The Struggle for the Vote: Black History Month 2020

Feb 11, 2020

2020 is a landmark year for voting rights; it marks the 150th anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870), which gave Black men the right to vote following the Civil War, as well as the centennial of the 19th Amendment (1920) and the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement. This year’s theme for Black History Month – African Americans and the Vote – recognizes the struggle for voting rights among both Black men and women throughout American history. The fight for a say in our democracy has continued well into the 21st century, and barriers to voting disproportionately impact the populations we serve at Central City Concern (CCC). Racial discrimination and interaction with the criminal justice system are not only among the leading causes of homelessness, but voter disenfranchisement as well. And poverty, housing instability and homelessness create significant obstacles for voters.

While the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments granted voting rights to Americans regardless of race or gender, the struggle for access to the ballot box has been ongoing. During the Jim Crow era in the South following the end of the Civil War, state and local governments evaded the Fifteenth Amendment through polling taxes, literacy tests, “whites-only” primaries and open hostility and violence. The federal government didn’t ban Jim Crow voting laws until 1965 with the Voting Rights Act, and barriers remain for Black people and people of color today. Voter ID laws disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color, and mail-in ballots create barriers for people who have difficulty reading English. Even in Oregon, where voter turnout is among the highest in the nation, Black people and people of color as a whole are less likely to vote than their white counterparts.

Our neighbors experiencing housing instability and homelessness face additional barriers to the ballot box. Voter registration and mail-in ballots are particularly challenging for people without a stable mailing address. Lack of identification is another obstacle in registering to vote that disproportionately impacts poor and homeless individuals. In Oregon, voters without access to housing can use the county elections office as their mailing address, but transportation can make it difficult to utilize. And unfortunately, many people struggling with homelessness have more immediate needs to worry about than registering to vote.

While obstacles to voting for Black people, people of color and people experiencing homelessness are significant, CCC is working not only to alleviate voter disenfranchisement, but also provide our clients with avenues to make direct impact on our political processes and systems. CCC regularly promotes voter registration and Get Out the Vote efforts for our residents, patients and clients. On National Voter Registration Day in 2019, Next Up Oregon volunteers registered 120 people at Old Town Clinic, Old Town Recovery Center, the Richard Harris, Estate Hotel and Blackburn Center. We also provide pathways for those most severely affected by voter disenfranchisement to make direct, tangible impact on policy change. Through Flip the Script, our reentry program providing wraparound services to African Americans exiting incarceration, participants advocate for change in the reentry system by meeting with legislators, providing public testimony and sharing their experiences and expertise with lawmakers.

We believe that the voices of our clients, our communities of color and our neighbors experiencing homelessness matter. While much work remains in ensuring that everyone has a say in our democracy, we will continue to meet the individual needs of our clients, alleviate barriers to their right to vote, and work alongside our clients to impact systems and make their voices heard.

 



Portland-Area 2020 Black History Month Events

Jan 31, 2020

Each year, Black History Month serves as an opportunity to celebrate the richness of Black history and culture, and pay tribute to the many contributions of African Americans that have made our community a better place. At Central City Concern, this is a time to recognize the achievements of our African American staff, program participants and our culturally specific programs aimed at addressing structural barriers and historic inequities. Portland’s legacy of exclusion, displacement and disinvestment in our African American community underscores our responsibility to eliminate disparities in housing, health care and employment that disproportionately impact Black Portlanders and lead to their over-representation among the homeless population.

As we embark on another year of ending homelessness and helping people reach their highest potential, we remain committed to centering diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism in our work – not only during Black History Month, but throughout the year. Central City Concern’s success in achieving our mission hinges on our ability to invest in underserved communities, shrink disparities and meet the individualized needs of the rich tapestry of clients we serve.


This Black History Month, we encourage you to celebrate by supporting and attending the many exciting events organized by and/or featuring Black Portlanders. Click on the link to access the event’s official page for more information – many are free and appropriate for all ages.

