus. Such premature actions jeopardized the health and safety of the most vulnerable members of our community—the elderly and the immunocompromised—and have prolonged our collective risk. Meanwhile many people, including national leaders, have downplayed the risk of this virus by shunning simple precautions like the wearing facemasks when outside the house, with deadly consequences.

We at Oregon Black Pioneers are grieving with all those affected by this pandemic, especially those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. We take this pandemic seriously, and we urge our state and local leaders to follow public health experts and scientific data in making their decisions about how best to restart the economy. We also urge our staff, Board, and neighbors to follow public health guidelines for personal safety, including limiting social gatherings, maintaining at least six feet of distance between each other, and wearing facemasks.

Our team is continuing to monitor trends in Oregon’s daily count of new virus contractions, and will work in accordance with recommendations from the Governor’s office. We have implemented several precautions into our operations with the coronavirus in mind. These changes include using video conferencing services for our Board of Directors meetings and meetings with collaborators, temporarily closing our Salem office and having staff work remotely, and evaluating our event participation on a case-by-case basis. Our annual fundraising event has also been rescheduled to March 20, 2021. While these precautions have caused a tremendous shift in the way we work, we take them out of an abundance of caution and with the understanding that these efforts can save lives.

Until a vaccine is developed and made widely available, we will need to adjust to living and working in a world with COVID-19. Our organization, like other small nonprofits, is learning how to adapt as we go and applying creativity and new technologies to move beyond the pandemic. Oregon Black Pioneers will continue to elevate the experiences of Oregon’s African American communities in new ways while we cannot gather together in person.


Oregon Black Pioneers was founded in 1993. Its mission is to research, recognize, and commemorate the culture and heritage of African Americans in the State of Oregon. Its vision is to be the premier resource for information about Oregon’s African American culture and heritage. For more information please contact zachary@oregonblackpioneers.org.