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Events: 2023-2024 Exhibit

2023-2024 Exhibit

Watch this highlight video of the eight 2023-2024 ILLUMINATION interviews with Michael Klindt. View full interviews of each story below.

For this year’s ILLUMINATION project, it was important to us to collect interviews that told multiple generations of our people’s stories. Uniquely, we also included a youth’s story. What was surprising were the common threads that wove in and out each person’s narrative. All felt a need to gather, connect and build cultural bridges. Each went about those missions in different ways. All saw the opportunities Springfield held and gravitated toward them. Each person led unique and impactful lives, legacies that have been built and are being built. Growing up and moving to an area where excluding Blacks - specifically - was the letter of the law brings with it life experiences that make for unique history. Blazing the Oregon Trail looked very different for our people. As Lois Reynolds said, “We were pioneers”. Arguably, they still are.

A Message from the Writer.

I love my people. As I transcribed the words from the 8 brave men and women who opened their hearts and shared their stories with us my heart felt full. Their stories wove a colorful tapestry of the diversity within our diaspora. 

Marissa, so beautiful in soul and spirit – having cared for the dying, fed the living with the work of her own hands, and working toward assisting women in birthing the new generation inspired me.

Ratie, who spoke with a sweet feminine voice full of power. A native African woman, so careful to show understanding of the African American struggle while inspiring us to move forward in respect of our ancestors.

Natalia, reminding us that better does not mean acceptable, and that her generation wants greatness…not just a life that is comparatively less oppressive.

Michael…born in Germany, adopted and brought to the Unites States…who’s destiny was – in part – this moment. The cumulation of touching the lives of our young, and now, telling the stories of our people. Who knew his path would lead him here, where all he built in Springfield would provide space and support for these stories… and his own.

Jonathan, Ronnie, Jasmin, and Lois – each story a tribute to Springfield’s beautiful and blossoming diversity. 

We are, so few. Less than one percent of the population. A micro-minority trying to find a sense of home. I, being Black, learned so much from my own people’s stories. I hope all of you will learn even more. Take time…listen to all the stories, read them – and use the words of these, our people to fuel your own story. Move in this world reminded that all nations are one blood – and we are beautiful, valuable and treasured in all humanity’s shades. Illuminate yourself.

…a special thanks to M5, for immortalizing our beloveds in photographs. May his art live on forever in honor of their voices.  

- Irene Rasheed

Jasmin Savoy Brown

Photo credit: Arturo Benavides

Jasmin’s story was an exciting addition to our curation because not only is she a Springfield native, but she also has become a relatively well-known actress. Her rise to fame is notable because she comes from our small city and is part of the minority population. Jasmin is the very embodiment of the needle in a haystack. Her story is inspirational and speaks to how Springfield nourishes its youth and the arts as a community. 

“I'm an actress who's done quite a good amount of film and TV, very successful projects. I also do theater. I'm a musician partly, and thanks to you (the interviewer) and your inspiration and encouragement when I was younger. That's taken a bit of a back burner because I've been happy to be a working actor. So now I have more time to work on music. So I'm sitting down with my guitar more often…”

* * *

"I was an artist from birth. Like, I never… There was never a question that I was going to pursue the arts and Springfield High School for all that it is, really supported me in that. I will say I think one of the best things about Springfield High School is that the teachers. The during the school teachers, the after-school teachers… It seems to me that like this is a group of adults that really cares like really cares about the community, really cares about the students, really cares about the students of color. And in every class. I remember that every single class, whether it was English or history or science, seeing teachers really try to get through to their students. But beyond that, like see them, see the students who really were passionate about the thing and then give them extra attention. And I was no exception."

View the full interview between Jasmin Savoy Brown and Michael Klindt on the Springfield History Museum YouTube channel.

