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Sparked for Life


Many of us are told, “live your life to the fullest!” It is a personal mission to do just that, including the good, the bad and the ugly that can be experienced during this lifetime. Sparked for Life serves as a vessel to project a passion for advocacy, and to extend the understanding of my lived experience and how the intersections can aid to educate and empower others, particularly those from marginalized communities and from organizations working closely with those populations.

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Isis Harris



    A native Oregonian who grew up in Northeast Portland prior to the areas noticeable Gentrification. Named for Isis, the Egyptian Mother Goddess of fertility, healing, and love: I came up understanding the power of my name but without the full understanding of how to harness that power within myself. If a name is a foundation for the future potential of a person one might surmise that there would be powerful life experiences in store for myself. That summation would be correct.

    My Father told me that my Mother, who died when I was 3, gave me such a strong name from the awareness that surviving and excelling in this life would take a warrior’s spirit. She wanted me to be a strong, resilient, caring human being, giving me a name that was a constant reminder of my inherent potential. A potential that as a youth was not readily recognized or externally encouraged.

    As a young single parent, my life resembled an assortment of statistics as I navigated the hills and valleys of life, attempting to create a solid foundation for my family and myself. As the intersections of my life began to accumulate the desire for change became urgent. The need to create an inroad to a brighter future for myself and my children was evident. The lived experiences my life is comprised of is what fuels my passion to support marginalized, at-risk communities via mentorship, education, intervention, mediation, pro-social activities and community engagement.

    In 2014 I enrolled in the Constructing Hope Pre-Apprenticeship Program, completing at the top of my class. In 2015, I was accepted into the Limited Energy Apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 48 and transferred to the Inside Wireman Apprenticeship in 2016. I completed the Inside Wireman Apprenticeship program December 2021 am i am now a Licensed Journeyman Electrician in both Oregon and Washington.

    In addition to previously working as an Electrical Apprentice I also served as the Vice President of the Gus Miller Chapter of the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus, IBEW Local 48, the Women Justice Advisory Committee with the Oregon justice Resource Center, and was a 2017 Fellow with the Portland Chapter of the New Leaders Council. I currently sit on the Board of Directors for Oregon TradesWomen, the N/NE Leadership Action Plan Committee, and the Quality Jobs Council while operating a construction adjacent business called 3v3ryday Grind LLC.

    I was featured in the Independent Film, “Awareness of Unconscious Gender Bias: My Whole Self” by Barbara J. Diamond (March 2017) where I shared my perspective on Implicit Bias and being a black woman in the construction industry. I endeavor to educate youth at risk for gun violence, women, justice involved individuals, and those in treatment of trade related career opportunities. Consulting with contractors, businesses, schools and organizations working with these demographics is also a service that I offer.

    In 2022 I created the Community Pulse Series. A series of community engagement events designed to connect the black community to pathways into construction careers. These objectives were met via hands-on workshops, speed mentorship, connection building, and meaningful connections with community members. This event series is annual, family friendly, and also address physically health issues as well as legal challenges with solutions such as resource sharing and expungement services. 

    My career in the electrical industry has ensured the means to provide for my family and myself in a self-sufficient manner and this can be true for anyone looking to work within the building trades. It has been hard at times, being in the field and not seeing many who look like me, or in contrast encountering people on the worksite so indoctrinated by the historical aspects of construction culture that having a conversation with another minority, or woman seems taboo.

    There is a certain amount of pressure to fit in with the dominate culture in the construction industry, but as a identifiable black woman working in construction high visibility is a part of my daily experience. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is needed in the construction industry, and I will continue to do my part to make that a reality. I will continue to lend my voice, and experience to any organization, company, school or institution that understands the benefit of the interpretation of representation.

    I am committed to education and mentorship. I participated in the development of recruitment materials with WorkSource Oregon, Oregon Tradeswomen, the NIETC and NPR to get apprenticeship information out to more diverse pools of job seekers. I've ventured into alternative schools, PPS, youth correctional facilities, men's transitional housing and the women's prison to speak to the population and share the path I took to re-direct my life and obtain my career.

    The hope is that efforts to narrow the gap of misinformation or lack of information about apprenticeship will prevent the next high school graduate, single mother, justice involved person, gang member, or high school drop-out from flailing through life that much sooner. The construction industry is experiencing a deficit of skilled workers. With the proper education and access to essential career options coupled with useful life skills, historically overlooked communities can fill those positions, in turn increasing the diversity within the construction industry.

    The objective in my community outreach efforts is to educate and encourage commonly overlooked populations about apprenticeship opportunities in order to: dispel the rumors of inaccessibility, empower and educate the disenfranchised, to provide tangible information to apply useful life skills to obtain and maintain employment, and to consult with employers, educators and training programs to increase retention efforts.

    It​ is a personal and  professional concern that the lack of diversity in the construction industry is possibly a deterrent to the BIPOC community and those from diverse backgrounds, so I actively work to negate that resistance to entering the trades. That is why educating school age children about access to apprenticeship is essential in providing them alternative, tangible options early so they are equipped to make informed decisions for their futures. 

    My testimony encompasses a lot of pain but also a wealth of triumph. Without the pain, and the lessons learned from it I would not be the formidable woman I am today. It is necessary to encourage individuals to look at the challenges they have overcome and recognize the strength gained in their individual struggles. The cultivation of self-confidence, and focus driven futures is what I hope to cultivate in my work.

    I am on a mission to speak to the oppressive systems, the imbalances of power, and the societal dynamics that create a toxic construction culture but also craft violent, economically crippled communities. There is a need for accountability, intervention, education, mentorship, community support and equity informed conflict exploration from the top down and the bottom up. As an Equity Informed Mediator, Community Advocate and Peer Recovery Support Specialist there's the willingness to move in the individual discomfort of creating positive change through direct focus on identifying and dismantling entrenched inequities.

    Ultimately I am on a Journey for positive change within my community, with access to, and diversity and inclusion in the construction industry as a viable foundation to facilitate that change.

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    The Story

    Isis Harris, IBEW Local 48 Portland, Oregon Isis, is passionate about shaping public policy, advocating for equity and inclusion within...

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