Ifanyi Bell on returning to Portland; and the release of the video Future: Portland.


Oregon Humanities is proud to debut “Future: Portland,” a short video inspired by Ifanyi Bell’s essay from the Quandary issue of Oregon Humanities magazine, “The Air I Breathe,” which explored the challenges of growing up black in Portland. In the five-minute video, civic leaders describe the loss of Portland’s strong black communities and the hope of restoring them in the future. Featured are Avel Gordly, former Oregon state legislator; Rukaiyah Adams, chief investment officer at Meyer Memorial Trust; Joy DeGruy, author of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome; Nolan Lienhart, director of planning and urban design at ZGF Architects; and Charles McGee, executive director of Black Parent Initiative.

Watch Future: Portland here.

“Perhaps the most difficult thing about living in Portland was the lack of an authentic visual and social acknowledgment, recognition, and appreciation of African American people. Without a historical anchor, I fear the potential of what Portland could be in the twenty-first century will be lost to the unrelenting pressure to maintain and preserve a very particular understanding of its history…

The city was very different than I remembered from 1996.  It seemed that Portland no longer had any black neighborhoods; instead, it seemed that there were places where black people lived or occasionally came to be for periods of time. In hindsight it is more likely that there were never any truly black neighborhoods, but simply places in Portland where white people did not go out of fear, mostly imagined and exacerbated by isolation and economic factors…

Though there is no precedent for such large-scale social, political, and ethical reform, if there is any city that can investigate the anthill beneath its boot, it is Portland. It is for a purely selfish reason that I hold out hope that this city and the people who control it will chart a new course for the future.”

–from “The Air I Breathe: Growing up Tolerated and Underestimated in Portland,” by Ifanyi Bell, also published by Oregon Humanities.


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