Woman to Woman | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Woman to Woman

Paying it forward with the Source's Woman of the Year

As we outlined in the Opinion piece on page 4 of this issue, the Source's Woman of the Year in 2019 is Erika McCalpine, a business instructor at OSU-Cascades, who moved to this community in early 2018 from Alabama. Not long after, McCalpine experienced at least one racial incident that left her feeling vulnerable—an incident that she bravely detailed at a recent Central Oregon City Club forum, as well as at other local events centered around race. McCalpine's ability to transform a personally frightening racial incident into an opportunity to have community conversations around diversity is just one reason I reached out to her for the Women's Issue.

Woman to Woman
Keely Damara

McCalpine detailed some of her story over breakfast one recent morning.

Below, you'll be introduced to each woman, in their own words.

Erika McCalpine: "Many people don't know but I'm a business professor. And diversity and inclusion is a piece of every class I teach. Like in human resources, organizational behavior, even ethics—all those classes have a diversity and inclusion component. I have always been exposed to the work from an organizational perspective; a business perspective. But moving to Bend has forced me to the advocacy piece and it's really more of a life-experience type of thing that has made me aware of the work that needs to be done here.

"I think Bend is a great community with great people that want to learn. They don't want to misstep, they don't want to say the wrong thing, they want to be welcoming and inclusive. I think education plays such a role in that.

"You have to have people doing this work that are willing to teach; not do it in an angry begrudging way, like, 'you should already know this,' but in a way of, 'I'm here, I'm willing to answer your questions, I'm willing to teach you what's culturally appropriate and what's not.' From what I gather there is a lot of resentment toward people. I was even told I have a privilege. At first it was a little offensive to hear but then I had to think about it for a minute... well I guess I do, because I am an educator, I went to college, I have a degree. I have earned my privilege. I wasn't born with privilege or anything like that. I also don't begrudge people because they're white.

"No one has a choice about what color their skin is, who their parents are, where they were born. But people do get to choose how they handle it. And that's where the different voices through this type of work are necessary. My voice is much more soft; I'm not going to throw a thousand articles at you to tell you, you are wrong. I don't feel that way.

"I feel that we all have lives to live all have choices to make and what people choose to do. I think that if you look at it from the Civil Rights era, when people were fighting for others' rights, specifically equal rights. You look at the style of MLK verses the style of Malcolm X—both of them working towards the same goal, but two different styles. Malcolm X's 'fight, fight we can do this ourselves.' MLK said we need help. We can do this together. Get people to support our cause.

"Also, God and faith are super important to me. I think that's something people don't really talk about that much around—their faith or if they have any, how does it impact their lives.

"I mean, I'm from the South, that's just an inherent part of who we are. We openly talk about our faith and God. Sometimes automatically assume that everyone is a believer. So, moving here has been very different culturally. I lead with love. I'm not angry. Yes, injustices do happen. Do they because someone is white? Sometimes, yes. Do they happen because people are raciest? Yes, sometimes.

Source Weekly: In the classes you teach, how do you go about introducing topics of diversity and inclusion?

EM: "Initially, students are resistant to the message. People think they're already there and there's nothing to learn. A student told me, 'We don't want to hear about your agenda,' like it was me that was bringing this issue to the table—but it's part of the curriculum that they need to learn. To go out into the business world. And if they leave Oregon, you're going to see the world is not white. It took some adjustment, but now I don't have as much confrontation as I did my fist term teaching here. Students know me. They know that I'm there to educate them on what the rest of the world is like."

SW: In a recent talk you gave on white fragility at First Presbyterian Church, it struck me when you said in the face of talk about racism, people react by saying, "Bend is such a nice place." What do you think they're saying when they say that?

EM: "I think people really do believe that—and Bend is really nice overall. Low crime rates, if you love nature there lots to do there—it's a great place to raise kids. We find things to do that don't involve nature. It's a well-balanced place. The population is nice and I think people think because they're nice and everyone they know is nice, that everyone else is. Bend is great. People (newcomers) forget that there are people that want Bend to remain small and some people want Bend to remain white. I know someone who moved here for that purpose; they wanted their children to be raised in a more segregated place, and now that it's growing they don't like it."

SW: So, you think it's like, people here don't want to acknowledge any problems, so they don't?

EM: "People don't really know about how they feel about things until they're faced with them and that's where unknown bias comes in. So, your next-door neighbor is a person of color and you don't know how you feel about that. Sometimes you have to do work on yourself to change those bias. Bias can come from lots of different places, so if you challenge those thoughts, it can be tough sometimes, if you never have a reason to challenge them."

Jenna Goldsmith, Writing instructor, OSU-Cascades

When I asked her to name a woman doing important work in our community, Erika McCalpine named Jenna Goldsmith, last year's winner of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award at OSU-Cascades. Goldsmith received the award, in part, "for increasing social justice and Safezone training opportunities for students and employees."

