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And the Center's new executive director is...

Posted by Jamee Greer at Sep 08, 2017 03:08 PM |

For many of you, this is my first opportunity to introduce myself. For others, this email comes from a longtime friend. My name is Eric K. Ward, and this fall, on October 2nd, I’ll be your new executive director at Western States Center.

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When I first moved to the Pacific Northwest in autumn of 1986, I felt the immense excitement of new beginnings and possibilities. Over the next seventeen years, the amazing individuals I would come to meet, and the life lessons in the region, reinforced an idea I’ll never let go of: fall in the West will always be a time of new hopes and expectations. Fall is when we return to our roots and gather what we need to survive the winter before us. It is also a time of celebration. A time to reflect on what we have achieved and renew our commitments to one another for the work ahead. As I write this note, I can barely contain my joy that fall in the West has graciously decided to visit me once more.

Eric K. Ward
Eric K. Ward

For many of you, this is my first opportunity to introduce myself. For others, this email comes from a longtime friend. My name is Eric K. Ward, and this fall, on October 2nd, I’ll be your new executive director at Western States Center. The Center works with movements, organizations and leaders to harness regional advocacy to advance racial, gender and economic opportunity and justice in the West. The Center accomplishes this by increasing the visibility, skills and impact of community organizations committed to building an inclusive democracy. Meaning one that is people-centered, accountable and transparent. The Center believes that whether you are a 52-year-old white veteran facing employment discrimination, a Muslim family facing harassment, a single immigrant mother trying to feed her family, a Native American leader seeking to preserve their nation’s culture and resources, or a 16-year-old Black transgender woman being racially profiled, we all have the basic human right to live, love, and work free from bigotry and economic inequality.

What an important moment in the history of the West. Demographic anxiety, the inequitable restructuring of local economies, and the siloing within our social change movements has created real barriers to addressing the systemic causes of injustice. It’s easy to find oneself feeling overwhelmed by the constant onslaught to our rights and humanity these days. Yet, while events unfolding under volatile and unstable public leadership are both frightening and shocking, it’s in these times when we find that our courage can lead us to changing the rules to the game in innovative ways. This is our moment to pursue new paths to address the historic systems of inequality that undermine opportunity for each of us. The West has never been on the sidelines, and so, after fifteen years away, it feels good to be home.

The Center believes that whether you are a 52-year-old white veteran facing employment discrimination, a Muslim family facing harassment, a single immigrant mother trying to feed her family, a Native American leader seeking to preserve their nation’s culture and resources, or a 16-year-old Black transgender woman being racially profiled, we all have the basic human right to live, love, and work free from bigotry and economic inequality.
 

I cut my teeth organizing in the Pacific Northwest. In the early 1990s, I was on staff with the Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC) and in 1994, I joined the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment, working with city leaders, civil rights campaigners, businesses leaders and law enforcement officials in establishing over 120 task forces focused on human rights and anti-violence in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. From 2003 until 2011, I served as the National Field Director for the Center for New Community, assisting immigrant rights advocates in addressing the growing xenophobic influence on public policy. Most recently, I worked as a Ford Foundation Program Officer, where our grantmaking supported efforts to combat inequality and inequity around the world. Before joining the Ford Foundation in 2014, I was the Program Executive for The Atlantic Philanthropies U.S. Reconciliation and Human Rights Programme, leading the foundation’s grantmaking efforts in immigration, national security and human rights.

I'll spend the first three months in my new role at the Center in conversation with local, state and national leaders to better understand their needs, working with board and staff to strengthen program, and preparing the Center for its next evolution.

I want to congratulate Kelley Weigel for fifteen powerful years of leadership at the Center, including seven as executive director. We met as students at the University of Oregon in the 1990s. I hope you will join me in wishing her much success on her new adventures. It’s an honor to relay the torch of leadership from her in the marathon for social justice. I also want to thank the leadership and dedication found in the Center’s board and staff. The Center will begin its next evolution in the new year, and having a brilliant team that reflects the values and faces of our movement underscores my confidence that we will continue to strengthen the important work before us.

I’ve gone on long enough and now it’s time for me to turn the mic over to each of you. I welcome your comments and advice as we move forward in the transition process. Please reach out to me at executive@wscpdx.org and know that I genuinely look forward to being in movement with you again.


Warmest regards,

Eric K. Ward
Incoming Executive Director
Western States Center

 
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