Posts in events
A Place Called Home: From Vanport To Albina
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"Will anyone show up?" That is always the question when we host an event that deals with our appalling racial history, and with past and present community marginalization.  On Saturday, May 12th, the question is particularly relevant. It is a beautiful sunny day, one of those Portlanders wait all winter for, to remind us why this city is, after all, such a great place.

The Kenton Library is particularly quiet. The St John Street Fair, with its great arts, music and food, is calling. Would any of the 986 people who pressed the Interested button on Facebook show up? What about the 92 who committed on "going"? 

Slowly but surely, as it has been happening for the past 4 years, event after event, the room fills up. Race Talks director Donna Maxey, and artist Velynn Brown, both Vanport descendants, are here, ready to guide us and facilitate our journey into feeling and understanding. Henk Pander, the renowned visual artist who has been capturing the shipyards, Liberty Ships, and the Vanport Flood in his watercolors, is here too, sitting in the audience carrying his own painful memories of war, and "home" back in Holland.

Those who are meant to be here are here. And once again, we gather around the stories of those who share them as gifts: leaving the Jim Crow south just to find a more subtle but equally dangerous racism in Oregon, building a better life and a new community in Vanport, losing both in 1948 once a flood wiped all out in a few hours... the new "chapter" in redlined Albina: losing all, rebuilding stronger, losing all again; this time, not because of a poorly conceived system of dikes and irresponsible lack of evacuation plans, but because of racist city planning under the name of urban renewal.

Velynn Brown, Vanport descendant, performing her poem "Roots and Remnants"  (Photo by Andrew DeVigal)

Velynn Brown, Vanport descendant, performing her poem "Roots and Remnants" (Photo by Andrew DeVigal)

We share only a small selections of our oral histories, part of the on-going memory activism effort now in its fourth year, and then we sit quietly with our eyes closed to listen, truly listen, to Velynn Brown's words. Her poem, "Roots and Remnants," is a lullaby of memories. I cheat, and open my eyes for a moment. Tears are streaming down her face. My face. Everyone's face. She has embraced the responsibility and the honor of being the "Remnant Keeper," the one left to tell the story. We clap for long time. If my hands could speak they would say Thank you. I am sorry. Forgive us. Forgive me. What can I do? I made my home in your home. I don't want my story to bury yours. And how can we tell a different one together, one where we all belong?

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Donna Maxey must understand the language of my hands, because she stands up, hugs Velynn as warmly and tight as I wish I could do right now, and answers my questions. See us, she says. See your neighbor. Let's truly see and meet each other. Ours and yours survival depends on it.

 

 

 

"First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew
Then they came for the communists and I did not speak out — because I was not a communist
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.
—  Pastor Niemoeller, Victim of the Nazis in Germany

Race Talk Director Donna Maxey, Visual Artist Henk Pander, Artists Velynn Brown, and Story Midwife/Vanport Mosaic Co-director Laura Lo Forti ( Photo by Emmalee McDonald ).

Race Talk Director Donna Maxey, Visual Artist Henk Pander, Artists Velynn Brown, and Story Midwife/Vanport Mosaic Co-director Laura Lo Forti (Photo by Emmalee McDonald).


A PLACE CALLED HOME; FROM VANPORT TO ALBINA will be offered again on June 24th,  3-4.30pm at North Portland Library. Join us for a FREE screening of oral history documentaries, part of the Vanport Mosaic participatory on-going oral history project, with a facilitated dialogue presented in collaboration with Donna Maxey, Founder/Director of RACE TALKS, and artist Velynn Brown, both Vanport descendants. Through archival footage, historic photographs, and compelling first-person narratives, this collection of short films and audio oral histories traces the story of Portland’s African American community from the 1940s to 1970s. It is a story of struggle, perseverance, and resilience that continues today.

This program is part of the Our Story: Portland Through an African American Lens digital collection and project-
Made possible by The National Endowment for the Humanities Fund of The Library Foundation.

The Vanport Mosaic oral-history project is facilitated by Story Midwife Laura Lo Forti, made possible by Regional Arts & Culture Council, Oregon Heritage Commission, Oregon Historical Society, The Kinsman Foundation.
Thanks to our partners: University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, Open Signal, Stream PDX.

Bringing Vanport history into the classroom

We spent a week at the wonderful Oregon Episcopal School, where 3rd graders explored the history of Vanport and its legacy guided by their dedicated teacher Kiah Johnson Mousey.

We are so inspired by their reflections in response to our exhibit Vanport: A Story Lived. A Story Told! 

On February 27th, as part of the Oregon Episcopal School Exploring Our Oregon History Through Art and Experience series, we screened Lost City, Living Memories: Vanport Through The Voices of Its Residents, a selection of short oral histories documentaries part of our growing collection. The room was packed with families and community members, including Vanport Flood survivors who shared their own memories. Prof. James S. Harrison helped us understand the impact of this history, and Story Midwife Laura Lo Forti talked about our on-going "memory activism" effort.

