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Monday, March 10, 2014

The Black Portlanders—and Its Promise of a "New Tale of Portland"—Hits Fundraising Goal!

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Mar 10, 2014 at 1:29 PM

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  • Kalimah Abioto
It's been a great long while since Alison first published an interview with photographer Intisar Abioto and got her to explain the power behind her groundbreaking storytelling project, The Black Portlanders—May of 2013, in fact.

There's this culture in Portland that's being branded now, and spread around the world, whether it's through Portlandia or through the "makers" and the food and the startup businesses, that it's this beautiful place, this green place, the city that works. And that's nice and good and true in many aspects, but I don't know how much people of color are in that branding.…

There's so much talk about black people in this city, the history of black people in this city, and gentrification, and the trauma of the multiple displacements that happened and are still happening. I wanted the Black Portlanders to be about the beauty of the people, because that's where you can find what needs to be found.

I'd planned to post again about Abioto today—all these many months later—and sound a bit of an alarm.

Abioto had been trying to raise $15,000 via Indiegogo to keep her work going and growing (and save a hard drive that held the first eight months of her work), with the deadline for securing all that cash coming at 11:59 tonight. And it wasn't looking good. Last I saw, over the weekend, she was thousands of dollars off.

Until today. With hours to spare, Abioto not only reached her goal but even surpassed it. So no alarm, true. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't still give and keep helping her out.

Her photos, her profiles, her stories—they are beautifully steeped in context, history, and experiences all too easy to miss in the very quirky face of Portland that's gone on to become a TV star. Abioto said as much in a recent piece for Medium—and I suspect it's what pushed her over the top.

There’s a silent haunting erasure about Oregon’s exclusionary racial history and its current reality — within Oregon and the world’s understanding of this place. Last April, I found out that the city of Portland razed N Williams Ave., Portland’s historic geographic Black community. This process occurred throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s . It took me three years after I moved to Portland and two months after I started the Black Portlanders to find out about N Williams. I read Lisa Loving’s “Portland Gentrification: The North Williams Avenue That Was — 1956.” That article blew my mind and broke my heart. It identified the hundreds of Black businesses that were lost and never replaced.

How could this be? I didn’t have to know what happened here to feel an emptiness in the heart of this city. I knew in my bones there was something wrong here. Where were the Black people? Where were their communities? Where were we on the Portland map? Today there are other streets, all changed through today’s form of exclusion: urban gentrification - Mississippi St., Alberta St., and others. Again, Portland’s already small Black population has been scattered.

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