Throughout February

FREE Cascade Festival of African Films: A free popular Portland event for 29 years, this year’s film festival features five weeks of more than 30 feature, documentary and short films by established and emerging African directors from 18 countries. The Cascade Festival of African Films shows us Africa through the eyes of Africans, rather than a vision of Africa packaged for Western viewers. The films celebrate Africa’s achievements, expose its failures, and reveal possibilities for a hopeful future. More information at https://www.africanfilmfestival.org/

FREE Seeing it through: A visual manifestation of the Black Panther Party's legacy in Portland at the Central Library: Black history is far more than the Civil Rights era. In response to the racism that marginalized and harmed Black Portlanders, the Portland Black Panther Party formed its Portland Chapter in 1969. Their goal was to build equity for the oppressed in our city. This exhibition features artwork by Elijah Hasan and the HeArt Gallery that responds to the legacy of the Black Panthers' Ten-Point Program. More information at https://multcolib.org/events/seeing-it-through-visual-manifestation-black-panther-partys-legacy-portland/113367

Portland Black Film Festival: The Portland Black Film Festival aims to offer diverse perspectives and stories in an art form all too often dominated by white filmmakers. The festival features films which showcase the cinematic achievements of African American stars and filmmakers and examine the black experience in America. More information and tickets at https://hollywoodtheatre.org/programs/series/portland-black-film-festival/

Saturday, Feb. 1

FREE Black History Festival NW Kickoff: Black History Festival NW is a celebration of culture and heritage showcasing African American artists, businesses, organizations and leaders. For the dancer in you, join Trainer Tyra and Nikki Brown Clown in the festival kickoff. Tickets available at https://blackhistoryfestival.org/register-for-festival/

Mt. Olivet Gospel Roots: Portland has a rich history of gospel music. From choirs to quartets, some of the most inspirational voices in America have come out of the church, and it’s no different in Portland. Join artists from Portland, Washington, California and special guest artists as Black History Festival NW concludes the festival kickoff with a culmination of gospel sounds from the early 1900s to modern day. Tickets available at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4484243

Friday, Feb. 14

FREE Story Hour with Nikki Brown Clown at the Central Library: Join the library and Black History Festival NW in a story hour featuring Nikki Brown Clown. This story hour is a culturally creative blend of picture books infused with music and movement to a range of African American music. This will be an interactive experience and participation is encouraged! More information at https://multcolib.org/events/story-hour-nikki-brown-clown

Sunday, Feb. 16

FREE Story Hour with Nikki Brown Clown at Rockwood Library: Join the library and Black History Festival NW in a story hour featuring Nikki Brown Clown. This story hour is a culturally creative blend of picture books infused with music and movement to a range of African American music. This will be an interactive experience and participation is encouraged! More information at https://multcolib.org/events/story-hour-nikki-brown-clown

Thursday, Feb. 20 through March 1

PDX Jazz Festival, Feb. 20-March 1: Dedicated to preserving America’s indigenous art form by presenting internationally recognized jazz masters alongside local musicians, the festival always includes education and outreach programs that extend into Portland’s schools and neighborhoods, as well as a generous offering of free performances. More information at https://pdxjazz.com/

Friday, Feb. 21

Rip City Celebration of Black History, Feb 21: Celebrate Black History on Friday, February 21 as the Trail Blazers take on the New Orleans Pelicans! The night will feature special performances, retail items and multiple fundraising efforts benefiting Elevate Oregon, a nonprofit whose mission is to build relationships with urban youth to promote education, self-reliance and leadership. More information at https://www.nba.com/blazers/bhm

Sunday, Feb. 23

Black Futures Ball at Portland Center Stage: The Black Futures Ball will feature 7 categories celebrating Black excellence & the Ballroom community at large. The first three categories Face, Future Fashion, & Mic Drop are for Black participants only, while Runway, Old Way Vogue & Vogue Femme are open to all. ALL CATEGORIES HAVE $$$ PRIZES. Tickets available at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4496259



Drawn Back Home: Black History Month 2019

Feb 20, 2019

By the mid-2000s, the King neighborhood of northeast Portland was in the thick of transitioning from a majority non-white and historically Black area to a majority white one. For then-12-year-old Jennifer, even the shifting color of the King neighborhood was still a radical, welcoming, life-changing difference from how she’d grown up.

“I mostly grew up in suburban areas. I felt a disconnect most of the time because my siblings and I were always the very few black kids in our schools,” Jennifer says. “My family moved to Portland in 2004, and from what we were told, we arrived sort of right at the start of gentrification in that neighborhood.”

