On Tuesday, December 13, 2016, Portland’s City Council will recognize and celebrate the winners of the 32nd Annual Spirit of Portland Awards. Vanport Mosaic is so honored to be included among so many committed individuals and groups “who make outstanding contributions to our community.”

The Vanport Mosaic is a collective of artists, historians, educators, storytellers, activists, and media makers. We joined forces and contributed our individual projects and efforts to re-discover and properly honor an essential and often-forgotten chapter of Oregon’s past. It is one of the many that never made it into textbooks and official records, relegated to the margins of our collective memories. It is yet another causality of the dangerous tides of historical amnesia.

This award means so much to us, and we are grateful to Portland’s City Council, and particularly to Commissioner Nick Fish who chose this project. It is, first and foremost, an official validation that this history does matter.

For our community-driven, artists-led organization fueled by creativity and idealism, this prestigious award is an invitation to keep doing what we are doing. Together with a generous grant from the City Special Appropriation Fund and the support from more partners and funders that I can list here, it makes possible to dream bigger. It galvanizes our commitment to surface the silenced histories that make this place we call home what it is today. We will keep using the power of personal stories, arts, and dialogue, as an invitation to all of you to join us in envisioning and building the community we wish to become. The Vanport Mosaic Festival 2016 was a glimpse of that possibility. Over the course of the four days over 2000 Portlanders of any racial and gender identity, age, and socio-economic background gathered to explore the history of Vanport, the catalyst of the racial mosaic that now exists in Portland and the region.

This short doc produced by Natalie Smith/Blue Chalk captures the spirit of the Festival.

On May 27-30, 2016 we honored the experience of the diverse community that was formed in Vanport, and we shared the personal stories and different perspectives through oral histories screenings, theater and poetry performances, an exhibit, and tours of the historic sites. We invited historians as well as community experts who lived there to help us understand the legacy of what used to be Oregon’s second largest city, and how the past continues to influences city dynamics today.  We captured more memories with those generous enough to share them with us. We hosted a reunion for former Vanport residents, and had the privilege to witness their long-standing connections. Their friendships and ties born in a time of hardship and common hopes are unvaluable lessons in building a strong and resilient community. 

Former Vanport residents reunion at Vancouver Ave First Baptist Church. (Photos by Julie Keefe)

Former Vanport residents reunion at Vancouver Ave First Baptist Church. (Photos by Julie Keefe)

On May 30th, the 68th anniversary of the flood that wiped out their city, in a moving ceremony at City Hall, Portland’s Mayor Charles Hales read our Proclamation and officially declared a Vanport Day of Remembrance.

Representatives of the Vanport Mosaic with Mayor Charles Hales and Portland City Council declaring May 30th a Vanport Day of Remembrance.

Representatives of the Vanport Mosaic with Mayor Charles Hales and Portland City Council declaring May 30th a Vanport Day of Remembrance.

The driving force behind this truly grassroots on-going effort is our collective desire to honor our silenced local histories, celebrate resilience, and create opportunities to become the inclusive, diverse, and compassionate community we aspire to be.

In gratitude,
Story Midwife Laura Lo Forti, and the Vanport Mosaic Team


 Save the date for Vanport Mosaic Festival 2017, May 26-29, 2017!