Friday, April 29, 2011

Avel Gordly to Read from Memoir

We hope you can join us on Tuesday, May 3, to hear Avel Gordly -- the first African-American woman elected to the Oregon State Senate -- read from her memoir Remembering the Power of Words: The Life of an Oregon Activist, Legislator, and Community Leader, co-written with her Portland State University colleague Patricia A. Schechter and recently published by Oregon State University Press.

Avel Louise Gordly was born in Portland shortly after WWII, to a father who was a Pullman porter with the Union Pacific Railroad and a mother who had worked in the shipyards during the war. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in the Administration of Justice from PSU and has completed the Program for Senior Executives at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

She began her working life operating business machines for Pacific Northwest Bell, and, after earning her bachelor's degree, worked as an adult parole and probation office for the Oregon Department of Corrections. She then worked as the Director of Youth Services for The Urban League and as the Community Liaison for the Multnomah County Health Department.

In 1991 the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners appointed Gordly to fill a vacancy in the Oregon House of Representatives, beginning a long career in the Oregon legislature. She won the general election in 1992 and re-election in 1994 before winning a Senate seat in 1996. She served three terms in the Senate. In 2007, the city officially honored her many years of public service as a state legislator with an official proclamation from then-Mayor Tom Potter.

Currently, Gordly is an associate professor in the Black Studies Department at PSU. She has made numerous trips to African nations during her career and led an official mission to increase trade between Oregon and South Africa. She has received numerous awards and honors for her work over the years.

Gordly has earned a reputation as a bridge builder who puts principles above politics, consistently forming bipartisan coalitions to work on key issues. In 2006 she officially switched her party affiliation from democrat to independent. She is a long-time advocate for pre-school and for quality education for all children; a tireless worker on environmental, economic, and social justice issues; and someone who believes in the need for transparency in government. Not too surprising -- and music to our ears -- she is also an avid reader.

In her memoir, Gordly addresses the challenges she faced growing up Black in Portland in the '50s and '60s, as well as her long career as a legislator and community activist. "If you ever wondered how a principled woman lives a public life, read Remembering the Power of Words," writes professor and author Nell Irvin Painter. "Writing as a black female pioneer, she combines the personal with the political in a fascinating way that speaks to all of us."

We hope you can join us for what is sure to be an inspiring and interesting evening. The fun begins at 7 pm.

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