For decades of Portland history, neighborhoods like King had been a bastion of the local Black Portland community, an arrangement not of happenstance but directly due to institutionalized redlining and discriminatory housing policies. Still, Black Portlanders created community where they could, fostering vibrant neighborhoods and civic life. But starting in the 1950s, the city’s myriad urban renewal projects in its north and northeast quadrants systematically dismantled and destabilized Black communities.

“My family moved to Portland in 2004, and from what we were told, we arrived sort of right at the start of gentrification in that neighborhood.”

Decades downstream in the early 2000s, north and northeast Portland became ground zero for gentrification, attracting people and investors from elsewhere with higher incomes, resources and political heft than the average Black resident. Between 2000 and 2010, nearly 10,000 Portlanders of color, mostly Black, moved out of the Portland’s central neighborhoods, including communities like King. Though some moved on their own accord, most were pushed by skyrocketing rents and property prices toward East Portland, where housing costs were relatively more affordable.

Jennifer would often follow her friend two blocks out of the way off NE Killingworth, a main thoroughfare in King, to walk past a particular house. Her friend would explain, in almost hushed tones, that it had been her grandmother’s family home. Had. Yet her friend was drawn back to the property, over and over again, with Jennifer in tow.

Her friend never spelled out the circumstances of why the home didn’t belong to her family anymore, but the massive displacement King residents had been witnessing—at least those still there to witness it—provided plenty to read between the lines.

Still, the historic residents of King were resilient, preserving their community bonds even as neighbors steadily moved out. “Compared to where I was used to living, I felt like I could still connect with our culture more, be around more Black people than I’d ever seen. I came to know the neighborhood and it felt really good to be around people like me. I felt so normal there. I didn’t stand out. I mean, it felt like home.”

"Compared to where I was used to living, I felt like I could still connect with our culture more, be around more Black people than I’d ever seen. I came to know the neighborhood and it felt really good to be around people like me. I felt so normal there.... it felt like home.”

That sense of home eventually faded as the winds of gentrification caught Jennifer’s family. They moved several times before Jennifer and her siblings went off to college, closer to the city’s outer limits with each subsequent move.

Jennifer first went to college at Western Oregon University. There, she gave birth to her daughter, Cambria, and soon transferred to Portland State University. As she approached graduation, she started looking for housing in the city and quickly realized that rents were out of her reach. She and her two sisters eventually found a home in East County.

“But I really wanted to find a way to get back to northeast or north Portland because I was so familiar with it. I was so familiar with my old neighborhood and I love the layout and things are so convenient.”

After a few years in Gresham, Jennifer heard about the Portland Housing Bureau’s N/NE Preference Policy, a “tool to begin addressing the harmful impacts of this legacy [of marginalization and displacement] by prioritizing families and individuals with generational ties to N/NE Portland for new affordable housing opportunities in the area.”

Months after submitting her application, Jennifer received a phone call that offered her a two-bedroom apartment in Central City Concern’s (CCC) Charlotte B. Rutherford Place. “It was such a relief,” Jennifer recalls. “I was in a little shock. I was grateful. It meant so much that I’d be back so close to my old neighborhood and be able to live on my own—to afford to live on my own—with my daughter.”

She pauses. “It was emotional because I realized that I didn’t just want this for myself; I wanted it for my daughter, too. I wanted her to see Black people, to be able to go to schools that were more mixed, where she saw people like her. Being back in the neighborhood would affect all that.”

Today, Jennifer and Cambria make their home in a third-story apartment at Charlotte B. Rutherford Place, located in the Arbor Lodge neighborhood, just slightly more than a mile west of King. Opened in December 2019, the affordable housing community project figured intentionally into CCC’s targeted efforts to meet the housing and health needs of African Americans.

Opened in December 2019, the affordable housing community project figured intentionally into CCC’s targeted efforts to meet the housing and health needs of African Americans.

At the grand opening, CCC President and CEO Dr. Rachel Solotaroff said, “We’re so proud that Charlotte B. Rutherford Place opened under the N/NE preference policy, opening up housing access to people with historical ties to neighborhoods that were once predominantly black, but targeted with an urban renewal plan that didn’t include those who had created their community here.”

Though there to celebrate, Dr. Solotaroff spoke to the modesty of the effort relative to systemic injustices. “Of course Charlotte B. Rutherford Place, nor the housing preference policy, are magic wands that we can wave to undo racial and generational traumas and injustices, but they are steps in the right direction,” she continued.

