FEBRUARY 2018 INTERFAITH ALLIANCE ON POVERTY NEWSLETTER
BLACK HISTORY MONTH
“THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS” by Pulitzer Prize winning author Isabel Wilkerson provides an excellent commentary on the epic story of “America’s Great African American Migration” from the South to the North and West between 1915 - 1975. It is told through the true stories of four individuals who made the journey.
Herself a child of the migration, Isabel tells how individuals responded to the Jim Crow south, where despite their emancipation following the Civil War, black people were valued primarily for their labor and compensated as the white land owners saw fit. Every aspect of their lives was subject to segregation. If they expressed any resentment or independence of spirit, they could be beaten or lynched. Isabel tells their stories with graceful imagery and humanity.
“It was during World War I that a silent pilgrimage took its first steps within the borders of this country. The fever rose without warning or notice or much in the way of understanding by those outside its reach. It would not end until the 1970’s and would set into motion changes in the North and South that no one, not even the people doing the leaving, could have imagined at the start of it or dreamed could take a lifetime to play out.
They fled the warm, sprawling fields of the south for the cold, concrete cities of the north. “Their decisions were separate. joining a road already plied decades before by people as discontented as themselves. A thousand hurts and killed wishes led to a final determination by each fed-up individual on the verge of departure, which, added to millions of others, made what could be called migration. It would become perhaps the biggest underreported story of the twentieth century. It was vast. It was leaderless. It crept along so many thousands of currents over so long a stretch of time as to make it difficult for the press truly to capture while it was happening.”
On April 28, 1917, an editorial in the Cleveland Advocate wrote “There is no mistaking what is going on; it is a regular exodus. It is without head, tail, or leadership. Its greatest factor is momentum. People are leaving their homes and everything about them, under cover of night as though they were going on a day’s journey – leaving forever.”
Breaking Away “I was leaving without a question, without a single backward glance. The face of the South that I had known was hostile and forbidding and yet out of all the conflicts and the curses, the tension and the terror, I had somehow gotten the idea that life could be different. I was now running more away from something than toward something. My mood was I’ve got to get away; I can’t stay here. “ Richard Wright, “Black Boy”
BLACK HISTORY IN PORTLAND by B. Gregg
Although Oregon law prohibited slavery from the earliest days of its provisional government in 1843, it wasn’t enforced, and a number of early settlers from Missouri came with one or more slaves to help work their new Willamette Valley farms. In 1844, the Peter Burnett-led legislative council amended the law to allow slaveholders two years to free male slaves and three years to free female slaves. In 1857 an all-white male Oregon constitutional convention was held. A clause was approved in the state constitution which read:
“No free negro or mulatto not residing in this state at the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall come, reside or be within this state or hold any real estate, or make any contracts.” under penalty of law. At the same time Oregon voters cast ballots decisively voting down slavery. In 1860, Oregon’s black population was just 128 in a total population of 52,465.
World War II produced change in established norms. In 1941 following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States needed ships to fill its navy. Portland-Vancouver shipyards operated 24 hours per day, producing one Liberty ship each per week. African Americans joined the thousands coming from cities and towns back east and the south to work in Swan Island and the Oregon Shipyards in Portland, and Kaiser Shipyard in Vancouver
The need for housing was great. Vanport, an immense prefab housing complex was constructed on the site currently occupied by Delta Park and the Portland International Raceway. Construction began in August 1942 and Vanport became home to 40,000 people, about 40 percent of whom were African-American, making it Oregon's second-largest city at the time, and the largest public housing project in the nation. Vanport was destroyed at 4:05 p.m. on May 30, 1948, Memorial Day weekend, when a 200-foot (61 m) section of the dike holding back the Columbia River collapsed during a flood. Miraculously only 15 lives were lost.
When the war ended, many of the “newcomers” returned back east or to the south. However, many African Americans decided to stay here. Realtors observed a red-line practice whereby African Americans were not allowed to buy property outside certain boundaries, basically Union Avenue (now MLK) to the west, Lombard to the north, NE 33rd to the east, and E Burnside to the south. By 1950 this area had become a vibrant part of the city with thriving neighborhoods, churches, and stores.
