Over two years in the making, a memorial commemorating Jason Erik Washington inches closer to being in the hands of an artist.
In 2018, Jason Washington was killed by armed university police officers while trying to break up a fight between two other men on campus. At 45, Jason Washington was a Navy veteran and longtime United States Postal Service worker. He was also Black. In late 2019, Washington’s family and Portland State reached an agreed settlement, part of which involved a promise by PSU to initiate and fund the Jason Washington Memorial Scholarship and Jason Washington Art Committee.
PSU President Stephen Percy formed the Jason Washington Art Committee in Jan. 2021, delayed after the incident due to the legal processes between the Washington family and PSU and a shuffling of university presidents. A conglomeration of PSU faculty and staff, along with Kayla Washington, the oldest daughter in the Washington family, and her attorney make up the committee.
The group’s work focuses on the planning of an art installation on campus by which to honor Jason Washington’s memory. Their goal is to bring about a higher level of engagement with the community through works imitating restorative justice.
“We weren’t artists,” said Patricia Schechter, committee chair and history professor. “We were definitely out of our wheelhouse so we spent a lot of time getting to know each other, getting to know our campus and then getting to know these artists that just have these brilliant portfolios and brilliant perspectives.”
The committee is currently in the process of finalizing the art proposals. In February, they’ll send out requests for qualifications to artists, inviting them to apply for creation of the final proposal.
They are also organizing a campus march this upcoming Feb. 21 in remembrance of Jason Washington. The march will run from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., beginning in front of the Smith Memorial Student Union building and ending in front of the Broadway dorms.
“In some ways we were all strangers on this committee,” Schechter said. “It was a very delicate and very emotional launch. I think everyone intuitively understood that this was not just a committee that was going to be checking boxes. This was a group of people that had to build trust, get to know each other and really embody the principle that this was about honoring Jason.”