The Hon. Charlotte B. Rutherford added: “I am even more heartened to see the City recognize its callous treatment of the Black community in the past and attempt to make amends by providing preferences to come back for those families who have been displaced over the years.”

Projects like Charlotte B. Rutherford Place are just the start of righting past wrongs, and no one, including Jennifer, is under the belief that these policies and projects will revert northeast and north Portland to what it once was.

“I’m always reminded that this is not the exact neighborhood I grew up in. It’s always in the back of my mind. I know that,” Jennifer says. “But still, I hold so many sentiments with different parts of this area. To me, it doesn’t matter who’s there now. I still have memories of those places.”

Now living in a neighborhood that’s simultaneously familiar and foreign, Jennifer feels invigorated by fellow Black Portlanders wrestling with the same tension.

Now living in a neighborhood that’s simultaneously familiar and foreign, Jennifer feels invigorated by fellow Black Portlanders wrestling with the same tension. There’s a renewed effort, she feels, between Black Portlanders making their way back to historic neighborhoods and those who were able to remain there in the face of urban renewal projects and gentrification. She feels that there’s a buzz to regrow and reestablish a community, to connect the past to the future.

“Until I moved to Portland, my understanding of what it meant to be Black really came from TV and what I was taught in school because I did not have a community I belonged to outside of my immediate family. I’m excited that my daughter can grow up in a community with people who look like her and where she feels represented, and I’m also excited to work with people to process what’s happened in Portland and what we want it to become.”



Portland-area 2019 Black History Month Events

Feb 05, 2019

At Central City Concern, we believe that one of the most immediate, tangible ways to celebrate Black History Month is to support and attend events organized by and/or featuring Black Portlanders. There are dozens of amazing events scheduled for the Portland metro area throughout February, many of which are free and appropriate for all ages!

To help you easily find events you can attend, we’ve collected links to several calendars of Black History Month events. We encourage you to explore the richness of (and diversity within) Black history and culture by attending some of these events!

Black History Festival NW Calendar: Wildly popular last year, this month-long festival brings a jaw-dropping array of performances, exhibits, lectures, pop-up markets, food events and more to various locations all over Portland. The theme for 2019 is Our 2019 Theme is “Black Migration: The State of Black Love.” (Link)

Red Tricycle’s Black History Month Calendar: A popular resource for activities, Red Tricycle lists eight particularly family-friendly ways to celebrate Black History Month in Portland. (Link)

Annual Cascade Festival of African Films Calendar: In its 29th year, this film festival is the “longest running annual, non-profit, non-commercial, largely volunteer-run African Film Festival in the United States.” All films are shown at Portland Community College’s Cascade campus (with a few exceptions). All shows are free and open to the public. (Link)

City of Portland Calendar: Four events sponsored or organized by the City of Portland, city employees or Portland bureaus. ( Link)



Celebrating Black History Month

Feb 01, 2019

Black History Month is a time for celebration, reflection and hope for the future. Yet as we celebrate the beautiful, vibrant and resilient Black (African-American) culture, we cannot forget the struggles Black people have endured and continue to endure today.

Black people experience discrimination and racial profiling, and are disproportionately impacted by homelessness. This is why Central City Concern (CCC) invests in programs such as the Imani Center and Flip the Script to increase services to this community historically underserved by organizations that help people find housing, behavioral health services and employment opportunities. Afrocentric programs are a great start for our organization, but we know there is more we can do: not only to celebrate the history of the Black community inside and outside our organization, but also to identify and address the ways in which white supremacy drives care inequities. Recognizing our responsibility, CCC is committed to being a diverse, anti-racist, equitable and inclusive organization, with this promise reflected in our organizational leadership, as well as institutional practices and policies that promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

We are stepping closer to this goal. Freda Ceaser, previously CCC’s Director of Equity and Inclusion, is now CCC’s Chief Equity Officer (CEqO). Freda leads with vision, skill and innovation to inspire and push the organization forward. She will build on her current work, setting and implementing an overarching vision of DEI—both at the programmatic and administrative levels—that promotes inclusive practices in our structures, culture and leadership.