Don Frazier, Pastor of Genesis Community Fellowship, remembers growing up there, how everybody knew everybody, people sat out their porches of a summer evening, kids played on the street and families dressed up of a Sunday morning to go to church. It was a neighborhood that felt like home.
The Albina district also housed a vibrant night life with clubs, restaurants, and music, which Jim Thompson has described in his book “Jumptown”, as “the Golden Years of Jazz”. .
While there had been just a few hundred African Americans in Portland before the war, that number swelled to more than 20,000 during the war, between 1941-1945. With people making good money, the clubs began to flourish and, in turn, began to attract big- name acts such as Thelonious Monk, Charlie Barnet and Nat King Cole. The scene also began to cultivate local talent. Paul Knauls told of his experience coming to Portland in the early 1960s and opening the Cotton Club. He said that Portland had become a mecca of jazz and blues at that point and the clubs had begun to draw many white fans as well as black devotees. He listed acts such as Etta James, Diana Ross, Martha and the Vandellas and the Four Tops as among those who came through Portland at the time.
In 1958, an Urban Renewal program was launched by the City of Portland to make possible the construction of the Memorial Coliseum, (now Moda Center), the Portland School District Administrative offices, etc. Most of the black jazz and blues clubs in Albina were wiped out by urban renewal. Eleven hundred homes and businesses owned by African Americans were claimed under “eminent domain” and demolished to make way for the new construction.
Residents forced out of their homes and businesses were left to find accommodations elsewhere. Many ended up in northeast and southeast Portland, separated from their community. Gang members moved from Los Angeles to Portland bringing problems with them.
On August 28, 1963, more than 200,000 people, black and white, congregated in Washington, D. C. for a peaceful march with the main purpose of forcing civil rights legislation and establishing job equality for everyone.
Addressing the crowds, in his “I have a dream” speech Dr. Martin Luther King said “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. “But let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. . With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. “And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Dr. King witnessed the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson, legislation that had been authorized by President John F. Kennedy before his assassination. The law guaranteed equal employment for all, limited the use of voter literacy tests and allowed federal authorities to ensure public facilities were integrated. On February 21, 1965, former Nation of Islam leader and Organization of Afro-American Unity, founder Malcolm X was assassinated at a rally. Three years later, on April 4, 1968, civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on his hotel balcony.
Calling themselves the “BLACK PANTHERS” young blacks across the nation took to the streets in grief and anger to protest social injustice and police violence. The Black Panthers’ ten-point platform included “equality in the realms of employment, housing, and education, along with freedom for political prisoners and an end to police brutality. “
In Portland, about 20 young blacks organized as the PORTLAND PANTHERS. In June 1969, their chapter opened an office on the southeast corner of Northeast Cook Street and Union Avenue (present-day Martin Luther King Boulevard), the first of four locations. By the end of that year, the Portland Panthers had started a Children´s Breakfast Program at Highland United Church of Christ—where they fed up to 125 children each morning before school. They also established the Fred Hampton Memorial People´s Health Clinic, extending free medical care five evenings a week at 109 North Russell to anyone of any race. In February 1970, they opened a dental clinic at 2341 North Williams. When their medical clinic was condemned and razed to accommodate a planned expansion of Emanuel Hospital, the chapter moved their Monday and Tuesday night dental practice to the Kaiser dental clinic at 214 N Russell and their medical clinic to the former dental clinic space on North Williams.
“It felt good,” Oscar Johnson recalls. “We were doing something. We had the respect of the community.” New members were attracted to the social programs, and the Portland chapter grew, though it never exceeded fifty members, about a third of whom were women. George Barton, a neurosurgeon, was their first volunteer physician, and Gerald Morrell was their first volunteer dentist. As head of Community Outreach for the Multnomah Dental Society, Morrell persuaded many others to join him. The Portland Panther chapter lasted a decade, finally closing the medical clinic in 1979.