Natalia Caird

Photo credit: Marcus Holloway

Natalia is the youngest person to ever be interviewed for the ILLUMINATION project to date. We chose her because we wanted to curate stories that together worked as pages of a history book, taking us from the past into the hope of the future. Juxtaposing her story with the others makes her words even more powerful. Her understanding of the past and ability to articulate her hopes for the future puts into perspective why Black youth still think there is progress to be made for our people. In her eyes it is not enough to be treated as human, to be allowed to live work and go to school in places once closed to us – she wants greatness for future generations, not just good enough. Natalia has a youthful grace and innocent wisdom that is refreshing and thought provoking.

“…you never really get bored of being out. There's so many new trails. You can go up the coast. Springfield is really close to a lot of different places in Oregon, so you're like an hour out from those places that are different.

…and also, I think that the community in Springfield is... They're really giving, they're really welcoming.”

* * *

“I think everyone should have a chance to really engage with their culture. And for me, I moved down here with my white mom, my white family. So, I grew up not really being able to experience my culture. When my mom tried to get me in that kind of stuff, it was really hard because I had no one else there with me that was a Black person that I could relate to with these problems that I was having…”

View the full interview between Natalia Caird and Michael Klindt on the Springfield History Museum YouTube channel.

Jonathan Hayes

Photo credit: Marcus Holloway

We were fortunate to curate stories that have a wonderful mix of locally born Springfield residents and transplants. Jonathan’s story offers a unique perspective because he originates from a part of the country with a large Black population and a deeply seeded racist history. As he stepped into the mostly homogenous city of Springfield, he brought with him a fresh perspective. His profession as a firefighter paramedic sums up the man he is, one who lives to help others without boundaries. Removing boundaries is a common theme in his interview, he repeatedly comes back around to one central thought – unity. 

“When I came here, I was coming to work. I was about to travel, you know, do a lot of these things that I had on my list. But, I ended up meeting a young lady that's in a similar profession. She's a nurse. And I ended up getting married in 2018. Which I… I did not plan on doing that. But I think, you know, I thought I was coming for, for my career. But I think the reason I came here was to meet her, because she kind of changed everything.”

* * *

“I know going into some homes, you know, here during emergencies. That is the first time a person of color have (sic) ever been in these folks home before. You know, that's not really something you're thinking about at the time. But, you know, I usually go in, I try to be professional, courteous and, you know, leave a good impression, you know, because I just feel like, you know, I am representative of this... My entire race, you know? Because this is the first personal interaction folks have had.”

View the full interview between Jonathan Hayes and Michael Klindt on the Springfield History Museum YouTube channel.

'Michael Kay' Klindt

Photo credit: Marcus Holloway

Michael was the interviewer and videographer for this year’s ILLUMINATION project. Adding Michael’s story to our curation was a team decision. He is uniquely positioned as the only Black teacher at Springfield high school. We thought his perspective was greatly needed to round out the overall storytelling tapestry of the project. His interview is special because he not only tells his own story, he also gives insight into his experience interviewing the other participants.

“I did a project called African-American History Project and myself and four other middle school students with the mentorship of Bob Bolden(sp), Miso KawaiJoe(sp), Cal Coleman(sp), Mr. White(sp). We did what's called the African-American History Project, and we interviewed the four eldest living matriarchs, African-American matriarchs of Eugene. So Ms. Washington, Ms. Reynolds Ms. Mims. Ms. Johnson… When this project came to my attention and they invited me to a meeting, I thought, man, I helped capture the legacy of those women who are no longer here. That was what, almost 30 years ago, and I just thought as a part of my own legacy… I should probably be a part of helping capture this moment in time just to bring that full circle.”

* * *

“Grabbing a camera almost 30 years ago helped give purpose, and meaning, and direction to my life. And so, it's only natural that I that I pass that on. A lot of students here that are struggling and maybe they're not into sports and into they… You know, don't feel connected with some of their teachers… Being the only Black teacher in the building, other students who, who may look like me or have some cultural continuities (or) identifications with me... Showing them the camera, giving them the camera, or giving them a way to tell their story, and to understand the significance of their voice - whether it be in front of the camera or behind the camera, is hugely important."