Afrocentric programs are a great start for our organization, but we know there is more we can do: not only to celebrate the history of the Black community inside and outside our organization, but also to identify and address the ways in which white supremacy drives care inequities.

CCC has also made additional investments in the Office of Equity and Inclusion, hiring Associate Director Mariam Admasu to provide support to the director’s leadership team. Mariam will hire an equity specialist in the coming months to add an additional layer of support to CCC staff. In order to ensure that the Office of Equity and Inclusion has the bandwidth and resources to move work forward, we have also engaged two Portland State University School of Social Work interns, Shaun Cook and Clarice Jordan.

CCC will invest as needed to follow through on our commitment to becoming more diverse, anti-racist, equitable and inclusive by building institutional infrastructure and capacity to do the work. In the coming year, CCC will work with a local consultant to capture a wide snapshot of where we are today with regard to equity and inclusion through interviews and listening sessions with CCC’s board, clients and staff. This assessment will result in an equity lens, DEI governance model and DEI organizational roadmap.

Lastly, CCC’s advancing equity strategic goals were made as a roadmap to ensuring the best, most responsive services possible to Black people and people of color, with a focus on intentional efforts to have our staff reflect the communities they serve.

While Black History Month presents an opportunity for CCC to celebrate Black culture, we also look ahead to the many opportunities during the remaining 11 months to make a difference!



Celebrating Black History Month: Flip the Script

Feb 28, 2018

Happy Black History Month from Central City Concern! As the month comes to a close, we’re grateful for the opportunity for our community to learn about, learn from, and celebrate the countless Black heroes and heroines who paved the way for African Americans to live a life of freedom, opportunity and fully realized potential.

As an organization, CCC strives to embody this work that came before us, notably through our programs ensuring our African Americans clients have access to services that recognize and address historic inequities and systemic barriers, while also meeting individualized needs.

Programs like Flip the Script (FTS), a reentry program started in February 2017 that provides individuals exiting incarceration with dedicated housing, employment services, peer support, and opportunities for reentry system advocacy. The program helps people avoid reoffending and eases their path to reintegrating into society as productive community members.

Patrick spent 15 years in prison. After he had served his time, he knew that he'd need support to reintegrate back into society.FTS found its origins in a data collaboration between Multnomah County's Joint Office of Homeless Services and the Department of Community Justice, CCC, and a tireless CCC volunteer. The assessment found not only that African American clients disproportionately experienced recidivism, but also that recidivism rates were cut in half in individuals who exited CCC’s transitional reentry housing to a renter housing situation with full-time employment.

Patrick A. was on the cusp of becoming a free man after having spent more than a third of his life—15 years—in prison. When he was released, Patrick immediately came up against barriers to reintegration. Background check issues and employment gaps made it difficult for him to find a job; his lack of rental history made it nearly impossible to find housing. With his criminal history, few people outside his family wanted to reconnect; the ones who did were those still in the game, ready to draw him back in. Without ready paths to housing, employment and new positive relationships, Patrick could have easily been on the wrong side of these recidivism statistics.

The assessment found not only that African American clients disproportionately experienced recidivism, but also that recidivism rates were cut in half in individuals who exited CCC’s transitional reentry housing to a renter housing situation with full-time employment.

But Patrick was intent on choosing a new path. He was resolute on putting his head down and forging ahead, even if that meant feeling isolated. “To me, going back to jail wasn’t an option for me anymore. I did my time. That part of my life was done. I had a game plan in my head.”

He still needed support to get where he wanted to go.

The Multnomah County's Assessment & Referral Center eventually sent Patrick to CCC’s Parole Transition Program (PTP), which included housing at the Shoreline building. At his lease signing, he met a PTP staff member who told him about FTS, which would make him eligible for the CCC Employment Access Center’s (EAC) intensive one-on-one employment services, peer support and other opportunities. Patrick enrolled.

One of the first things a new enrollee like Patrick does is connect with an FTS Employment Specialist, who helps create a customized plan to help each person work toward their employment goals and develops other opportunities to enhance the client’s vocational skills in order to become a competitive job seeker. More determined than ever and invigorated by having a safe place to call home—“I’ve got my own space, so now I can figure out what to do with myself and my next step,” he recalls thinking—Patrick actually secured a job on his own within two days of moving into CCC housing, before he even met with his employment specialist, Elissa.

