Corvallis Social Justice: Moth Dreams Meet-Ups, Restricted Access to Park Restrooms, Jackson Street Mentoring Program, Anti-LGBTQ+ Oregon Bills Introduced

The Disability Equity Center (DEC), launched in 2019 in Corvallis, is a community-led organization and resource center created by and for disabled people, rooted in disability culture, pride, and justice. This year, the DEC has relaunched its bi-weekly meet-ups for Moth Dreams, a mixed abilities art and writing collective that also prints disability justice arts zines compiling the work of disabled artists and allies – challenging “typical mainstream conventions” of what art can and should look like.  

According to Kate Williams, Director of Advocacy Supports at the DEC, the project started when a disability justice mutual aid group known as Grateful Moth Collective formally partnered with the DEC in 2022.  

“There was an amazing group of disabled artists: poets, painters, folks making comics and drawing these incredible characters with no real space to connect or share their work directly to the community,” said Williams in an email. “The goal of Moth Dreams was first, to create a free, safe, and accessible community space to dream together and create art that was disability-led and disability-owned and then second, to share with the disabled and non-disabled community alike through a printed publication [that shows] the amazing works of disabled creators. A zine was such a natural choice with its root in the DIY punk free art values that connect so naturally to disability justice.” 

Some of the DEC’s hopes for the zine, Williams said, include amplifying the works of disabled artists; sharing them with the community; and dismantling the myth that disabled artists have to have a non-disabled artist teacher, “mentor”, or leader in the community in order for their work to be perceived as worthy or valid. 

“[The] Disability Equity Center and Moth Dreams are both led by disabled folks and we try to always elevate folks in our communities who are typically silenced: Black/brown disabled folks, queer disabled folks, folks with disabilities who are not vocal communicators,” she said. “It’s wild that more folks outside the disability community aren’t surrounded in disabled art: there is so much beautiful, strange, amazing, unruly, subversive and brilliant work being created.”  

Because of this, the DEC also welcomes non-disabled artists/allies to partake in the Moth Dreams creative space, which, Williams observed, has often led to a greater emergence of more freedom and learning as they create alongside “wild and free” disabled artists.   

Another purpose of the zine, as described on the DEC’s website, is to “create art and dream bold, strange, beautiful futures together.” 

“Moth Dreams is the expression of our dream of collective liberation,” said Williams. “We looked at old systems, systems that push disabled artists and creators to the sidelines or hide ‘opportunities’ and tokenized showcases of our work behind a system of nondisabled gatekeeping, and say, ‘no thanks’. Then we build something beautiful and new together – led by disabled leaders, moving at the speed that allows all of us to be in this together – exploring access and talking and challenging systems and also reveling in the joy of our community along the way. We hope to keep sharing Moth Dreams across the community, to empower disabled creators that their art (and body and minds) are so beautifully right as they are – as my disabled poet friend Chris Smit told me many years ago, ‘Beauty is perfection, flawed’.”  

The Moth Dreams art and writing meet-ups are held every first and third Wednesday with both an in-person option – currently taking place at the McMenamins Kennedy School hotel in Portland – and a virtual/hybrid option. Emailed submissions are also welcome.  

“Our beautifully different disabled brains and bodies and energies all have different needs and that is so amazing!” said Willliams.  

Additionally, the DEC is planning to start hosting Moth Dreams meet-ups in Benton County, and Williams said she would love to connect with other disabled folks in Corvallis to discuss how they should look and feel. To share a submission, gain access to the virtual meeting link, or connect to talk about the Benton County meet-ups, you can email Williams at Kate@DisabilityEquityCenter.org  

Corvallis Parks & Rec Limiting Access to Park Restrooms: Litter has been found inside of public restrooms in various city parks, but instead of appointing staff to help maintain these facilities, the Corvallis Parks & Recreation Department has been closing and threatening to close them to the public on evenings and weekends.   

Restrooms in Avery Park have already been subject to this new rule. One Parks & Rec sign recently posted at the restroom in Cloverland Park reads, “If the garbage can continues to be found outside of the restroom and litter thrown on the floor, this restroom will be locked every evening and on weekends. Please help keep our facilities clean for the next person.”  

Stop the Sweeps Corvallis, a local mutual aid network committed to providing direct care, support, and advocacy for unhoused neighbors who are impacted and displaced by camp sweeps, has noted that this decision impacts everyone who uses Corvallis’ public parks, but especially puts unhoused folks at risk.   

