Portland, OR. The President of the Portland Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is feeling optimistic about the future of race relations in the Rose City. Rev. E. D. Mondainé, a renowned musician, and U.S. Army/Air Force veteran took the helm of Portland’s chapter in 2018. His voice has become increasingly important during this time of downtown protests and civil unrest. Mondainé’s says, “Even though times are bleak, we can make change. Portland is a perfect storm for change in this country and the ninety-plus days of noise is the start of revolution.”
While many organizations and individuals protesting are calling for a complete defunding of the police in Portland (and across the nation, for that matter), Rev. Mondainé says that the NAACP does not stand with the goal of abolition, but rather, reformation.
Starting in May 2020, demonstrations over the police killing of George Floyd have been held in the city of Portland, concurrent with protests in other cities around the United States and around the world.
When asked about the death of George Floyd and the reverberations across the nation, Mondainé’s said he believes Floyd’s death was nothing less than a “horizontal, modern-day lynching” and not to be convoluted else wise. (Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.)
Reverend E.D. Mondainé believes in Portland and the ability of residents to confront nationwide and global equality and equity. “We’re on a mission for justice, truth, and equality. And we’ll never stop fighting for that.”
The Portland NAACP has taken a stand on many issues including renter’s rights in 2019.
Mondainé’s spoke to Portland Society Page reporter Daniel Chilton about his views on the strategy of the Black Lives Matter movement and where the NAACP stands regarding the policing institution, as well as the prison industrial complex.
While the public conversation has primarily revolved around police institutions and police brutality, Mondainé also discussed the often-absent subject of the prison industrial complex. With Black inmates outnumbering whites by a large margin until very recently (according to Pew Research Center, this gap has begun to narrow) Rev. Mondainé says that the NAACP is trying hard to keep this conversation going and has major plans in the future to continue to address both police and prison reform; that one cannot exist without the other present.
Thousands marching into downtown Portland; a photo strikingly familiar to those of the 1960s civil rights march on Washington.
About the Portland NAACP:
Founded in 1909 in response to the ongoing violence against Black people around the country, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the nation. We have over 2,200 units and branches across the nation, along with well over 2M activists. Our mission is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.
The vision of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race.
To find out more about Portland’s NAACP branch and any upcoming events, including their monthly meetings downtown, click here. If you’re interested in donating to their cause, you can do so directly here. To register to vote for the upcoming election and make your voice heard for change, you can do so here.
Portland, OR. Most piano teachers and students aren’t able to sit side-by-side these days; they’re learning via zoom. That’s the case with the young teachers at the Play It Forward Foundation. It was originally established by famous Portland pianist Michael Allen Harrison and has aimed to keep young musicians moving forward since its inception. It primarily operates with two distinct missions: the first is to take in donated instruments (primarily pianos) to rehouse them in public school programs and student homes; the second aims to keep these musicians in lessons while offering new teachers consistent work.
The first mission, wherein donated instruments are rehoused into public school programs and particularly talented young musicians’ homes, is just a part of how the Play It Forward Foundation is helping the community. The program’s Executive Director, Marietta Harrison, says that they look at nearly three hundred pianos a year, ultimately accepting around one hundred of these (with sometimes up to five calls a day for potential donations). These pianos are vetted and reconditioned prior to being donated in order to offer better services to the school programs or child’s home they end up in. In a time when public school’s art funding seems to be ever-declining, the organization pays for these services out of pocket in order to better serve the community.
With classes moved entirely online for the foreseeable future, potential barriers are further erased.
Rather than simply donating and dipping, so to speak, the second part of their mission aims to keep a consistent hand within Portland’s musical community. The nonprofit’s goal here is to remove any potential barriers between the students and their music– whether that be economic, logistical, or otherwise. Started in 2017 with a mere twelve students, the program was up to one hundred students by 2019.
Online piano recitals with both Michael and Marietta Harrison present.
Prior to the COVID pandemic, the program would offer work to young teachers seeking experience who would often travel to the school or the student’s home in order to better erase these potential barriers faced. Currently, the program has gone completely online and classes are being held through Zoom meetings. Given everything going on in the world right now, Marietta Harrison says that this program has always aimed to be proactive rather than reactive; establishing itself in the community as an organization that erases barriers for students and encourages musical growth.
About Play it Forward:
Nearly 20 years ago, the City of Portland passed a measure that cut critical funding to music education in our public schools. Having benefited from free music education in public schools, that eventually led to a successful career as a composer and pianist, Michael Allen Harrison could not watch this happen silently. Play It Forward, affectionately known as PIF was born. Play It Forward distributes gently used instruments gifted by donors to students and music programs throughout the Portland Metropolitan Community.
If you’d like to donate to a great cause, you can do so here.