Patrick’s next goal was to make his way into the local carpenters' union, and he knew he couldn’t do it alone. So he connected with Elissa, in whom he found the type of support he hadn’t felt in a long time. Elissa was able to assist Patrick with FTS resources that helped him pay for his driver’s license fees and work clothes while he continued to make connections at the union.

"That was the first time in a long time I felt somebody was actually there to listen to what I had inside me to say instead of just saying ‘okay’ and directing me. I felt more valued, like my opinion does matter. "

“I felt supported. That was the first time in a long time I felt somebody was actually there to listen to what I had inside me to say instead of just saying ‘okay’ and directing me. I felt more valued, like my opinion does matter. They treated me as a person, not just somebody who got out of jail.”

Three months after moving into CCC’s transitional reentry housing, Patrick applied for and received permanent housing, making him part of the 58 percent of FTS clients who exit into permanent housing. (Another 21 percent of FTS clients find another transitional housing opportunity.)

Patrick catches up with Billy A., the FTS advocacy coordinator (left) and Elissa, his employment specialist (right), at CCC's downtown Employment Access Center.

Soon after, Patrick was accepted into Carpenters Local 1503, opening the door for him to make an honest living with good wages. Since FTS started, 45 percent of FTS clients have used the program as a springboard to permanent housing and a source of income. (An additional 9 percent of clients moved into further transitional housing with an income source.)

Recognizing his need for a new network of positive peers, Patrick also connected with the FTS Advocacy Coordinator, Billy, who introduced him to the FTS Advocacy Work Team. Ask any of the dozen FTS clients who participate in this culturally specific group of African Americans and they’ll all agree: there’s something special happening here. When they meet, they create a space to speak candidly about their journeys and their experiences that are unique to being an African American community member trying to make their way back into society.

Together, they’ve created a survey to help identify areas for improvement and change in both the FTS program and larger landscape of reentry systems and policy. Though they may face barriers to employment and housing based on racial bias or discrimination in the justice system, they see that they’re not alone and feel empowered by the change they can take together. They are actively part of the work to disrupt the system that sets up a disproportionate number of African Americans to experience recidivism.

When they meet, they create a space to speak candidly about their journeys and their experiences that are unique to being an African American community member trying to make their way back into society.

“[The work group] gives me a chance to help other people and share my understanding as someone coming with firsthand reentry. It’s nice to be around other people going through the same thing you’re going through. And it’s nice that the others have the same understanding. Sometimes you don’t feel like explaining everything and they already understand what you mean,” Patrick says. “It also feels good to be around people who just want to meet you and know you and are just glad you’re doing well."

Initially shy and slow to trust, Patrick is no longer nervous or quiet. Instead, Patrick is confident and outspoken, especially in advocacy matters. He’s an active member of the group, finding a sense of community he’d been missing for so long. He has also reconnected with his family and is working to build relationships again.

“Going back to jail isn’t an option for me anymore. I did my time. That part of my life is done. I feel I’ve got a lot ahead of me. I’ve got a lot left to accomplish. I feel positive and optimistic about my future. I’m eager to see what I’ve got in store.”

• • •

Deep gratitude to Meyer Memorial Trust, A Home for Everyone, Multnomah County, County Chair Deborah Kafoury, County Commissioner Loretta Smith, Deputy Truls Neal and Wells Fargo for their support and belief in this program dedicated to eliminating the disparities that exist within our criminal justice system.



Portland-area Black History Month Events

Feb 07, 2018

As part of Central City Concern's celebration of Black History Month, we want to share with you a number of exciting events taking place throughout February in the Portland area. Many of these events are free and appropriate for all ages. We encourage you to explore the richness of Black history by attending some of these events! Most descriptions are from the event hosts; click on the link to access the event's official page for more information.

