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About The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current | View Entire Issue (March 30, 2017)
MARCH 30, 2017 // 7
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Oregon Coast Love Coalition opens doors to unity
By DAN HAAG
FOR COAST WEEKEND
NEHALEM — You can be forgiven for feel-
ing as though we live in a cynical world.
Bombarded by the 24-hour news cycle,
it’s tough to get your head above water and
take a gulp of clean air.
But, as it always does, hope persists.
The Oregon Coast Love Coalition was
born from a need to light a beacon of love
and let it blaze.
Its founder, LaNicia Williams of Ne-
halem, is determined to fan those flames.
‘I’ve been here before’
Williams moved to the Oregon Coast five
After a stint in Cannon Beach, she moved to
Wheeler in 2015. Despite moving away for six
months, she returned to settle in Nehalem.
“Thank God for Google,” she says with a
She fell in love with the people and places of
the North Coast and realized there was some-
thing bigger in store for her here.
Like many, Williams is weary of political
From the national level on down, it seemed
to her that people were more willing to incite
conflict — even racism — over unity.
“After the election, I read that kids at (Neah-
kah-nie) high school were being bullied over it,”
she says. “It felt like it was time to do some-
Williams is walking a familiar path.
In the 1990s, she was involved in organizing
a Black Student Union at her school, something
that met with resistance from administrators in
a school of 1,700 students where only 32 were
“They had the biggest to-do about something
being called ‘Black Student Union.’ We ended
up naming it the ‘African-American Awareness
Club,’” she says, noting that the issue landed her
on the front page of her hometown newspaper.
After a recent local article covering her
efforts, she realized she had come full circle.
“I’ve been here before,” she says. “I’ve been
primed for work that I never really thought I’d
‘What do we do with it?’
Like most movements, Oregon Coast
Love Coalition began its life small; a Face-
book post in this case.
LaNicia Williams performs at a Hoffman Cen-
ter for the Arts event in 2016. She believes
musical diversity is a key component to cul-
LaNicia Williams, third from the left, marches with participants of Oregon Coast Love Coalition
MLK Weekend Unity Walk, an event that highlighted community bonds.
“I posted ‘You ever have that moment
when you want to say something, but you
don’t really know what to say or how to say
it,’” Williams says.
OCLC was born from that question.
Williams but was at first unsure how to
share her hopes.
“Growing up and living in other places,
I’m used to MLK celebrations and Black
History Month being a big deal,” she says,
adding that a friend urged her to carry out
an event that highlighted what OCLC stood
The Martin Luther King Jr. weekend
event was a celebration of peace, love and
unity and featured the best of small town
togetherness: a reading by author Helen Hill;
a community healing circle; a Unity Break-
fast and Walk.
All were extremely well-attended.
“I cried the whole day before,” she says.
“I kept thinking ‘what have I done.’ The
turnout blew my mind.”
While Williams realizes that discussions
and marches are part of the mechanism for
positive change, but not the be–all and end–
“We realized we have a platform, now
what do we do with it?’ she says.
Changing the focus
Williams cites several areas where she
believes Oregon Coast Love Coalition can
First, cultural experiences are a window
into how other people live, love and grow.
“People who live here say there is culture
here, but I always correct them,” Williams
says. “There is art and there are cultural events,
but no culture.”
Williams sees the potential for OCLC to be
a conduit for changing that and hopes to incor-
porate more diverse events, such as communi-
ty cultural parties.
An accomplished singer from a strong mu-
sical family, Williams thinks musical diversity
can play a role.
Creating something that more people can fit
into means — first and foremost — growing a
That extends to the affordable housing
crunch on the North Coast, another area Wil-
liams believes OCLC can help.
Williams herself has been affected by this
issue: she has moved three times a year since
calling the North Coast her home, citing that as
the reason she briefly left.
“You cannot have a safe and inclusive
community if people can’t afford a safe place
to live,” she says.
Finally, Williams hopes OCLC can offer
training and educational opportunities in local
schools, where her experiences as a substitute
teacher’s assistant showed her the need.
“Kids were asking to touch my skin or why
it was brown,” she says, adding that she real-
izes that is just the innocence of youth. “I want
those kids to realize the world is full of people
that are different than them.”
Williams knows racism, exists, even in this
bucolic corner of the world.
“I’m very aware I’m a black girl in a very
white environment,” she says, adding that she
doesn’t agree with those who insist there isn’t a
Instead, she refuses to let racism define her
or dictate her goals for Oregon Coast Love
“I live a life of love,” she says. “I don’t want
this to be an organization where you only get one
side of everything. You don’t grow that way.”
She points out that despite what we may be-
lieve, think, or feel, we have a duty to one another
to promote kindness and good will.
“We’re all in this sandbox together,” she says.
“We need to play nice.”
For information on OCLC and how to get
involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org