Portland, OR. Within walking distance of Portland Community College’s Cascade campus off of Killingsworth Ave, you may come across a sidewalk decorated with raised fists, demands for justice, and more. This sits just outside of the Dismantle, Change, Build Center (DCBC) where nonprofits such as Don’t Shoot Portland operate. If you happen upon this location on a Tuesday afternoon, you may find a beautifully painted sign letting passerby’s know that Books to Prisoners is in session.
The Dismantle, Change, Build Center (DCBC); used by multiple justice-oriented nonprofits.
Based out of Seattle since the 1970s, Books to Prisoners collects donated literary materials and sends those to incarcerated folks across the U.S. on their own dime. The Portland branch operates on volunteer time once per week for a couple of hours. During this time, they sort through donated books, deciding which can be resold to fund the operation’s expenses, which could go to a “free” box sitting outside for anyone who happens by and needs a new read, and which can be saved with the intent of mailing it to an imprisoned individual.
Donated books are organized by genre in order to better accommodate prisoner requests.
Anyone imprisoned can request a book to be mailed to them through the Books to Prisoners operation (with personalized letters, art, and more often accompanying that request). These requests are double-checked in order to make sure that the books will still be received by those behind bars. They will then be hand-wrapped by volunteers in preparation for delivery and shipping. Many of these volunteers are people who’ve either been locked behind State walls or who’ve had loved ones there.
Volunteers take a couple of hours out of their week to wrap books in preparation for shipping, offering invaluable resources for the organization that runs purely off of donated time and funds.
Portland’s Books to Prisoners continues to do great things despite a global pandemic and civil unrest. The nonprofit is always looking for new faces to volunteer their time, as this is the most valuable asset to their operation.
About Books to Prisoners:
If you’re interested in donating to their cause, you can do so here. If you want to see what they’re doing these days, you can check out their Facebook page here. If you’re interested in volunteering, you can find all the information you need here.
Portland, OR. As social distancing mandates continue throughout the U.S., places like theaters face the dilemma of relying on audience presence to deliver art and performance. Portland Center Stage (PCS) at The Armory, is trying something new called The Community Voices Project. The goal is to bring the artist’s work directly to your home, skipping the middle man of theaters.
The PCS performance of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Associate Artistic Director, Chip Miller, says that this move to a digital platform was with the desire to use the PCS resources to uplift artists in a time when art is highly undervalued and many individuals are financially struggling. This platform will focus on artists of color for the next year, giving voices to poets, singers, actors, and more.
Chip Miller, Associate Artistic Director of Portland Center Stage.
Furthermore, The Community Voices Project is but a piece of the larger PCS Remix program. This program features online showings of theatric productions, community classes, and youth programs. Their goal with the Remix program is to uplift local talent, commission artists, and perform community outreach. As the future with COVID-19 still present is unpredictable, PCS will continue reaching out to the community and building bridges with artists.
From the Portland Center Stage website:
If you’d like to support a great organization, you can donate here. You can also find their event page for any upcoming artistic productions, classes, and more here. PCS is located downtown at 128 NW Eleventh Ave,
Portland, OR. The Portland Book Festival will look different than the picture above this year. Book Lovers won’t be crowding in to hear from noted authors as in the past. The literary staple of the Pacific Northwest since 2005 is changing its long-standing event from in-person to entirely online. This news comes in the wake of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic that has essentially curbed all social events and gatherings for the foreseeable future. Rather than canceling the annual festival scheduled for November, event organizers at Literary Arts say they want to continue community outreach during a time when people need it the most.
In years past, Portland Book Festival focuses on bringing families and the community together by offering their events for free and across many platforms.
Perhaps the most important change that Literary Arts has offered is to make the festival almost entirely free this year. This change comes during a time when many individuals may be uncertain about their financial stability and may not have been able to afford the previous cover charge for the event. Andrew Proctor, Executive Director of Literary Arts, says that this decision was made in order to better support the community during a national pandemic
Author readings will be viewable both live and backlogged for the attendee’s convenience.
Alongside the change in format, the festival will also be held across a fifteen-day span (Nov. 5-21) rather than staying as a single-day event. For this year’s attendees, that means that every seminar, class, and author reading can be accessed over the two week period, and often at their own leisure. It also means that the event becomes more accessible to everyone living here in Portland or anywhere else in the world. With formats ranging from podcasts, online blogs, and live streaming events, participants will have a range of options to suit their needs and limitations during these unprecedented times.
While things like book signings may not be available this year, online formats will still allow for attendees to interact with the festival’s many artists.
From Literary Arts:
To find out more about the upcoming 2020 Portland Book Festival, check out the Literary Arts website page on the event here. If you’d like to support a great organization, you can donate here.