February’s UN/SUNG: Gordon Price
All of us—no matter our political views, race or socioeconomic background—have at least one thing in common: the desire to feel like we belong in our community.
Creating welcoming inclusive spaces isn’t always easy, but it’s something our February UN/SUNG award winner does really, really well.
And for his personal dedication–over decades–to making Central Oregon a more welcoming place for all, we are proud to recognize Gordon Price as our February UN/SUNG honoree.
From his early Central Oregon days working at COCC in the financial aid office to his new role as the director of the High Desert Education Service District Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Gordon has been a quiet, reassuring and resilient force expanding the principles of equity in our region.
He’s done it with no fanfare or desire for accolades, despite the difficulty and sometimes loneliness of the work.
Gordon remembers being one of only two black employees at COCC in Bend in 2005. He came up with the idea to broadcast Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in the courtyard on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. When the time came, no one else showed up. Gordon was the only one in the courtyard.
He told us that even when he encounters disappointments, like he did that day, he still believes in this work and this community.
“There’s something about Central Oregon. Something I believe in,” said Gordon. “And doing my part is showing up.”
He says a lot has changed since then and as Central Oregon’s population has increased, it’s become more diverse. We look to Gordon’s work and wonder how much of the increase in diversity here may be related to the projects he has undertaken to make Central Oregon feel more welcoming.
Here’s a snapshot of what Gordon’s been up to:
Trailblazing a culture of inclusivity for thousands of Central Oregon Community College students through his work there as a Diversity Coordinator, Director of Student Life, and Student Activities and Events Coordinator.
Helping students form the Black Student Union at COCC, which evolved into the Afrocentric Student Club. They started the club in 2006 and it still exists today.
Revitalizing and expanding the COCC Multicultural Center to provide a collaborative space for diverse students.
Helping to form The Father’s Group to create a safe space for Black men to support one another and enhance the lives of Black community members in Bend.
Serving as the first Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the HDESD, a regional support system that links school districts in Central Oregon to state and national education resources. In this role he is helping to bring DEI training and resources to school district administrators and staff, as well as students in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson Counties.
(We left out the part about Gordon starting the F&A Band with other COCC faculty and administrators and performing at staff retreats…but yes, that happened, too! 🥁🥁🥁!)
We recently caught up with Gordon to thank him for making Bend more inclusive and to chat about his new DEI role with the HDESD. We asked him to help us explain DEI work to community members who still may not understand it.
He broke it down for us using his signature personal, warm and thoughtful style:
“DEI work is about making an organization a welcoming place, where everyone feels like they have a voice,” said Gordon. “The work is trying to get folks to understand that equity is a good thing. It’s not trying to take something away, it’s for the benefit of everyone.”
Gordon, from all of us at FM Civic, thank you for showing up for the benefit of everyone. Again and again and again.
And remember how we mentioned that Gordon was in a band with other COCC faculty and administrators? He’s no longer at COCC but you can catch him playing the bass drums with his new band, the B Side Brass Band, in Bend.
About the UN/SUNG Awards
Every month, FM Civic presents an UN/SUNG Award to a person or group of people that are making a #communityimpact in the Pacific Northwest. Want to nominate an organization or individual that’s making a difference? Drop their name or website in the comments below!