Cascade Festival of African Films, February 2 – March 3, 2018: "A wildly popular film festival that has become synonymous with the Cascade Campus of Portland Community College. The Cascade Festival of African Films honors the art and craft of filmmaking from that continent. The movies imported for the festival draw capacity crowds each February. All films are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis." (Link)

Black History Festival NW, throughout February: The festival is a "region-wide event taking place during the month of February in different locations spanning as far east as Troutdale and west to Beaverton, south to Eugene and north to Vancouver Wa. Each weekend has an event highlighting and celebrating the African-American experience presented by African-American organizations, artists, small businesses, and leaders." (Link

Black History Film Fest hosted by St. Johns Library, throughout February: During the month of February, St. Johns Library will screen four movies that highlight and uplift the Black experience in America. (Link)

PDX Jazz Festival, February 18 through February 25: "The PDX Jazz Festival arrives each and every February to recognize Black History Month, and to remind Portlanders and our many out of town guests what a rich and robust Jazz experience we offer. With upwards of 100 paid and ticketed events over 11 days, there are ambitious programs that will warm the heart and swing your soul." (Link)

Black Arts Festival, February 17: Hosted by Reed College, celebrate Black Diasporic culture, contributions, and life with the inaugural Black Arts Festival! Free and open to the public, the festival will feature headlining artist The Last Artful, Dodgr, with opening acts Brown Calculus and Maarquii. In addition to black and brown vendors who will be selling a variety of goods including vintage clothing, jewelry, and essential oils, the events will also feature a DJ and savory Afro-Latinx eats catered by Platano Rising. (Link)

African American Read In hosted by North Portland Library, February 18: "Celebrate Black History Month with Black literature! Join us as community leaders, teachers, students, and local celebrities read from their favorite works by African American writers. Fiction and nonfiction for children, teens and adults will be featured in a special gathering of good words from great writings. Community members are also encouraged to come and share words from their favorite works." (Link)

PDX Black Film Festival, throughout February: This month-long event "aims to offer diverse perspectives and stories in an art form all too often dominated by white filmmakers. The festival features films which showcase the cinematic achievements of African American stars and filmmakers and examine the black experience in America." (Link)

Racing to Change: Oregon's Civil Rights Years, now through June 24, 2018: "Racing to Change illuminates the Civil Rights Movement in Oregon in the 1960s and 1970s, a time of cultural and social upheaval, conflict, and change. The era brought new militant voices into a clash with traditional organizations of power, both Black and White.

"Visitors of all ages and backgrounds will engage in the examination of the repression and violence against African Americans that made the Civil Rights Movement necessary. The exhibit explores how racist attitudes, policies of exclusion, and the destruction of Black-owned neighborhoods shaped Oregon, as well as the unceasing efforts of the Black community to overcome these obstacles." (Link)



Empowerment by Design: CCC Celebrates Black History Month & the Imani Center

Feb 23, 2017

Happy Black History Month from Central City Concern!

We are thankful for occasions like Black History Month to intentionally set aside time to celebrate and reflect on the richness and depth of Black history and culture.

As an agency, we also aim to daily honor the strength, resilience, creativity, and joy that are core to the African American experience. A primary way we do that is through CCC’s Imani Center program, which offers culturally specific and responsive outpatient mental health and drug and alcohol addiction treatment services, peer support, and case management.

Based out of the historic Golden West Hotel building—itself a significant part of Portland’s Black history—the Imani Center is a prime example of a community using knowledge of its members’ histories and needs to help its own.

According to Linda Hudson, CCC’s Director of African American Services, Black clients of mainstream mental health and addiction treatment programs often face unique barriers to their recovery success. “When African American clients come in with different experiences and different perspectives and they try to fit the client into that [mainstream treatment] curriculum, there’s often some tension there.”

But at the Imani Center, we provide Afrocentric services. All mental health and addiction counselors, as well as the peer support specialists, identify as African American; several have longstanding ties to the Portland area. Clients can feel like they are in a safe place. Here, they can talk about the impact of racism and discrimination knowing the staff understand firsthand what they’re talking about because of the staff’s collective experience.

“We know how it goes and we know how it feels,” Linda says. “We the staff are in position to share how we have gone through and gotten to where we are. We can share with clients how they might be able to navigate [their recovery] and better themselves to get to where they want to get to.” There is an understanding that the Imani Center's services explore the meaning of being Black in America and how it impacts one’s recovery. There is also an understanding that the Black self is deeply entrenched with the collective experience. (Bassey, 2007)

During the listening and planning process that preceded the Imani Center, CCC heard the African American community say that they valued Black leadership and Black individuals who have the credentials behind the work they do. Today, between Imani Center’s eight-person staff, there are three Masters of Social Work degrees, three Certified Alcohol and Drug Counseling credentials, three Certified Recovery Mentor credentials, and three Qualified Mental Health Professional designations. While those qualifications are impressive, Linda says that they send a message. “We need to be at our best so we can best help those we’re serving.”

