Month: August 2009

Adventures on MLK.

Last night, my friend Jamilah and I were walking home from a Michael Jackson birthday celebration:

and as we crossed MLK, we saw cops in the MLK Walgreen’s parking lot and decided to watch a bit. We saw two folks getting arrested, one of them after easily failing a sobriety test:

As we were getting ready to walk away, we were approached by a woman who identified herself as Annie, and she launched into a lengthy monologue that we eventually had to beg her to break off. She had some interesting things to say about Michael Jackson being treated as glitz and news fodder to the exclusion of recognizing  him as a flawed human (a  subject quite dear to Jamilah’s heart); she told us about the social and political aspects of life in Honduras (apparently she was trying to convince Jamilah to do speaking performances describing the ways of life in various parts of the world; she mentioned Uzbekistan as the polar opposite of Honduras); and she complained about how the egg display in the Safeway next door on MLK is set up so that it’s impossible to figure out which kind of egg is which, without picking up the eggs.

I went into the Safeway to get some potato chips, and decided to check the egg display. Annie is right — one really does have to pick up the cartons to see what they are:

Kennedy Community Center.

The death of Sen. Edward Kennedy this past week reminds me that there is a link between the Kennedy family and Union Avenue/Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. As the Oregon Advance Times reported in its April 25, 1968 issue:

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy visited Albina last Thursday and opened the Kennedy Community Center at 2843 N.E. Union Avenue.

He is the only presidential candidate to have a community headquarters in northeast Portland.

“We don’t want any riots, violence or disorders, he told the crowd on hand at the opening, “but at the same time we can’t have injustice.”

He used the same theme in many of his talks in Oregon that day… Each time he emphasized that violence is not acceptable to the American people but that neither are the conditions that caused it.

When he spoke to students at Oregon State University in Corvallis he was critical of the number who raised their hands when asked if they thought college students should be deferred from the military draft.

Kennedy told them they were in college because they could afford to be. Why, he asked them, should they be deferred when a young man working in a filling station was? He said that although Negroes make up only 10 per cent of the population of the United States, they account for 20 per cent of the casualties in Vietnam.

It is wrong, he said, to make the poor carry the burden of the war.

When Kennedy was on his way to his Albina center he saw a group of children at the Albina Child Care Center. He had his driver stop and he walked over and rubbed fingers with the children through the wire fence and said “Hi” to each. He then made a quick visit to the Neighborhood Service Center before going on to his own campaign center.

“It is a community center and not a campaign headquarters,” emphasized Mercy Ann Wright. Miss Wright explained that the purpose of the center is to get Albina citizens active in politics as well as rallying around their political program.

“We will be doing door to door registration in order to get residents out to vote.”

Others actively involved in working with the center are, Larry Weckbaugh, head of the University of Portland Kennedy headquarters, Tom Wilson of the Neighborhood Service Center, and Mrs. Bonnie Colton head of United Citizens against Poverty at Columbia Villa.

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The same issue of the Advance Times reports that the Portland School Board unanimously voted to change the name of Highland Elementary School to Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School. The name change was proposed by the school’s students, who gathered 1,250 signatures of local residents in support of their proposal.

The building at 2843 NE Union, which housed the Kennedy Community Center, no longer stands.

Coming, and going, on the boulevard.

King Boulevard has seen plenty of change this summer, with businesses and organizations moving into, and out of, buildings all along the boulevard.

Here’s some of what I’ve seen:

  • Nicole Cathcart’s Javarama (3907 NE MLK) shut down:

Patron and nearby resident Jacob describes Javarama thus: “It was a place to drink excellent coffee, to work, to study, to read, to hang out, and it hummed with the energy unique to independent businesses that are fresh and pleasant and alive.  It was a Portland coffeeshop — in the very best sense.”

  • Elevated Coffee opened in Vanport Square, 5261 NE MLK, serving up an interesting blend of coffee, shakes, waffles, art, author readings, and live music:

Check youtube here and here for performances at Elevated Coffee by Nick Z. Robey.