We closed this beautiful collaboration by curating a panel with former Vanport residents: an unforgettable intergenerational exchanged that touched everyone lucky enough to be part of it!

Would you like to create a meaningful educational experience and bring community voices to your school or community group? Let's dream up something together! Get in touch with Greta Smith, our educational programming director, at greta@vanportmosaic.org, or comment on this post.

LEFT HOOK at Westminster Presbyterian Church

On October 17th, Westminster Presbyterian Church hosted a staged reading of LEFT HOOK, a timely drama about gentrification and community displacement in 1970’s Portland, set in an Albina boxing club, written by Rich Rubin and directed by Damaris Webb.

Following this staged reading, Left Hook is slated to receive a full, three-week production at the Vanport Mosaic Festival, in May 2018.

An "Out Of The Box" traveling exhibit about Vanport
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We are thrilled to offer a new way of learning about the transformative history of Vanport!  Vanport.  A Story Lived. A Story Told traveling exhibit  tells the story of the temporary city of Vanport and the vibrant community that called it home. Through archival material and oral history, it explores this chapter of history and its enduring impact. It is an essential and often forgotten story of migration, housing, displacement, and perseverance.

This is Vanport Mosaic first "Out Of The Box" exhibit, designed to travel to schools, churches, community groups and wherever there is an interest for this important history. Please come and see it, and drop us a line at greta@vanportmosaic.org to explore how to bring it your community!

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CALENDAR:

2017

  • May 26-29: Vanport Mosaic Festival 2017
  • August 5th: Vanport Jazz Festival
  • September 28-October 5th: Oregon Historical Society 
  • October 15th: Portland State University/Portland State Of Mind in conjunction with Lost City, Living Memories oral histories screenings. Info here
  • November 8-10: Lewis&Clark College/14th Annual Ray Warren Symposium on Race and Ethnic Studies. Info

2018

  • February 8th: Fair Housing Fair
  • February 20-March 1: Oregon Episcopal School
  • March 3 - 25: Oregon Children Theater
  • May 25-28: Vanport Mosaic Festival 2018

 

Our deepest gratitude to all the former Vanport residents who have shared their memories with us for the past three years, and informed this exhibit with their riveting stories. And to all the Vanport Mosaic oral historians who helped us capture, honore, and preserve these precious voices.

Special thanks to: Oregon Historical Society, City of Portland Archives, Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, Multnomah County Archives, Portland State University Special Collections and University Archives, Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources, Oregon Black Pioneers, Kim Moreland, James Stanley Harrison, Zita Podany, Thomas Robinson, Terry Baxter, Tanya Gossard, Norman Gholston, Jim Burke, Susan Barthel, Will Bennett, and Peter Marsh.


Made possible by the generous support of:
The Oregon Community Foundation, Oregon Arts Commission, Portland State University and the Division of Global Diversity and Inclusion, Oregon Historical Society, The City of Portland, Prosper Portland.

CURATED BY: Laura Lo Forti, Greta Smith, A Fourth Act
DESIGNED BY: Paste In Place/www.pasteinplace.com
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LEFT HOOK, A NEW PLAY ABOUT COMMUNITY DISPLACEMENT IN 1970'S PORTLAND
Photo by Shawnte Sims

Photo by Shawnte Sims

I boxed the NYC Golden Gloves in the early ’90’s. It was one of the most rewarding times of my life. Up at 6am to take the train to Gleason’s gym, giving my whole mind & body to the training. The support of my community, my trust in my trainer, my faith in a fair fight, stepping into the ring and facing my opponent. And no punch is as beautiful as the left hook. Precise. Powerful. Clean. Because of its proximity to your opponent it’s a hard one for them to see coming, and as with any good blow, the power comes from your back foot, spiraling up through your body, with clean alignment you deliver the blow.

Many times I have encountered the lament “there are no black people in Portland”. It would certainly seem to be the case relying on the dominant narratives from mainstream media (like the TV series Portlandia) down to public school history books. Growing up as a person of color in NE Portland, I knew this wasn’t true, we were here - but somehow we weren’t seen.

History teaches us that the greatest influx of Portland’s African American population was due to the Great Migration from the south during the War Years to work the Kaiser shipyards. After the 1948 flood, those who had established a community in Vanport now found themselves redlined into the Albina neighborhood, one of the few areas of Portland blacks were allowed to rent or buy, due to the Rose City's discriminatory housing practices. Keep Portland weird indeed. 

