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Join our memory-activism campaign #IRememberVanport!

2018 marks the 70th Anniversary of The Vanport Flood. From now until the Vanport Mosaic Festival 2018 (May 25-28), we invite you to join our memory activism campaign to keep this important history alive.

Thanks to all of you who joined us in our advocacy effort in the past three years, Governor Kate Brown, Senator Jackie Winters, House Speaker Tina Kotek, and Portland Mayors Charles Hales and Ted Wheeler, have proclaimed a Vanport Day of Remembrance on the anniversary of the flood. It is time for a permanent memorialization of Oregon's second largest city and its multi-racial and multi-cultural community!

"Make history" with us by sharing your thoughts on WHY we should remember, and ideas on HOW we can honor and preserve this important chapter of our past for generations to come.

Here how you can participate the collective conversation:

  • Leave your thoughts here in the comment section.
  • Take a photo of yourself in front of our traveling exhibit Vanport: A Story Lived. A Story Told and tag it #IRememberVanport. Share on social media or sending to us at Don't forget to add your thoughts with it!
  • Create something to commemorate this history in whatever art-form you like. Share on social media with #IRememberVanport, or sending to us at
  • Join at any of our events and share your ideas in person and/or on the form available at the event itself.

We will collect all the contributions and share them with you all as they come, and they will be part of the celebrations during the Festival 2018. 

Thanks for keep supporting this "history from the bottom up" effort!

May 30th, 2017: A Day To Remember

On May 30th, 2017 The Vanport Mosaic traveled to Oregon State Capitol to be part of an historical moment!

The Oregon State Senate unanimously voted on Senate Concurrent Resolution 21 to officially commemorate the anniversary of the Vanport flood and remember its survivors and the people who lost their lives. We are grateful to Senator Jackie Winters, who lived in Vanport and survived the flood, and House Speaker Tina Kotek, whose district includes the area where Vanport once was, for sponsoring this resolution. 

Watch a few clips from the moving day:

Join us at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem to commemorate the Vanport Flood

On May 30th The Vanport Mosaic will travel to Salem to participate to this historical event. 
Our collective is deeply grateful to Senator Jackie Winters and House Speaker Tina Kotek for their commitment to honor the experience of former Vanport residents and preserve this history for generation to come!

On Tuesday May 30th Senator Jackie Winters and House Speaker Tina Kotek are the Chief Sponsors of Senate Concurrent Resolution 21, memorializing the 69th anniversary of the Vanport Flood

Ceremonies for SCR 21 will take place at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem. If you would like to join, please meet outside the Chamber of the House or Representatives no later than 10:30am. Courtesies will be given during the House Floor Session followed by a vote on the measure by the members of the Senate during the Senate Floor Session. Following the close of the Senate Floor Session a reception will be held in the foyer outside the Senate Chambers on the second floor of the Capitol.

Please RSVP to AmyBeth Stevens at 503-986-1444 or email

The Vanport Mosaic Festival Education Workshop


The Vanport Mosaic Festival 2017 presents:
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 

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.

Vanport Mosaic Receives an Oregon Heritage Award of Excellence!

On April 26th a small Vanport Mosaic representation traveled to Newberg to receive an Oregon Heritage Excellence Award for

The Vanport Mosaic Festival 2016, a groundbreaking, grassroots effort that utilized a multi-disciplinary approach through creative partnerships to bring Oregonians together to learn and talk about Vanport’s history.

We are so honored and humbled to see our collective effort acknowledged with such a prestigious and meaningful recognition! And it was truly inspiring to learn about the work that individuals, community groups, and local institutions are doing throughout Oregon to preserve local history.

Truly, this award is to the former Vanport residents and their families, the community groups, churches, teachers, historians, activists, artists, who have been silently preserving small and large pieces of this important history, so that at last, almost 70 years from the flood, we could assemble this rich and complex mosaic.

With gratitude,
The Vanport Mosaic Team

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

Vanport Mosaic Receives a Spirit of Portland Award!

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!