In 1960 the Portland School District implemented a busing program to desegregate schools. The goal was to improve racial harmony; but the burden was placed on the black community. While white children remained in their schools, black children were bused out of their communities to attend white schools. Often children were assigned to different schools each year, making it difficult for black children to become familiar with their new classrooms and hard for their parents to attend meetings, etc. to provide parental support
Since busing increased the enrollment in white schools while decreasing the enrollment in black community schools, it was decided that more black community schools should be closed. By 1980, it was clear the busing program was not working and it was hoped desegregated middle schools might help.
Due to support from the Black United Front, Harriet Tubman middle school stood as a precedent for community pushback against institutional racism within the school district. In 2007, it was converted into the Harriet Tubman Young Women's Leadership Academy, as part of restructuring Jefferson High School. Five years later, the academy dissolved too.
At a community meeting in North Portland’s Center for Self Enhancement , Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero assured neighbors, “The Portland Public Schools Board of Education, and the district are committed to opening Harriet Tubman as a comprehensive middle school, grades 6-8 for the fall of 2018.”
THE CULLY NEIGHBORHOOD
Cully is a highly-diverse, majority low-income neighborhood in Northeast Portland, standing on the site of a long standing native fishing village called Neerchokikoo, The last indigenous person was removed in 1906 after which the land became an industrial area. The NAYA center is now located there.
In her article “Healing the Dark Legacy of Native American Families”, Michelle Tolson, reports that according to Matt Morton, executive director of Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) in Portland, Oregon, over 20 percent of native children are in foster care in Multnomah County.
“Our families experience a much higher rate of removal compared to white families in similar situations. Urban native people are 1.8 times more likely to have no plumbing, twice as likely to have no kitchen, three times as likely to have no phone and three times more likely to be homeless than the general population.
“What we are doing is creating livable neighborhoods and regaining cultural connections through the restoration of natural areas and reintroducing native plants and building open spaces for our community to gather.”
The Cully Neighborhood is named after English stonemason, Thomas Cully (1810-1891) an early settler. Cully borders Sunderland, Concordia, and Beaumont-Wilshire on the west, Portland International Airport on the north, Sumner on the east, and Rose City Park and Roseway on the south. It was an unincorporated area of Multnomah County from first European settlement until its annexation to the City of Portland in 1985. Most of Cully’s development occurred between 1910 and 1960. Its character from the outset has had strong rural elements, large lots, unpaved and meandering streets, and low density. Cully is Northeast Portland’s largest neighborhood by land area and population. It is over 3 square miles and its population as of the 2010 Census is 13,322.
Over the past 30 years working families from many different cultures have moved to Cully making it the most diverse census tract in Oregon. Only 34% of Cully streets have sidewalks, 24% of residents live within ¼ mile of a park (regional average is 49%,) 85% of Cully students qualify for free or reduced lunch and the poverty rate is 17% higher than the citywide rate of 13% according to US Census 2010. Strong Cully-based organizations work together to provide complementary strengths and actions.
- Hacienda CDC is, a Latino Community Development Corporation that strengthens families by providing affordable housing, homeownership support, economic advancement and educational opportunities.
- Verde serves communities by building environmental wealth through social enterprise, outreach and advocacy.
- NAYA (Native American Youth & Family Center) has for 40 years offered a holistic set of wraparound services designed to create stability in the lives of Native American youth and families.
- Living Cully formalized these strong partnerships into a collective impact model in 2010, adding an additional partner, Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East.
- Together Living Cully partners create economic, ecological and social benefit for Cully residents, particularly low-income and people of color, by: increasing job opportunities and building earnings for residents and neighborhood small businesses, providing opportunities for engagement, collective action and cultural expression, expanding safe, high-quality affordable housing in the neighborhood, increasing natural and built investment including parks, trails and healthy housing, and work to ensure low levels of involuntary displacement from the neighborhood.
