Allies Against Hate

The graduate school wins a City of Portland grant to fight hate and support victims.

The graduate school wins a City of Portland grant to fight hate and support victims.

It was a crime that shocked Portland and sparked national headlines: On May 26, 2017, a white supremacist unleashed a racist diatribe against two Muslim girls on a MAX light-rail train, fatally stabbing two of the three riders who came to their aid.

The City of Portland took action. Shortly after the incident, the city offered a pool of $350,000 in grant money for community-based projects that would track hate incidents and “provide the support and protection our communities need in this uncertain era.”

Among the 65 submissions was a proposal from Lewis & Clark’s Graduate School of Education and Counseling, whose mission and capabilities matched what the city sought, says Teresa McDowell, professor and department chair of counseling psychology.

Workshops: Portland United Against Hate

The Center for Community Engagement, which is part of Lewis & Clark’s Graduate School of Education and Counseling, is hosting a series of workshops to provide attendees with information, skills, and resources to support them in acting in resistance to hate and bias. The workshops, which are free and open to the public, will be offered between February and June 2018. For more information, including the current schedule, visit

“It’s just such a natural fit for us, both from the perspective of our social justice mission and preparing our students for the professional world,” McDowell says. “We have a history at the graduate school of reaching out and working in ways that support equity and inclusion.”

The city awarded its maximum grant amount of $35,000 to fund the graduate school’s two-pronged approach to resist and respond to hate: 1) presenting a series of educational workshops developed by the Center for Community Engagement, and 2) serving as a point of contact for targets of hate and bias through the Community Counseling Center. The Graduate School of Education and Counseling was the only institution of higher education among the 13 grant recipients.

“Lewis & Clark laid out a compelling vision of trauma-informed prevention, intervention, response, and support for victims,” says Kari Koch, who coordinates Portland United Against Hate for the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, which oversees the grant. “It stood out as a model for a holistic, trauma-informed approach to addressing hate incidents in our community.”

Community Outreach

Lewis & Clark’s Center for Community Engagement provides continuing education programs for professionals in the graduate school’s two primary focus areas: education and counseling. For the Portland United Against Hate initiative, the center will focus on supporting public awareness and action by offering 15 free workshops open to the entire Portland community between February and June 2018.

The workshops will draw on experts from all three of Lewis & Clark’s schools—the undergraduate college, the graduate school, and the law school—as well as representatives from government, grassroots organizations, and other institutions of higher learning.

Matsya Siosal, director of the center, says the workshops are designed to provide “lots of skill-building opportunities,” especially for people who may witness an incident of hate or bias. To that end, many of the workshops focus on interruption and de-escalation of those types of situations.

“We want to give people skills to defuse the situation, confront the perpetrator, or support the person who’s being targeted, whether that’s in a high-stakes situation like the MAX incident or an interpersonal situation such as a family conflict,” Siosal says.

Other workshops will provide information on legal rights as well as the historical and cultural context of exclusion.

Siosal says the workshops will reach a “much broader audience” than the center’s typical offerings, but still support its goal of helping professionals become agents of social change and serve underserved communities. “My hope is that we will have very broad representation from educators, counselors, activists, and concerned citizens who want to be mobilized to resist,” she says.

We want to give people skills to defuse the situation, confront the perpetrator, or support the person who’s being targeted.” Matsya SiosalDirector of the Center for Community Engagement

Supporting Victims of Hate

Lewis & Clark’s Community Counseling Center on Barbur Boulevard offers low-cost mental health services to the community while also providing training opportunities to the graduate school’s counseling and family therapy students. As part of the Portland United Against Hate initiative, the counseling center is now a city-designated point of contact and will accept referrals for people who have been targets of hate and bias. The center has added new screening questions to identify victims among clients and to track data. It has also incorporated guidance on helping recognize and treat bias-related trauma into its trainings for student-therapists and faculty supervisors.

“The center has always emphasized a strong social justice orientation, recognizing how systems of power and oppression can create or exacerbate mental and relational health concerns,” says Justin Henderson, Community Counseling Center director and assistant professor of counseling psychology. “Our students are already trained to think about the effect of trauma on clients, and this grant helps us integrate trauma-informed therapy with populations that experience hate in the community.”

Hate crimes spiked in the wake of the 2016 presidential election and jumped by nearly 20 percent in major U.S. cities in 2017, according to data compiled by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. Henderson says the more hostile political climate has created “a baseline stress and feeling of powerlessness” among the center’s client base, which he describes as racially diverse and majority low income. “For people seeking our services, these feelings often translate into broader uncertainty about what is going to happen to them,” he says.

As a teaching site, Henderson says the counseling center is well positioned to spread awareness and share expertise in how to treat hate-related trauma throughout the community.

“We’re training counselors who go out into the community as professionals in mental health agencies, social services, hospitals, schools, and outpatient settings,” Henderson says. “For our students, it’s a chance to hone their skills and provide a meaningful service to those who have experienced hate and bias.”

This grant helps us integrate trauma-informed therapy with populations that experience hate in the community.” Justin HendersonDirector of the Community Counseling Center

A Collaborative Network

The potential to strengthen community ties was one of the appeals of participating in the Portland United Against Hate program, says McDowell. Small community-based organizations make up the lion’s share of grantees, and the participants are expected to collaborate on trainings and data collection.

“At the graduate school, we want to bridge academics and the community,” says McDowell, “and create connections that benefit outside agencies as well as our students.”

The Center for Community Engagement pulled mostly from its already-extensive network to assemble its workshop series. “Part of what gave me confidence that we could secure this grant was the community relationships we’ve established,” says Siosal. “I knew our partners’ work and passion for the objective and why they’d be eager to participate.”

Henderson says connecting with other Portland United Against Hate grantees has introduced him to organizations that may refer people to the Community Counseling Center, have useful resources for the center’s clients, or both.

“It’s always important for us to learn what communities need and how we can be helpful in meeting those needs,” he says. “The hope is that because there’s a common goal, the grant program is helping establish the groundwork for future partnerships. I feel invigorated by that.”

Forward Momentum

Although grant-funded activities will end in summer 2018, both the Center for Community Engagement and the Community Counseling Center say they will continue to offer anti-hate programs and services.

Siosal says the Center for Community Engagement is likely to open up more of its offerings to a wider group of professionals. “More and more, I see the popularity of interdisciplinary programs focused on social justice within an individual’s professional practice,” she says. “That’s what people are showing up for.”

She cites the example of a popular all-day seminar titled “Talking About Race and Racism: A Developmental and Integrative Approach,” which fills up each time it’s offered. “Given the strong attendance at these events, I see the potential to bring this content to folks outside education and counseling,” she says.

As for the Community Counseling Center, Henderson views this grant as a launching pad to further develop the center’s activities in support victims of hate crimes. “It’s not a short-term thing,” he says, “but rather it’s about how can we continue to grow and provide services that are important to our community.”

Dan Sadowsky is a freelance writer in Portland.