Looking ahead to the upcoming events intended to further community dialogue around race and racism in the LGBTQ community, there are a number of opportunities to learn more about the history of race and racism in the state and region. Some background provides context to the current conversation.
The OPB documentary, “Local Color” was recently brought to my attention. It describes some of the experience of African Americans in Portland. You can watch it online and it is totally worth 58 minutes of your time! The link is here: http://watch.opb.org/video/1593884540/
Our friends over at the Fair Housing Council run bus tours of Portland called “Fasten Your Seatbelts – It’s Been a Bumpy Ride”. Take a look at their web site, which describes the tour, here: http://www.fhco.org/tours.htm I was lucky enough to get a seat on the bus recently. I learned some of the dreadful history of official treatment of African Americans in Oregon, from sundown laws and the KKK to the redlining of whole neighborhoods. I also learned that the Expo Center (where I enjoyed a bout of roller derby with the Rose City Rollers!), used to be a livestock exhibition hall, where the animal stalls served as holding pens for Japanese Americans who were rounded up and sent off to “internment camps” at the start of World War II. On the site there is a beautiful sculptural memorial by Valerie Otani commemorating this history.
Some of us are touched to the core by the pain surrounding these conversations on race and racism. For those of us who look to spiritual teachers for guidance on how to be with and act from that pain, consider a recent sermon by Bill Sinkford, the head minister at First Unitarian, “The Drinkin’ Gourd”, here: http://www.firstunitarianportland.org/images/stories/The_Drinkin_Gourd_Sermon.pdf
Also, there are a couple of relevant exhibitions happening here in town. At the Oregon Historical Society there is a show called “All Aboard: Railroading and Portland’s Black Community”. The show highlights the history of involvement of African Americans in the railroad industry into the 1940s and the development of the black-owned businesses in Old Town. Show runs through April 21. Details here: http://www.ohs.org/exhibits/current/railroading-and-portlands-black-community.cfm
And be sure and catch the Carrie Mae Weems show at Portland Art Museum. Ms. Weems, a widely-exhibited photographer and artist, was born and raised in Portland . From Wikipedia: “Her award-winning photographs, films, and videos have been displayed in over 50 exhibitions in the United States and abroad and focus on serious issues that face African Americans today, such as racism, gender relations, politics, and personal identity.” In her words, “…from the very beginning, I’ve been interested in the idea of power and the consequences of power; relationships are made and articulated through power. Another thing that’s interesting about the early work is that even though I’ve been engaged in the idea of autobiography, other ideas have been more important: the role of narrative, the social levels of humor, the deconstruction of documentary, the construction of history, the use of text, storytelling, performance, and the role of memory have all been more central to my thinking than autobiography.” Check it out! https://www.portlandartmuseum.org/carriemaeweems
See you soon!
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