Organizing to Restore Balance – Shawn Fleek

head-2013Shawn Fleek is OPAL’s Development and Communications Coordinator, a new position for the organization. In OPAL’s campaigns for economic, racial and social justice in housing, transportation, land use and climate action, Shawn coordinates the engagement of our community and our philanthropic partners, ensuring we celebrate our successes, understand our challenges, and plan for a strong, resilient future.

Shawn is a descendant of the Northern Arapaho tribe, a transit-dependent renter, and a resident of Cully, a neighborhood that’s highly vulnerable to gentrification. The son of factory workers from rural Western Pennsylvania, Shawn’s class-conscious family raised him to fight for justice. Since the early 2000’s, he’s been distributing radical literature, knocking on doors and collecting signatures, running voter registration drives, conducting civic education in classrooms and public spaces, and volunteering as a fundraiser and organizer.

Shawn came to Portland in 2007, drawn by renowned public transportation, the region’s large Native community, and the city’s progressive ethic. Connecting with Indigenous values inspired Shawn to see himself as part of the movement for Environmental Justice. “Native people have always taken a balanced approach to living in harmony with the environment. But in colonized Portland, we see imbalance everywhere. No sidewalks and huge pot holes in Cully and other neighborhoods, but new and abundant transportation options closer-in. Bus service cuts but fare increases. Portland has a renowned nightlife, but when you work late nights as I did for years, there’s no transit to get you home. I was served a no-cause eviction this year, so my landlord could renovate and raise rent. This imbalance is a direct result of our communities not being involved in decision-making that affects us. Unless we organize, these problems will only get worse, and we will end up with a city that doesn’t work for us.”

As the newest member of the OPAL family, Shawn will focus on the sustainability of OPAL as a hub for our region’s Environmental Justice movement. Shawn will help support on-the-ground organizing through membership coordination, leadership development, and administrative support for Bus Riders Unite and the Youth Environmental Justice Alliance, as well as campaign communications and fundraising. OPAL organizes low income people, people of color, transit riders, and renters for meaningful participation in policy decisions, in pursuit of environmental justice. We win victories for our community by authentically engaging and developing community leaders. Join our movement: become an OPAL volunteer, attend an event, and if you’re able, please make a donation to support our work today.

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