Five Ways to Celebrate Black History in Portland
Many people buy a home or real estate in Portland because they want to invest in a city that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Although Portland has certainly earned its reputation as being a culturally vibrant city, Oregon’s history of racism influences our present. While Portland may feel welcoming to some, there are populations that have historically been excluded and exploited, and today struggle to maintain their place in this growing, changing city.
All Portland residents can become part of the solution by learning about our history of racial struggle and becoming familiar with how African-Americans and immigrants are shaping Portland’s future. Because February is Black History Month, let’s look at five ways you can commemorate and celebrate Black culture in Portland.
1. Take a Walking Tour of Albina
Learn about Portland’s past. Although this tour is available year-round, Black History Month is a great time to do it. Around the turn of the last century, this Portland neighborhood had one of the highest densities of African Americans in Oregon. It all changed in the 1950s and 60s, when the city of Portland went on an “urban renewal” blitz and destroyed much of the neighborhood. The remaining streets, homes and buildings of Albina provide valuable glimpses, through the tour’s history lessons, into Oregon’s Black and working-class history.
2. Challenge Yourself to a Conversation
The Portland-based non-profit Oregon Humanities seeks to bridge the divides between Oregonians from diverse backgrounds through art and conversation. Their Community Conversations program puts experts and community members in one room to talk about the hard issues. Although it’s not always possible to arrive at an answer or even a consensus, everyone walks away with information and ideas they may not have heard or considered. Free and low-cost Community Conversations will be held across Portland this Spring; topics include “What is Cultural Appropriation?”; “Power, Privilege and Racial Diversity in Oregon”; and “After Obama: Talking Race in America Today”.
3. Take Part in a Festival First
What better way to celebrate Portland’s Black history and current community than with a festival? The inaugural Black History Festival NW is a monthlong celebration of African American history, blending art exhibits and performances with educational and advocacy events. Its concluding gala will feature a keynote address by journalist Jemele Hill, with a marketplace of products and pieces from local African American vendors and artists.
4. Attend This Groundbreaking Exhibit
The result of years of research and labor, the Oregon Historical Society’s Black Pioneers exhibit will change the way you think of racial history in Oregon. Entitled “Racing to Change,” it shines new light on Oregon’s Civil Rights Movement through personal photos and artifacts, text, and interactive experiences. The exhibit is open through June 2018.
5. Engage Online
If you aren’t in Portland yet, there are plenty of ways to learn about our Black history and current efforts to support diversity, all without leaving home.
- Check out our real estate blog post on Undoing Gentrification in North Portland.
- Remember and reclaim at blackpast.org. This well researched website takes an encyclopedic look at important people, events and places in Oregon’s Black History
- Subscribe to the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods’ newsletter. Northeast Portland is the city’s most diverse cluster of neighborhoods; this organization is among the best in Portland for organizing residents and business owners to build community and advocate for more equitable neighborhoods.
Speaking of advocates, if you’re thinking of buying a home in Portland, be sure to connect with a REALTOR®. Our Code of Ethics requires that our buyers’ and sellers agents “shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” I’m a member of our local and national Realtor associations and am a proud adherent of their code of ethics.February 12, 2018