View the full interview between Michael Klindt and Irene Rasheed on the Springfield History Museum YouTube channel.

Claire Ratidzo Dangarembwa Morgan

Photo credit: Marcus Holloway

When one thinks of Springfield an African Immigrant population is not a common thought, and yet there is a sprinkling of those from the Afro diaspora living within the city. Ratie’s story provides an international perspective on Springfield and evidences the metamorphose the city is undergoing. She perhaps spoke with the most power of any of our interviewees, likely because as a singer she has command of not only her words, but the way they can affect others. As she tells her story she uses it to remind us all that our time has come and the future is bright.

“…I only started being aware of the fact that I'm Black when I came to the United States before then, you know, I was just one of the citizens in Zimbabwe because everyone else who's around me is just the same skin as I am. And there's about maybe 2%, two or 3% population of, you know, people who are not Black.

And so coming here I was... I realized that I was the minority and that was a little bit uncomfortable. You know, still something that I have to process every day.”

* * *

“We took a chance with building a garden back home in Zimbabwe… And the goal of that trip was for me, to you know, connect with the community on the musical side and for him to get connected, the community in the garden…. We're trying to empower young children to… Young people to grow their own food. And, you know, I feel like it's so easy to wait for things to be handed to you, but then I feel like equipping young people with the tools that will help themselves to, you know, grow their own food is going to be more sustainable at the end of the day. So that's, that's how we kind of merge our talents, where I bring in the music, bring people together, and then at those kind of events he (her husband) talks about the importance of growing your own food and, yeah, living a sustainable life."

View the full interview between Claire Ratidzo Dangarembwa Morgan and Michael Klindt on the Springfield History Museum YouTube channel.

Lois Reynolds

Photo credit: Marcus Holloway

It proved very difficult to find an older Black woman to include in our story collection because there are so few in Springfield from former generations. Lois Reynolds is a part of one of Lane County’s founding Black families. Her’s is also one of the first Black families to live in Springfield. The ability for her children to trace their roots back to direct ancestors, and know who is responsible for their deep familial roots locally, is something the majority of the American Black population cannot do. Lois represents what we often associate with certain generations of Black people, specifically those who paved the way for a more integrated society, kindness in the face of violent adversity, a charitable forgiving heart, and a willingness to persevere.

"One thing I think about my dad, ‘cause he had ten kids. And him and my mom. And he was such a hardworking man. He never... You hear men today that dessert their families, and sometimes women will do that, but mostly men. And he never deserted his family. And we talk about that today. My sisters and brothers and I. And we say, one thing we can say about him, he stayed with us! And, you know, ten kids, that's enough to make you pull your hair out. And he just stuck it on out with my mom, and stayed there until she passed away. And then eventually he passed away. But those are memories that I cherish. And we were at his grave the other day. And I said, well done Barney Stubbs(sp) (laughs). Well done. You did what you should have done. A good example to men. And my mother was... She never deserted us. And I don't know if this would even fit in with... She never brought anyone to the house other than my dad. And I appreciate that as a woman growing up and… And as a young woman. Then you develop the character from what you see happen in your home… 

I appreciate that so much today. I say you left you left a good legacy for your daughters and I… I said, I shall never, ever forget. My husband and I were together for 63 years. And I said, you know, and that's only because, that's all I seen, you know? I see my mom and dad as they stuck it out. And I realize everybody, they're different problems in their family. But you learn how to deal with them. Through the thick, through the thin. You say oh, I'm going to make it. And you leave a... Try to leave a good legacy, you know, for your children, grandchildren. I try to call my grandkids every... As often as I can, my children, and just let them know I love you, I care about you, and I just want to say hello. Their birthdays... Which every time I turn them around, somebody's got a birthday! I have 30 somethin’ grandkids, and every time I turn around somebody has a birthday, somebody has something else. And so, I just thank God for the legacy that I have has as a mother now… Taught me how to live, you know, before my children. So forth, so much for me."

