News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Black leadership group active in region

Riccardo Waites was moved to act by the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minnesota at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin. The incident, which was captured on phone footage by bystanders, sparked protests across the nation and now across the globe. Some of those protests were marred by rioting and looting.

Waites is seeking constructive action for constructive change through the founding of the Central Oregon Black Leadership Assembly. The Assembly has figured prominently in rallies in Bend and Redmond, and has been included on the citizens advisory committee that will seek a replacement for Bend Police Chief Jim Porter, who is retiring.

“I started this Assembly the day I saw the video of George Floyd,” said Waites, who is the father of two daughters and a 20-year resident of Bend. “I literally cried as I watched the video. It made me think, what generation is this going to stop so they (his children) don’t feel the pain I’m feeling.”

Waites has significant goals for the organization beyond the activism of the moment. He hopes “to unite every black person in America” and help build black-owned business as a foundation for genuine equality in American society.

Waites, a U.S. Navy submariner veteran lived in major metropolitan areas and came to Bend from Las Vegas at the suggestion of his brother. Like so many who have come here, he was seeking a place to be rooted, a safe and welcoming place to raise a family.

“I took a trip out here for a week to see what’s going on, and I just fell in love with the place,” he said. “When I got here in 2000, people waved at me and they didn’t even know me.”

The experience of living in Central Oregon and starting his own business here has been positive — yet he acknowledges that he is living in a place with very few people of color, and that does have an impact.

“My daughters are definitely a lot safer in Bend, Oregon,” he said. “It’s hard for them not to see people who look like them.”

Waites told The Nugget that he has been “pulled over for driving” when people in Bend neighborhoods called police.

He wanted to convey a message to Central Oregon.

“Don’t be afraid of the Assembly… we’re a peaceful organization.”

He said that “the Asse3mbly is for black people because we’re the most oppressed right now.” However, he noted, support memberships are available to anyone.

Waites said he is currently focused on Bend, Redmond and Prineville, but, he said, I will eventually get out to Sisters.” He foresees a role in Sisters schools.

“I’m definitely going to get with all the local school systems and try to get them to understand more black history, beyond slavery and Martin Luther King, Jr., so they understand how important black people were to creating this country and how we contributed,” he said.

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Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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