Jenna Goldsmith: "I actually started off as a journalism major. I worked on my college paper for a year. I was the police reports editor which really, I tell my students, because it was the time of my life. Really. I mean, I loved working on the paper. It was what brought me out of my shell.

Woman to Woman
Keely Damara
Jenna Goldsmith

"I teach all of the sections of writing at OSU-Cascades. So, everything from first-year writing up into the 300 level classes.

"I really love teaching American Lit Survey. I teach from 1900 to present—and so we get to talk about the Harlem Renaissance, we get to talk about post-modernism, we get to talk about Civil Rights literature. We get to talk about 9/11 literature. Everything is sort of fair game. Most of the time students had never read the breadth and the depth of American literature, at least in the 20th century, until they get to take this class, and it feels really important to be able to teach that class.

"Students in that class don't ask a lot of questions. I do a lot of lecturing, even against my better judgment because there's no sense of history as it relates to literature, right? So, what I end up doing is having to do a unit on the Harlem Renaissance and not just you know, let's look at these poems, but this is what the Harlem Renaissance. Or I end up doing a unit on the Beats, the Beat Generation. But they don't have a context for the '60s as a time of civil unrest in the way that we need them to have in order to even talk about the Beats.

"So in a weird way, I feel sometimes like a history professor, even though I would never—I'm not qualified to call myself that, but there is an element of, I don't know if I can answer their questions without historical context.

"I was the faculty diversity committee chair for a couple of years. I also co-facilitate trainings for faculty staff and students that provide resources and information about how to create safe spaces on campus for LGBTQ people and I advise the ERA—which is the Equal Rights Alliance, which is the LGBTQ student group. And that sounds like a lot, but it is I mean, we wear a lot of hats at OSU-Cascades and it's been a privilege to be able to do that work. It's good work, but there's a lot of work to be done."

Courtney Wright
Yoga Instructor & Co-Owner, Sunny Yoga Kitchen

Woman to Woman
Keely Damara
Courtney Wright

Jenna Goldsmith told me that during her three years in Bend, yoga has become a way for her to connect to herself and the wider community—not least in part due to the welcoming vibe fostered by Courtney Wright at Sunny Yoga Kitchen, the restaurant-slash-yoga space in Northwest Crossing. SYC offers some of the lowest drop-in yoga rates in town—an important point that reflects the Wrights' commitment to making yoga accessible to everyone.

Courtney Wright:
"I opened Sunny (Yoga Kitchen) with my wife Amy, who's been cooking food for years now. We got here because we were working in the food industry for a long time and then I started teaching yoga. I really love connecting people to their own bodies and being an access point to that.

"It's a really neat interaction. We knew we wanted to do something like that and work together, and we found the space and then it started to unfold. We had a couple different names and finally we settled on Sunny Yoga Kitchen, and it felt like it embodied something that was welcoming sunny and bright—like Bend, Oregon.

"We were pleasantly surprised when we moved here and opened Sunny that there are so many farms here and people starting farms here. So cool. When we were first here, we realized that we live right around the corner from a farm.

"We have a restorative (yoga) class on Sunday night and then we have a community class, which is really awesome. It's Monday night. It's all by donation, and then our cash donations just go to different organizations.

"As a lesbian married couple, we didn't know what it would be like coming to Central Oregon and opening a business. We had no idea, and we feel like we've become really embraced which is really awesome. And we didn't know how open we wanted to be but then we realized, if you just weren't yourself, what are you offering?"

McKenna Dempsey
Founder, Mandala Mission

Woman to Woman
Keely Damara
McKenna Dempsey
Courtney Wright referred me to McKenna Dempsey, whose work in marketing and development prompted her to start her own app, supporting women who experience depression and anxiety. Dempsey won the audience vote in the BendTECH unConference last year, giving her some startup cash to begin developing her app.

McKenna Dempsey:
"I am building a mental wellness app for women who live with anxiety and depression. The idea is to help women set intentions, learn new techniques and tools for managing anxiety and depression on a daily basis and then create habits around those techniques and tools to make it easier to make it a part of their daily life... Instead of taking medications or methods that mask who we are and try to force us to be something that we're not.

"And then eventually after school programs for teens is the route that I'm trying to go with it. Right now, we're building the beta.

"I live with anxiety, severe anxiety and depressive episodes. So, my teenage years were really, really challenging. When I was 19, I asked my dad, 'Why am I crazy?' and he replied and said, 'You're not crazy. You're just complex,' and it completely changed my outlook on myself. So, I want to share that we're allowed to be anxious. We're allowed to have our emotions. We're allowed to feel depressed. We're allowed to feel this way. And I think that if we embrace ourselves for that, then a lot of the fighting and challenges that come with those emotions and with those time periods and phases, we'll be able to get through them a lot easier.

"I feel like there's not a lot of options in regards to how are we addressing our mental wellness— specifically that isn't faith based and more empowering in allowing ourselves to be who we are."

About The Author

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. You can mostly find her raising chickens, walking dogs, riding all the bikes and attempting to turn a high desert scrap of land into a permaculture oasis.
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