The storyline of Left Hook condenses a history that unfolded over a dozen years or more in Portland into a few months, touching on the intermixed experiences of African-American Soldiers returned from Vietnam, the aborted Legacy Emanuel Hospital Expansion, the Black Panther Movement, and Portland’s once world famous black boxing community in Albina. The all black cast focuses on the owner of the fictional Left Hook Boxing Club, and his struggle to claim a stake in the American Dream for himself and his family. To keep faith.

Rich Rubin’s new script allows us to hear voices of this all to true recent history, offering a start of an understanding of the intentional and systemic choices that lead to the continued displacement of the African American community in Portland. In this time of engaged discussion about gentrification, affordable housing and displacement of communities, I hope we can use this as a spring board to ask where do we want to go from here, and how do we imagine our city.

Damaris Webb, Left Hook Director

eventsDamaris Webb
Join the "abundance" campaign: Donate to The Vanport Mosaic Festival 2017!

The Vanport Mosaic Festival 2017 is around the corner!
We are so grateful for the excitement and heartwarming interest the event is receiving! Many of you are asking the following question: 

That is a heck of an event! How are you going to make it happen? And how can you offer 4 days of screenings, oral history recordings, theater, exhibit, an educational workshop, a reunion for former Vanport residents, narrated bus tours, self-guided walking tours with a map and an app, a bike tour with theater performances for free or low-cost to the public?

Here is our "secret": Abundance. Abundance of volunteers, abundance of funders, abundance of sponsors, abundance of partners. First and foremost, abundance of passion and idealism. And if this sounds terribly naive… well, it is, but it works! Last year our Inaugural Vanport Mosaic Festival, grounded on this unconventional “business” model, is a testament to the power of grassroot organizing and community engagement.

Watch this short documentary to get a glimpse of it:

On Memorial Day weekend, over 2500 Portlanders of all racial and gender identity, age, and socio-economic backgrounds gathered to explore the history of Vanport, the catalyst of the racial mosaic that now exists in Portland and the region. Sixty-eight years after the flood that destroyed what at its peak was Oregon's second largest city, we showed its former residents, now in their 80s and 90s, that their experience matters to us, and that we are not going to forget it.

This abundance-powered effort received a Spirit of Portland Award, a Columbia Slough Watershed Council Leadership Award, and an Oregon Heritage Excellence Award.

We will be honest. This year it’s been harder… Allowing yourself to be so idealistic and keep your hopes up in these difficult times where everything around us screams fear and scarcity has been a challenge. But now more than ever, we want to believe we can do it again. We can keep using the power of personal stories, arts, and dialogue to envisioning and building the community we wish to become.


Will you help us do it again? Will you join the growing network of funders, sponsors, donors and partners who are making this year’s festival possible, and help fill the gap we have left? Your tax-deductible contribution will prove, once again, that stories build communities. 

 

DONATE TO THE VANPORT MOSAIC FESTIVAL 2017
Lost City, Living Memories: Vanport Through The Voices of Its Residents

The Vanport Mosaic Festival 2017 presents
LOST CITY, LIVING MEMORIES: VANPORT THROUGH THE VOICES OF ITS RESIDENTS

Join us for TWO SCREENINGS of the latest short documentaries part of Vanport Mosaic on-going oral history project, now in its third year. Through archival footage, historic photographs, and compelling first-person narratives, this collection of community-produced short films creates a rich and elaborate “mosaic” of the vibrant community that made up the city of Vanport.  

Tickets are FREE, but seating is limited and RSVP is strongly recommended. Donations are gladly accepted at the door.

TWO SCREENINGS:
Saturday, May 27, 2017 6:30pm
Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, 
3138 North Vancouver Avenue, Portland, OR 97227

With special guest blues and gospel singer Marilyn T. Keller; Sen. Jackie Winter, flood survivor, reading the City Proclamation for a Vanport Day Of Remembrance; PCC Prof. James Harrison
RSVP: https://lostcitylivingmemories0527.eventbrite.com/

Monday, May 29, 2017 6pm
Irvington Covenant Church
4003 Northeast Grand Avenue , Portland, OR 97212

With special guest Shalanda Sims, director of Vanport, The Musical, performing a few songs from the play, and PCC Prof. James Harrison. Remarks by Nick Fish.
RSVP: https://lostcitylivingmemories0529.eventbrite.com/
 

A community-based initiative directed by Story Midwife Laura Lo Forti. Production Manager: Meredith Lawrence. In collaboration with A Fourth Act, the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Open Signal Portland Community Media.

Made possible by the generous support of Oregon Community Foundation, Oregon Arts Commission, Kinsman Foundation, Oregon Historical Society, Portland State University, The City of Portland, Portland Development Commission, Business for a Better Portland.

The Vanport Mosaic Festival Education Workshop

 

The Vanport Mosaic Festival 2017 presents:
THE VANPORT EDUCATION WORKSHOP
May 27th, 2017
11:30-3:00 p.m.

