Creating a Beloved Community in Portland
By S.C. Taulbee, January 31st 2020
Saturday, 25 January, Portland State University (PSU), Reed College, and Campus Compact of Oregon held their ‘MLK’s Beloved Community Day of Service’ event at Portland Community College (PCC), Cascade campus. The event was designed to engage community members in conversation about how to move Portland closer to Dr. King’s dream of the Beloved Community.
After a breakfast provided by event sponsors Sesame Donuts, the day began with an inter-generational panel comprised of nine Black community members and activists, facilitated by DJ Ambush of the Numberz radio station. Among the panelists were community elder and PSU faculty, Ed Washington, Teressa Raiford, founder of Don’t Shoot Portland, and Campus Compact organizer Sean Ford.
Responding to DJ Ambush’s question, “How can we move closer to becoming a Beloved Community,” Washington said, “We all must come together,” and went on to explain that when he was fighting in Portland during the Civil Rights era, LGBTQ+ issues were not on the forefront. Washington says we are “in a battle today I don’t think most of us understand.”
Ford had a refrain that he kept returning to throughout the discussion, a prescription for how best to move forward the ongoing work of civil rights and equity for all: “Seek the truth, speak the truth, behave the truth.” Ford asserted that intrapersonal healing must take place before interpersonal healing can begin. This, he says, begins with self-care and self-healing.
After the panel, participants enjoyed lunch donated by event sponsors Bellagio’s Pizza then took part in the afternoon’s “breakout sessions,” of which there were six to choose from. These smaller workshops were hosted by community leaders and activists from Portland organizations ORI Gallery, Don’t Shoot Portland, June Key Delta Community Center, Critical Resistance PDX, and others. Each workshop was focused on one aspect of activism as it relates to building and strengthening Portland’s Beloved Community.
Session C explored self-care from a social justice perspective. The session looked at several ways to heal historical trauma and “current barriers to resiliency.”
In Session A, participants were treated to a presentation and an open discussion led by Leile Haile of ORI Gallery, chronicling the role of art in activism. Their presentation highlighted different ways art directly affects social change, anchored by the work of artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, and her project Stop Telling Women to Smile.
Returning from individual workshops, the day’s activities concluded with the roughly seventy-five participants reconvening to discuss what impact the day held for them. Everyone was encouraged to put their thoughts onto brightly-colored slips of paper which were then assembled to create a communal art project.