  • Alu Winebar has re-opened at 2831 NE MLK, under new ownership and new philosophies of food and drink, but with the same gorgeous interior.
  • Shaver Green is now open, with condos below, apartments above, and a “solar electric car charging station”:

I think Shaver Green has turned out to be a handsome building; some of the low-income housing on the boulevard built in the past is considerably more painful on the optic nerve.

  • Forever A Lady salon replaces Ray J’s barbershop at 7048-50 MLK.
  • A cute lunch cart called “Patty’s Wagon” has been setting up shop in the parking lot at MLK & Mason on Saturdays:

  • Yoga Mandiram in the Heritage Building is now called Yoga Mandapa, with new ownership.
  • The Tierra Educational Center has opened up at 2915 NE MLK, in the same building as SCRAP. From Tierra Center’s website:

The mission of Tierra Educational Center, LLC is to provide quality and affordable language, cultural, and technological education and services to the Portland community. The organization developed out of the shared belief of its owners that communication and cultural barriers between the growing immigrant population and the community at large can be broken down with the availability of affordable education and small group integration amongst the communities.

  • Michelle Kopper has opened Vanport Square Studio (5229 NE MLK, Suite 102). The Studio’s website describes Michelle as “a professional actor/singer with over a decade of yoga & dance meditation to bring unique insight to her classes and workshops. Michelle is a certified teacher of both Rasa Yoga and The Nia Technique. Breath, movement & sound are an integral part of all her work. Michelle also teaches the Summer Teen Musical Intensive at Portland Center Stage.”

The studio is currently hosting classes in theatre audition and singing, and is available for rental for rehearsals and performances.

  • Payless Shoe Source at 6359 NE MLK has gone dark:

  • After just a couple of months selling mattresses out of the storefront in the current building at Mason and MLK that houses the Miracles Club, the Bed Guyz have closed up shop, abandoning a couple of leftover mattresses to the sidewalk and the vagaries of fate:

  • After months of work rehabbing the two-story empty building at Alberta and MLK, It’s About Me Fitness is ready to open. At present, its owners are expecting to open the 24-hour facility tomorrow! It will be nice to have a gym on the boulevard, especially since it appears extremely unlikely that 24 Hour Fitness will ever open a gym on MLK.
  • Strut Salon has opened up in the Boxlift Building storefront most recently used by Dirty Little Secret Salon, 1909 NE MLK.
  • Caviar clothing has had a storefront on MLK for at least fifteen months, but it hasn’t been ready for shoppers… and now it is. The “illest boutique in the entire city” is “ready to introduce you to being fly.”
  • Growing Seeds Child Development Community, with one location already on the boulevard at 6505 NE MLK, is opening a second day care center in the Standard Dairy Building, where Billy Reed’s (followed by Venue) used to be:

Read more about Growing Seeds here.

  • Adjacent to Growing Seeds in the Standard Dairy is  gdiapers, a vendor of  ‘eco-friendly’ diapers:

  • Broadway Kia has moved into the two lots on either side of Broadway and MLK, used until recently by Broadway Toyota.

Meanwhile, the Jewish Review reports that Community Warehouse will, in fact, be moving into 3961-69 NE MLK, in the building that most recently housed Hannah Bea’s Poundcake and More. Community Warehouse is a nonprofit that helps supply low-income families with free furniture household items. Community Warehouse is leasing the building currently and has begun renovations on it, and is fund-raising in hopes of buying the building outright from Ward Smith. This particular building has its own stories to be told, and I’m planning to write about it soon.


Sunday happenings: August 2, 2009.

Some events that are occuring today on the boulevard:

  • Lost Innocence Vigil, a candlelight ceremony to remember the children inducted into prostitution. It’s hosted by the Emmaus Church (formerly the Red Sea Church), and is being held at the Irvington Covenant Church, 4046 NE MLK, at 5:30 pm.
  • Bella Flute Trio performs at Elevated Coffee in Vanport Square, 5261 NE MLK. Bella Flute Trio: three women, three flutes, three atittudes.
  • Women’s a cappella choir Divisi is performing at Sing Out Loud, a benefit for the Sexual Assault Resource Center, at 7 pm at the Vanport Square Studio, 5229 NE MLK.
  • The Noah Peterson Soul-tet has its weekly gig at the Local Lounge, 3536 NE MLK, at 9 pm.