PCC Cascade Campus Terrell Hall Auditorium, 705 North Killingsworth Street - Portland, OR 97217
FREE! Registration is required as space is limited. You can register here.

For questions, please contact Vanport Mosaic Education Program Coordinator: Greta Smith gresmith@pdx.edu 

In response to the increasing number of inquiries we have been receiving from educators who want to explore the transformative history of Vanport with their students, The Vanport Mosaic offers its first workshop to share multidisciplinary tools and opportunities for curriculum development for formulating lesson plans.  

This year’s festival themes of migration, housing, and displacement are central to the workshop, as well as the question of how unresolved issues with race-based displacement reverberates through future generations.

Educators will have the opportunity to attend three different sessions offered in the disciplines of history, geography, and arts & humanities:

Teaching Vanport through History: 
This interactive workshop prepares you for teaching about Vanport, a significant episode in local and national history. Learn how to craft a 15-30 minute lesson that wows students and helps them gain a new insight and appreciation for our history. 

Lead by James Stanley Harrison, professor emeritus of History at Portland Community College where he has taught since 1993. He is currently working on a book about the wartime housing project of Vanport.

The Landscape of Vanport: 
This workshop will focus on how to use both the past and present day landscape as an opportunity to study a local geography project. The sample assignment will expand on the creation of “learning opportunities” around both human/cultural or physical geographies of the location and place we know as Vanport City, Oregon. 

Lead by Heather McAfee, who teaches geography at Clark College and serves as chair of the Geography Department. 

Vanport through the Creative Lens: 
This workshop will spark ideas about teaching Vanport through creative responses to film and images and will provide several writing prompts and assignment ideas.

Lead by Melissa Favara, a writer and educator who lives in Portland, Oregon and teaches English at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington. She writes and publishes creative nonfiction and essays and curates the 1,000 Words reading series.

Left Hook, a new play about community displacement in 1970's Portland

Vanport Mosaic presents

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A new play about gentrification and community displacement in 1970’s Portland, set in an Albina boxing club.

Presented as part of the 2017 Fertile Ground Festival
4 Public Performances: Friday 1/20 @ 7:30pm, Saturday 1/21 @ 2pm & 7:30pm, Sunday 1/22 @ 2pm
Venue: Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, 5340 N. Interstate Ave.
Admission: Pay What You Can. Suggested $10; $5 Students/Seniors
Buy tickets here, or at the door one hour before curtain
Run time: 2hrs with intermission - join us for a curated conversation following the Sunday matinee. 

Featuring: La'Tevin Alexander, Anthony Armstrong, Kenneth Dembo, Mario Depriest, Jasper Howard, Tonea Lolin & Jocelyn Seid.


I boxed the NYC Golden Gloves in the early ’90’s. It was one of the most rewarding times of my life. Up at 6am to take the train to Gleason’s gym, giving my whole mind & body to the training. The support of my community, my trust in my trainer, my faith in a fair fight, stepping into the ring and facing my opponent. And no punch is as beautiful as the left hook. Precise. Powerful. Clean. Because of its proximity to your opponent it’s a hard one for them to see coming, and as with any good blow, the power comes from your back foot, spiraling up through your body, with clean alignment you deliver the blow.

Many times I have encountered the lament “there are no black people in Portland”. It would certainly seem to be the case relying on the dominant narratives from mainstream media (like the TV series Portlandia) down to public school history books. Growing up as a person of color in NE Portland, I knew this wasn’t true, we were here - but somehow we weren’t seen.

History teaches us that the greatest influx of Portland’s African American population was due to the Great Migration from the south during the War Years to work the Kaiser shipyards. After the 1948 flood, those who had established a community in Vanport now found themselves redlined into the Albina neighborhood, one of the few areas of Portland blacks were allowed to rent or buy, due to the Rose City's discriminatory housing practices. Keep Portland weird indeed. 

The storyline of Left Hook condenses a history that unfolded over a dozen years or more in Portland into a few months, touching on the intermixed experiences of African-American Soldiers returned from Vietnam, the aborted Legacy Emanuel Hospital Expansion, the Black Panther Movement, and Portland’s once world famous black boxing community in Albina. The all black cast focuses on the owner of the fictional Left Hook Boxing Club, and his struggle to claim a stake in the American Dream for himself and his family. To keep faith.

Rich Rubin’s new script allows us to hear voices of this all to true recent history, offering a start of an understanding of the intentional and systemic choices that lead to the continued displacement of the African American community in Portland. In this time of engaged discussion about gentrification, affordable housing and displacement of communities, I hope we can use this as a spring board to ask where do we want to go from here, and how do we imagine our city.

Damaris Webb, Left Hook Director