LIVING CULLY JANUARY MEETING
Marilyn Mauch, IAP Advocacy Team. reports that at the January meeting, Tom Armstrong recalled the Cully residents’ campaign to prevent the closure of Oak Leaf and said that in the last couple of years 20 parks have shut down. He noted that some cities have created overlay zoning to protect mobile home parks.
Cameron Hering, Executive Director of Living Cully, reported that over 2,000 post cards were received from congregations and organizations supporting the overlay zoning for delivery to the Mayor. On January 19, 2018 Mayor Tom Wheeler advised “Manufactured Home parks are a critical part of the affordable housing that we need in Portland. We join Verde and Living Cully in wanting zoning and other tools to protect this housing from unnecessary change. I look forward to getting these code amendments to City Council for action.”
- NEXT VERDE CULLY WALKING GROUP will meet Wednesday, January 24th, 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm Volunteers will be walking through Cully Park and Habitat’s Simpson Street property. They will be picking up trash and checking out the neighborhood. If you would like to join the walk, Contact Marilyn firstname.lastname@example.org)
- WEATHERIZATION The City’s weatherization funds are making a huge difference in the lives of the occupants of mobile home park. Home maintenance funds are also being considered in the short session in Salem.
- CULLY HOME REPAIR VOLUNTEERS NEEDED! Brenna Bailey, community organizer based at St. Charles, and her team are trying to find volunteers with the interest, skills and time necessary to facilitate work as needed. Anyone interested, please contact Marilyn at (email@example.com) or Brenna at firstname.lastname@example.org
January Interfaith Alliance Meeting.
Grace Memorial Episcopal Church “A Parish for the People in the Heart of the City”, welcomed the January 2018 meeting of the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty.
“Grace Memorial’s hallways are constantly filled with music, paintings, sculptures, and energetic conversations,” Rector, Martin Elfert states. “It’s hard not to feel inspired when you’re here. We like to think that we are using our buildings to give a gift to the community. And I know that we are receiving a gift in return.” Every Friday night at 6:00 PM, we host a meal, in partnership with Westminster Presbyterian, to which all are invited. Rev. Elfert says he thinks of it as his “3rd congregation.”
During the summer, Grace Memorial holds an Art Camp attended by hundreds of children over seven weeks to celebrate the arts. Colorful artwork, song, theater, and dance fill the building as children greet friends new and old. Grace Memorial would like to offer the camp to the children of less affluent neighborhoods by providing scholarships to enable the children to attend.
RIGHTING THE WRONGS OF BLACK HISTORY
John Elizalde, Carol Turner, Joy Alise Davis, and David Groff r and David Groff, West Minster Presbyterian, Co-Chairs of the Interfaith Alliance welcomed a crowded room of those attending the Interfaith Alliance’s first meeting of the year. John Elizalde, First Unitarian, and Co-Chair of the Becoming Poverty Aware & Communication Action Team, introduced featured speaker, Joy Alise Davis, Executive Director of PAALF (Portland African American League Forum)..
Originally from Jamaica, Joy Alise grew up in Ohio, and received her Masters of Urban Design at Miami University. She has expertise working on social sustainability projects, including racial equity strategies, collaborative design strategies, project development, civic engagement and community data analysis.
As Executive Director of PAALF, she has devoted herself to social justice issues involving the African American community in Portland. Joy Alise explained that efforts are now under way “to right these wrongs.” The PAALF People’s Plan serves as a powerful tool for research, organizing, and implementation. By viewing the community as the drivers of change, this project engaged over 400 African Americans on their experience living in Portland. Empowering the Black community to assert their right to actively shape the city we live in, the PAALF People’s Plan hopes to ensure that solutions are informed by the people affected.
Although African Americans continue to “yearn” for their community, lack of affordable housing has become another barrier to their return. Nevertheless, efforts are being made to support their “Right to Return”. Joy encouraged Interfaith Alliance members to support organizations working to make this happen.
