Community organizers and neighborhood activists met at the Urban League of Portland headquarters on N Russell yesterday to rally round North Portland grandmother Carollynn Smith—who is fighting the state department of human services for custody of her two youngest grandchildren (read the story in the Merc, here).


Reporters from KOIN 6 and the Skanner newspaper watched as the group planned a strategy.

Jeri Williams, a neighborhood program coordinator from the city of Portland, who was at the meeting in her personal capacity, and plans to get Smith signed up to speak to city council next Wednesday morning in open testimony.

Sunshine Dixon, a community organizer for the Urban League of Portland, plans work with Oregon Action to find an attorney for Smith by the end of this week. She's also circulating a petition, and fliers urging the community to contact the police. Midge Purcell, coordinator for organization and public affairs for the Urban League, is planning an event at a church before October 30, when Smith's grandkids' adoption becomes final.

Meanwhile Jan Meskimen, a retired Portland Public Schools teacher who was among the first couples in Oregon to adopt cross-culturally, was there to offer her perspective. Having raised an African American daughter and granddaughter through adoption (Meskimen is white), she said she knows how difficult it is for African American kids adopted by white families, like Smith's.

"She needs to get her grandkids," said Meskimen. "Because you can love other people's children, love them all you want, but that biological connection, the heritage and culture, it binds them all together. The other kids need to be part of that."

As this reporter left, he was asked to join a prayer circle. He didn't think it would be appropriate for a journalist to do something like that, although he hopes the ladies said "hello" on his behalf.

If you can help, especially with the legal side of things, you're encouraged to call Sunshine Dixon with the Urban League on 503 280 2618.