Greetings! For those of you who do not know Selbyd or me, I will explain a bit about us and the cause.
I have started this fund in hopes that we can all share a little to help my friend Selbyd, who has always been there to lend a hand. I have gotten to know him at the organization we both work for called VOZ Workers’ Rights Education Project. This is a Portland based nonprofit that was founded by day laborers in 2000 in response to increased police and INS repression. Today it consists of laborers, staff, and volunteers; and we work collectively in order to build leadership within the marginalized worker community. The organization has established a worker center to serve as a safe place they can find and document their work. Overall, VOZ has been extremely successful in its campaigns for immigrant and civil rights, safer work environments, fair wages, wage theft recovery, and development training and programs. But its achievements have only been possible with the dedication and sacrifice from those who already have so little; one example is Selbyd.
Like most of our organization’s members and activists, Selbyd is an immigrant and day laborer. This means that he searches day to day for contingent work in order to make ends meet. It also means that he often faces exploitation, dangerous working conditions, constant discrimination, and the harsh reality of the streets. After having worked here as the Volunteer Coordinator for sometime, it has always amazed me how accepting and lighthearted the folks here are, even while they are repeatedly stigmatized and confronted with hate. Selbyd in particular, is always kind, supportive, and regularly volunteers to help with projects. He is truly an inspiration for positive thinking and resilience.
However, his current situation is precarious. He is somewhat new to Portland, has no family or support here, lives in his vehicle, and is now struggling within our inherently racist justice system. The truth is, he made a bad choice; he got behind the wheel of his van/home after having a couple beers. We all know that this is an extremely dangerous offense, and I am sure we would all agree that it should not be ignored. However, I think it is important to consider the context of the incident. One night after having just lost his job, his partner, and subsequently his residence, Selbyd set out; to where, he was not sure. A concerned citizen saw him driving his dated van in their neighborhood, and then called the police to report a suspicious looking vehicle. The police seized the opportunity. He was pulled over, he admitted to having some drinks, and he was then taken in to be charged with a DUI.
My question is: would his outcome have been the same if he had been born of the same privilege as me?..or maybe you? It made me think of a personal instance in the past. I was in my early 20’s, white, driving an unremarkable car, while drinking. After being pulled over for running a red light, I cracked a smile, and was sent off with a warning despite the stench of the beer can I had tossed under the seat. At the time, I thought I was lucky. Now, I feel ashamed of my recklessness and undeserving of any leniency. In Selbyd's case, he did commit a crime, yes; but was the reason for being pulled over really justified?
It is worth noting that he was fully cooperative with the police from the beginning and with the court throughout his case. Selbyd knows he made a huge mistake and is committed to abstaining from alcohol. He is trying his best to stay positive, but the mandatory fine of $2000 and the lawyer fees of around $450 is looming over his head. That is nearly $2,500 for a person who is homeless, with little support, and rarely gets a second glance for opportunities like mine and yours. So, I ask of you please, think about all of the times you maybe had a break, or a little encouragement. Would you be able to redistribute a little of this privilege to help Selbyd get back up? Our hopes are to raise $2500 so he can focus on his rehabilitation and finding a permanent job. If we do by chance go over our goal, we will donate it to VOZ for more development at the worker center. Thank you so much for your time and consideration!