View the full interview between Lois Reynolds and Michael Klindt on the Springfield History Museum YouTube channel.

Marissa Robb

Photo credit: Marcus Holloway

While the Black population of Springfield is extremely small, less than 1%, there are some life experiences that are statistically uniquely high. One such experience is that of adopted Black children in the area. Marissa’s story is one that adds a layer of complexity to our curation. Adopted by a white family, she talks about how she navigated finding her place as a Black woman without much community or cultural exposure. She is also unique in that she is a business owner, and with so few Black businesses within the city, we were happy to add her voice to our story collection. 

"I started a business called Black Wolf Homestead, and I started selling jam and making jam… I knew that Cottage Kitchen Law. You could make your own, like, shelf stable jams and preserves and other things... But I was like, there's no way I can do bread in one oven. There's no way I can make, you know, muffins enough to sell in one… Like, you know, oven. So I was like, What can I do that's a bigger scale and that I can sell without having to have a commercial kitchen, right? So I was like, making jams and jellies!"

* * *

“It’s interesting like - 20, 14, 16 (years old) I started watching people on YouTube about homesteading and I was like, one day, one day I'm going to have my own, like just to like ten, 20 acres, right? Didn't think I'd be like managing a property of 120 acres, running an Airbnb and then doing my own business. And yeah, like my ultimate dream still, obviously… And whether that's on this property or one day my own is, I'm in school for midwifery, nurse midwife. So I want to be able to have women come birth on my property because I think it's really important for Black women to have magical experiences with birth because we don't get that more often than not being a minority. Like Black women are three times more likely to die.”

View the full interview between Marissa Robb and Michael Klindt on the Springfield History Museum YouTube channel.

Ronnie Vails

Photo credit: Marcus Holloway

Ronnie’s story is special to our team, and we were excited to include him in this project. While to be Black in Springfield was - and is - challenging in its own right, being a Black male in Springfield had unique dangers during his generation. By using his wit and charm, Ronnie was able to carve out space for himself and turn the hearts of many. His willingness to be candid gave layers to his story that are bound to provoke conversation. Something we can all learn from him is how the way we choose to react can turn the tide of even the most challenging of situations. He epitomizes how a smile and an extended hand can push open doors that would otherwise remain closed.

"I've always like living life on the edge. If it had adrenaline, I'm an adrenaline junkie. So… I saw bull riding, I says - I gots to do that! Look at that. That's a rollercoaster with its own brain. It could be on this side of the street tomorrow. It have an attitude the next day. This what I want to do. So I got involved in it."

* * *

"I said, I want be a bull rider. You know, this what I do. So I would be around bull riders. So I was around cowboys all the time. Most of these cowboys, Moms. I called they mom, I call they mothers Mom. They call me son."

* * *

"We paid our own way. We paid for our own gas. And it was a lot of time on a road. But being a bull rider, I carried the least amount of equipment. All, I needed was some... I didn't even need cowboy boots. I need some spurs, they fit better on cowboy boots. And after all, you got to be in uniform. You know, they want you to look like a proud cowboy, so… That was easy to get... So called outfit. A good bull rope. And back then you get a good bull rope, professional bull rope for 40 bucks and some good spurs for under $100. And if you could afford chaps, cool. If you can't, you still can get on. And if you can ride, you can ride. They can see if you could ride. Eventually down the road, you can get all that extra equipment as you see fit. But basically, it was the cheapest way to get in the cowboy game…"

View the full interview between Ronnie Vails and Michael Klindt on the Springfield History Museum YouTube channel.

Black History in Springfield and rural east Lane County

As part of the 2023-2024 chapter of ILLUMINATION, the Springfield History Museum explores the misconceptions and truths of Black history in Springfield and rural east Lane County. Watch the full video on YouTube.

Due to size limitations our Black History slideshow PDF is divided into four separate documents, parts 1 - 4. We apologize for any inconvenience.