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The City of Portland, Oregon

Community & Civic Life

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Creating our future together

  • Site of temporary homes for Japanese-Americans before being sent to internment camps. Image by Michelle Rodríguez

Historic Tours: Fair Housing Council of Oregon

On August 28, members of Civic Life and Commissioner Eudaly’s office learned more about Portland and Oregon’s history of discrimination, displacement and segregation. On a guided tour led by the Fair Housing Council of Oregon (FHCO), we toured historically meaningful sites throughout the city while guest presenters and story-tellers shared personal accounts associated with each place. The tour clearly links our recent past to current realities and reminds us that our actions today will shape our city for generations to come.

The facts below cast a dark shadow on the Portland of today:

  • Oregon passed exclusion laws as early as 1844 to prevent African Americans from residing in Oregon.  Language in Oregon’s Constitution prohibiting African Americans from living in the state was removed only recently: in 2001.
  • Oregon once had the largest Ku Klux Klan, per capita, in the nation.
  • It was not until 1951 that Oregon repealed its law prohibiting interracial marriages.
  • As late as the 1960s cities and towns throughout our state had "sundown laws" preventing African Americans and Asians from staying overnight.
  • Before 1988 majority of the rental housing was “no children allowed.”

 

CBS report previewMany on the tour knew and have experienced some of the history themselves. 

Some of this history was also presented in a CBS aired report in October 2017 “Portland | Race Against the Past.”

 

 

 

 Members of our teams reflected on what they learned and how it relates to our work today:

“The FHCO tour and the accompanying narrative renews our continued commitment to support North Portland groups like Vanport Mosaic, Vanport Placemarking, Vanport Legacy Grant, and others that work creatively and tirelessly to tell the story of tragedy and hope rising from our very local history of displacement."

- Tom Griffin-Valade

 

"The FHCO Bus Tour was an eye opener for all.  In my opinion, the purpose of this tour, was to reflect on the devastating past events and ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes. We cannot undo the past, however, as the Community & Civic Life we will continue to encourage civic engagement by connecting all communities.  Myself along with my colleagues will continue to work together to sustain a safe, inclusive, and livable environment for all."

- Arainnia Brown

 

"Much of what drives the thinking in my work is finding ways for our cannabis-related policies to be more equitable in both intent and outcome, given past discrimination and inequities. For me, the tour was an opportunity to better connect how today’s policies related to housing, infrastructure improvement, and support for small businesses (among others) directly connect with and are attempting to mitigate the harm from those inequitable, discriminatory policies of the past."

- Brandon Goldner

 

"What was impressed upon me from this eye-opening place-based tour, was the responsibility we have as government employees to continuously challenge the assumptions of the system we are a part of. While we cannot undo all of the historical harm inflicted by government institutions, we can make sure that any unjust policies we encounter are challenged and addressed. When we have the opportunity to participate in the creation of new policy, we engage with community from the onset to ensure we address possible consequences and seek to mitigate any harm, or better yet, create opportunity and benefits in alignment with community needs."

- Michelle Rodríguez

 

"This tour was truly an eye-opening experience for me.  It is one thing to hear the stories and events that took place around our city, but it is another to visit the locations and hear from someone who has lived through those experiences. We were able to visit specific locations, some of which I had grown up around as a child and never knew the profound history behind them.  My main takeaway from this is that not everyone knows about Portland’s history, (I didn’t learn anything I learned during this tour from my public-school education), and as civil servants, it is our job to recognize the challenges that we face and do our best work that benefits all Portlanders.”

- Mary Hartshorn

 

"It was not the facts or even the big themes that struck me about the FHCO tour. I am familiar with the history of Portland and history of discrimination, racism, hate that permeates both our local and national collective experiences. What struck me, and I believe is also fundamental to the power of our work on the CNIC Team, is how moving, motivating, bonding, and profound these stories are when told by those directly impacted by them. There really is nothing like hearing about Vanport, for example from Ed Washington, and getting a glimpse of that City, that wonderland of community and multiracial culture where so many basic needs were met for all. It is a vision we can know through the eyes of a child--a child that has become our very own Elder and City statesman."

- Dianne Riley

 

"This tour shines a spot light on the history of inequities and racism around housing in Portland. It is a reminder that if we don’t know the history or that if we forget it, we are very likely to repeat it. It is also a reminder for those of us working in government, that we must be good stewards in policy making as we too are complicit when our policies cause lasting harm.
As it relates to our program, we are in a unique position, in working closely with all communities, to provide resources such as FHCO to the many Portlanders still struggling with unfair housing practices. Also, as we did recently at Dawson Park, to bring together community stakeholders and City partners in navigating the many challenges and burdens of gentrification, so that we are not perpetuating harmful impacts but rather helping to repair and build relationships."

- Meg Juarez