Speaker to address community resilience for Salem education, business leaders

Clifton Taulbert has addressed audiences around the world and to the U.S. Supreme Court about growing up in the segregated Mississippi Delta and lessons he’s learned for building community.

Next week, he’ll speak in Salem at the invitation of a group of local leaders seeking to improve educational opportunities for Salem kids and strengthen local families.

Taulbert’s presentation is Dec. 14 from noon to 1:30 p.m. It’s at the behest of Community Business and Education Leaders, a collaboration started in 2019 by Mountain West Investment Corporation president Larry Tokarski to address family and educational needs within the Salem-Keizer School District.(Disclosure: Tokarski is a co-founder of Salem Reporter.)

Jim Seymour, who leads the collaborative, said Taulbert’s presentation is part of a larger effort they have undertaken over the past year and a half to better understand the history of race and racism in Salem, and find productive ways to move forward without denying or minimizing that history.

Their goal is “creating safe places where we can have difficult conversations,” he said.

Other speakers have discussed the Ku Klux Klan’s presence in Oregon and Salem and the ongoing impacts, as well as Indigenous history of the region.

Taulbert’s talk will focus on “Eight Habits of the Heart,” his collection of principles for strengthening families and communities. He has a book by the same name.

“He’s not denying any of the struggles that we have in our community right now but he’s talking about an approach that comes from the wisdom of ages to transcending that,” Seymour said of Taulbert.

The local leaders group works to promote family and community resilience so all children can thrive in school and in life. Their work has focused on creating neighborhood councils, groups where residents of some of Salem’s poorest neighborhoods can get together to identify problems and solutions in their communities.

The first council to come out of the effort, the Hallman Neighborhood Council, has focused efforts on revitalizing Northgate Park through a series of free community events, and brought local moms together to walk the neighborhood when kids are heading home from school to promote safety.

Seymour said equity, which he described as ensuring every child has what they need to succeed and thrive, is a core component of that work.

“We think that that will lead to opportunities to break out of poverty and to enjoy prosperity,” he said.

Taulbert lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but his talk in Salem grew out of a local connection. Seymour said he served in Vietnam with former Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul DeMuniz, who’s also involved in the local leaders group.

DeMuniz is Hispanic and Taulbert is Black, and the two men were segregated into separate barracks from their white counterparts during their military service. Seymour said they formed a lifelong friendship there, making a promise to do no unnecessary harm while in Vietnam.

Taulbert’s presentation is free and open to the public. It will be held virtually.

For registration information, contact Ashley Russell at [email protected].

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.