PUTTING SOUL INTO BUSINESS by Thomas Hering (Interfaith Alliance Co-Chair on Advocacy) and Mary Anne Harmer
“We wrote “Putting Soul Into Business” for one reason: hope. “Because we believe the Benefit Corporation is going to be a strong catalyst for a better world and for a better business by adopting and practicing the 3 P’s of People, Planet and Profit. It is our intent in this book to not only show why you should embrace this entity for your business, but how to do it. Along the way you’ll read about companies both larger and small learning about their decisions to become a Benefit Corporation. We believe you will find the transcripts for their interviews with us inspiring. It certainly was the case for us as we talked to these forward-thinking yet humble leaders.
“…It is our hope (operative word, here) you jump in and become part of this fast-growing movement and embrace what a short while ago seemed almost impossible: putting soul into business. “Hope. -- Hope for the environment. -- Hope for social justice. “Hope for business. -- And Hope for the world.
You see, we believe we are at that proverbial crossroad where there is no more time. Either we stay on the road we’ve been on or we choose to travel the path less followed. We’ve seen the writing on the wall. Global warming. Hate crimes accelerating. Corporate greed spiraling upward. “The good news is that a new generation of enlightened humans are saying 'enough is enough.' And they are making their beliefs and opinions about the environment and social justice known to businesses with the most potent tool of capitalism: their pocketbooks . Here's what we write in the introduction of Putting Soul Into Business: How the Benefit Corporation is Transforming American Business for Good...
“A 2015 research study by Nielsen reports nearly 66 percent of global online consumers across 60 countries said they are willing to pay more for products and services by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact. “Buy a product with a social and/or environmental benefit, given the opportunity (90% versus 83% adult average) -- “Tell their friends and family about a company's CSR efforts (86% versus the 72% adult average); and, -- “Be more loyal to a company that supports a social or environmental issue (91% versus 87% adult average)“All of which brings us back to hope and why we believe there is plenty of room for it in today's world. “It's been said that "hope shines brightest in the darkest moments." Care to join us in leaving the darkness behind?“ If you'd like to see if your business is ready to become a benefit corporation, just take our free 12-question "sniff" test and find out right now.” ~benefitcorporationsforgood.com~
“THE ALTERNATIVE” by Mauricio Miller – Book Review by George Johnson, Rose City Presbyterian
Do you ask why poverty is still prominent despite an extensive “War on Poverty” the past several decades? . According to the author most of what we, the well-intended, know about poverty is wrong. Social programs should invest in the strengths of the poor and not be simply charities.
The author, Mauricio Miller, entered US as a young boy with his mother and sister as an emigrant from Mexico. His family, as with others in in poverty, lived in a social network of community interactions. He learned that it does not take talent to live with resources, but living in poverty --- every day presents a new learning experience in survival. The prevailing thought by many in social work is that people in poverty make poor decisions, thus, continuing poverty. Miller takes serious issue with that concept - they know what is best for them, but have insufficient resources or opportunities to live out their dreams.
His thoughts went back to his mother. She was extremely resourceful. What could she have accomplished if she had access to even small financial resources? She and other immigrants were extremely resourceful, relied on each other, and shared what they had. Would not these basic concepts be the basis for a new approach? Would not learning what they need to survive be valuable - a bottom up rather than a top down approach - in social service? Would not those in poverty know better about living in poverty than those with post-graduate degrees from prestigious universities? California Governor Jerry Brown was impressed, took his advice, and was awarded the grant.
The alternative approach grew into what is called today the “Family Independence Initiative” (FII). It began in Oakland, and has expanded into several cities (https://www.fii.org/ https://www.uptogether.org/) including Portland by partnering with the Multnomah Idea Lab (https://multco.us/dchs/mil). The basic principle is that clients are in charge. They are paid to work together and develop their own plans, and in doing so they “educate’ the social workers. Program resources go to clients with much less to social workers. The purpose of this review is not to explain in detail or defend the FII. Readers are encouraged to access the internet sites to learn and understand.