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 TEDx Portland 2022

“How do you reconcile a lynching?” applies the three r’s of reconciliation to the lynching of Alonzo Tucker. After working with the community of Coos Bay, OR on remembrance, Taylor invites his audience to join him in repair to help bring a semblance of redemptive justice to the lynching of Alonzo Tucker.

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From its inception, ORP has been committed to ending the death penalty in Oregon in order to truly reconcile the lynching of Alonzo Tucker. ORP publicly launched its campaign to end the death penalty in Oregon at the Alonzo Tucker historical marker unveiling ceremony in June 2021. Since September 2021, ORP has partnered with Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (OADP), Oregon’s leading voice against the death penalty, to abolish the death penalty in Oregon. In April 2022, OADP held a two-night virtual summit on the death penalty gathering leading voices in the criminal justice reform movement to plot the movement’s next steps. As part of this movement, in May 2022, Taylor Stewart delivered a speech advocating for the death penalty’s abolition in Oregon at TEDx Portland’s Year 10 event at the Moda Center in Portland, OR. Only Oregon voters have the power to ultimately end the death penalty in Oregon. Thus, it is on each of us who believe in the ideals of truth, justice, and reconciliation to make sure our voice is heard. ORP is committed to getting an initiative before Oregon voters to abolish the death penalty in Oregon in the upcoming election years.

Alonzo Tucker

On September 18, 1902, an African American man named Alonzo Tucker was lynched in Coos Bay, OR. Alonzo Tucker was twenty-eight, married, and a boxer from California. He was lynched after being wrongfully accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. After being repeatedly shot, his dead body was hung from a light pole on the Marshfield Bridge in front of a crowd of 300. Even children were a part of the lynch mob that left Alonzo Tucker's body hanging there for several hours. Despite this all occurring in broad daylight without a masked man in the crowd, no one was ever held accountable for this killing. Alonzo Tucker was just one of the thousands of African Americans who were lynched in this country.

Lynching to the Death Penalty

At the same time lynchings in the United States were going down, state-sanctioned executions were going up. Lynching simply moved indoors where all-white juries and expedited trials carried out the same verdict as the lynch mob. During the 1930's, two-thirds of all executions in the United States were of African Americans. Between 1910-1950, despite making up only 22% of the South's population, African Americans accounted for 75% of all of those who were executed in the region. Today, African American males make up 6.5% of our population but nearly 41% of those who are on death row in the United States. Currently, there are a disproportionate number of African Americans on Oregon's death row.

"How do you reconcile a lynching?"

There are three r words within this idea of reconciliation--remembrance, repair, and redemption--and, in order for us to get to that last r word of redemption, we need to have the courage it takes to undertake the first two. Our failure to remember and repair the legacy of lynching is what has allowed it to evolve. So, how do you reconcile a lynching?

February 2020, the community of Coos Bay held a soil collection ceremony near the spot of the lynching and collected two jars of soil. One jar was sent back to a museum in Montgomery, AL and the other jar was turned into an exhibit at the Coos History Museum. June 2021, Coos Bay unveiled a historical marker in the community to memorialize Alonzo Tucker and the thousands of other African Americans who were lynched in this country.

The soil collection and historical marker were part of the "remembrance" phase of reconciliation. Now we must move toward "repair." In this case, we are called to repair the fundamental question of who our society believes deserves death because the answer continues to be disproportionately African American. The value of all African Americans, not just those on death row, are tied up in this question. It's time to prove that Black lives do matter.

Alonzo Tucker's story needs one last chapter--an end to lynching in Oregon. By using his story and this idea of historical repair to end the death penalty in Oregon, we can bring Alonzo Tucker's memory a semblance of redemptive justice--the kind of justice that redeems our pain, our wrongdoing, and our stories.

There is a more just Oregon waiting for us as long as we have the courage it takes to get there.

How Can You Help?

Don't let your inability to do everything stop you from doing one thing.

Don't underestimate your ability to be the change you want to see in this world.

RIP Alonzo Tucker. May he rest in power.

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