“Everyone has to go,” reads a Stop the Sweeps Instagram post. “Lack of 24/7 restroom access is an affront to human dignity, causes public safety and sanitation concerns, and forces houseless people to risk their own personal safety to potentially catch public urination/defecation charges.”  

The mutual aid group urges folks to give Corvallis Parks & Rec a call at 541-766-6918 to oppose and voice their concerns about this decision and the counterproductive harms it will bring to the Corvallis community. They’ve suggested the following phone script, which anyone can use and expand on: 

 “Hi, I’m a resident of Corvallis and I’m calling to object to the recent and threatened closure of park restrooms. Public restrooms are a necessary service for the sanitation and well-being of our community. I understand cleanliness has been a concern, but removing a public utility instead of adequately maintaining it is unacceptable. Reducing public sanitation services only leads to more litter and pollution. Please re-open the restrooms and hire more cleaning staff if necessary.”  

Jackson Street Youth Services Mentorship Event: Jackson Street Youth Services, a local nonprofit organization committed to helping runaway and/or at-risk youth experiencing homelessness and other crises in Benton, Linn, and Lincoln Counties (with emergency youth shelters located in Corvallis and Albany), is actively recruiting new volunteers for their Mentoring program. Adult mentors spend 1-3 hours per week, or a minimum of 4 hours per month, with a youth mentee (ages 10-17), sharing guidance, companionship, and creating a caring and healthy bond for one year.  

“Jackson Street mentors spend at least a year building a supportive relationship with a single youth,” said Ben Martens, Communications and Event Coordinator for Jackson Street Youth Services. “This safe, healthy connection with a responsible adult can be a lifeline to wellbeing in a young person’s turbulent times. Our volunteer mentors receive ongoing guidance and support from Jackson Street staff, and we strive to match mentors with compatible youth, especially where there are shared interests.”   

Through the program, mentors have taught their mentees how to cook, rock climb, garden, play guitar, crochet, and more.   

“But most importantly, mentors listen,” said Martens. “Creating a safe space for youth to vent and share their feelings is the bedrock of the mentoring relationship. From there, mentors support youth in developing important life skills, planning their next steps in the world, and simply having fun. Mentors and mentees can decide what they want to do together, plus Jackson Street invites all mentors and mentees to monthly activities like mini-golf, hiking, bowling, etc.”  

This Saturday, Jan. 28, Jackson Street is hosting an informal event at The Brim Coffee Co. in downtown Albany – located on 241 W 1st. Ave – where those who are curious about mentoring will learn more about the details and benefits of the Jackson Street Mentoring Program, hear from current Jackson Street mentors, and begin the mentor onboarding process. The event will take place from 12 – 2 p.m.; free drinks and pastries will be provided. If you are interested in learning more about the program but are unable to attend this event, more information is available on Jackson Street’s website, which includes a volunteer application you can download and fill out digitally. 

Questions can be sent to Martens over text at 541-321-0116, or via email at ben.martens@jacksonstreet.org. While anyone can volunteer to be a mentor, those who identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color or are LGBTQIA+ are especially encouraged to apply. 

Anti-LGBTQ+ Oregon Bills Introduced: Two pieces of right-wing Oregon legislation were introduced earlier this month, both of which would lead to further stigmatization, marginalization, and restricted autonomy and self-determination of LGBTQ+ youth.  

Similar to Florida’s “Don’t’ Say Gay” bill, Oregon House Bill (HB) 2477, introduced on Jan. 9, would mandate that “classroom instruction by school employees, contractors, agents and volunteers on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur without parental notification and consent in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”   

The other legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 453, would ban trans youth from participating in school sports of their choice, requiring “school districts to designate athletic competitions and extracurricular sports according to biological sex” and prohibiting “biological males from participating in athletic competitions or extracurricular sports designated for biological females.”  

In light of this news, the Mid-Willamette Trans Support Network, a community-based, volunteer-led grassroots organization committed to providing support, resources, basic needs assistance, advocacy, and safety for local trans, nonbinary, intersex, gender expansive, and gender-nonconforming community members, recently shared a link to a Google Sheet that actively tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation happening throughout the U.S. The sheet includes summaries of the legislation – trans sports ban, gender-affirming care ban, drag ban, etc. – legislative session dates for all states where these bills are being proposed, and more.  

“We need to fight these laws,” wrote the network in an Instagram post. 

By Emilie Ratcliff

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