Portland’s north-east Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard is a four-lane thoroughfare peppered with general conveniences but little foot traffic. Drivers are just trying to get somewhere else, accelerating past the unremarkable architecture and chain stores.
But over the next decade, the city of Portland has pledged to spend $32m on affordable housing in what is called the Interstate Corridor, which encompasses MLK Jr Blvd. Businesses are moving into the traditionally African American area and, as has too often been the case in the US, black residents are moving out.
Portland native Carl Talton wants to change that. Distraught by the disappearance of their cultural identity, he’s part of a group of black professionals who want to reclaim their gentrifying neighborhoods with black-owned business developments – they’re calling it the Soul District. But while hopes are high, history has not been kind to African American businesses’ attempts to ride the wave of gentrification…
In response Talton and a group of other professionals formed Bicep (Black Investment Corporation for Economic Progress). Its members come from finance, real estate, business development, community organizing, technology and education. Their mission: to reclaim and revitalize Portland’s historically African American neighborhoods through socially responsible commercial development, with MLK Jr Blvd at the fulcrum. As they see it, their communities are lacking in black-owned goods and services.
Read more about BICEP and the efforts in Portland, along with similar initiatives in other American cities, at The Guardian.