Columbia Villa

Portland African American Film Festival: now through Sunday.

Ron Craig, Executive Director of the Portland African American Film Festival, opens the Festival’s webpage with this message:

In my younger days in Portland, Oregon, growing up on Cook Street between 7th and Union [now MLK Boulevard] Avenues, where every house had young people running and playing during all four seasons, there was always a place to run and play.

But let me take you inside my memories: Saturday afternoons at the once majestic Egyptian Theatre on NE Union and Russell Streets, with its exotic pillars, pyramids, cast stone panels, ornamental urns and lotus flower motifs! As a youngster, this was the place I would come to see people run, laugh and fly (without an airplane)! For me it was partly a dream (oh, to fly without that plane!) but overall, it was this young black man making a mental list of people and places he wished to see, and things he would like to do.

Now you may ask what this has to do with the PDX African American Film Festival. Well, those very Saturday afternoons in the dark in the Egyptian Theatre put me on the course to be a filmmaker and to host two international film festivals—one in my home town of Portland, Oregon, the PDX African American Film Festival—and the other in Astoria, Oregon, the Astoria International Film Festival, which just completed its fourth year.

The Portland African American Film Festival is showing films until Sunday, this weekend. This year’s festival includes a screening of the documentary Imaging Home: Stories of Columbia Villa:

Columbia Villa, a troubled and dilapidated Portland public housing neighborhood originally built to house WWII shipyard workers and later ravaged by gangs and drugs, is demolished, displacing 1,300 residents. In its place, New Columbia, a federal HOPE VI urban redevelopment project, emerges as a model for progressive community building. Imagining Home follows several Columbia Villa families from displacement to relocation back into New Columbia over four years.