So while innovative counseling approaches and a full slate of group sessions drive much of the change that Imani Center clients see in themselves, much of their success comes from seeing themselves reflected in the make-up of the staff. This empowerment is by design. Addiction and mental health recovery, as well as educational and professional achievements, seem so much more possible when one can readily picture themselves in the shoes of an Imani staff member who has walked that path ahead of them.

Each day, the Imani staff reaches back to pull other members of the Portland African American community up with them. They understand what their clients are experiencing; now, they’re committed to helping their clients experience the empowering freedom that comes along with recovery.

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The Imani Center is accepting new clients. If you know someone who may benefit from talking with a counselor who will listen on a regular basis and offer compassionate support, please pass on this information about the Imani Center.

Anyone can schedule an eligibility screening by contacting the Imani Center at 503-226-4060 or Imanicenter@ccconcern.org.



Black History Month: What Do Imani Center Clients Say?

Feb 24, 2016

Over the course of Black History Month, we’ve heard from a number of exceptional people involved with the Imani Center, Central City Concern’s new Afrocentric mental health and addictions treatment program. In our final installment of our Black History Month blog series, we hear firsthand from Imani Center clients who have been impacted by the program’s culturally relevant services.

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“It’s been great to be at Imani Center. Every other treatment program I’ve been in, I’ve had to wear a mask to get through. This is the first place I can come, be honest, and not get locked up.” –Eric C.

“I like when I can release how I’m feeling with my peers. I like the different groups. It helps me and is a positive influence on me. This has provided a positive atmosphere for me.” –Michael C.

“I was pointed in the right direction by an Imani Center Peer Specialist and it’s turning out to be all they said it would be.” –Jeff G.

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste and without Imani, I would be doing the same thing… going down the wrong path. This is a different place and I really appreciate y’all. When you mess up you don’t feel like you got caught; I can just focus on what I need to work on.” –Olty S.

“To work with people who have had the same struggle as me is very powerful.” –Anonymous

“At first I was reluctant, but I’ve been so impressed by the staff. Seeing our people come together in unity makes me feel so comfortable. I have seen genuine concern for my welfare, which speaks volumes to me.” –Anthony S.

“The Imani experience has been priceless due to me being able to access services without being enrolled, which gave me a foundation. It is clear to me they want me to succeed and I carry it on a daily basis.” –Robert L.



Black History Month: Hear from the Peers at Imani

Feb 18, 2016

In last week’s two-part Q&A with Linda Hudson (Part 1, Part 2), CCC’s Director of African American Services, emphasized the importance of Imani’s three peer support specialists and the special relationship they foster with clients in need of guidance in their recovery from addiction and behavioral health challenges. In today’s Black History Month blog post, we hear directly from the three Imani Center peer support specialists—Walter Bailey, Bonnie Johnson, and Richie Denson—about how they view their work.

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Walter: For me, being a Peer Service Specialist at Imani means that I have an opportunity to help my people rebuild their lives from the ground up, and give them hope and encouragement to achieve a better life.

I think that I have a plethora of things I bring to this position, but mainly my experience of once being a hopeless dope fiend. Thankfully, over time I realized I was lost and broken and I finally asked for help. Since I surrendered to getting help, I’ve been recreated into a dope-less hope fiend!

I joined Imani because I wanted a challenge to bring my skill set to a new program that I know can be an impact in the Portland community. I love seeing people change lives and find success. We meet clients where they’re at in life. We won’t give up on people and our team at the Imani Center takes great pride in providing the best care, services and support networks that we can to help clients realize they can feel safe, and they can feel supported and cared for.

Bonnie: Being a peer Support Specialist at Imani means so much to me. Being in recovery now for 25 years myself, I feel that I have so much life experience when it come to this kind of work. I totally understand the many challenges clients struggle with even when they get clean.

I have spent many years working in and around recovery; I started doing this work in 1992! I'm a certified alcohol and drug addiction counselor and I always knew I wanted to do this work.

But I really wanted to come from behind the desk as a counselor and be on the front line helping people, meeting people where they were at. I was a Family Involvement Team (FIT) Case Manager for six years and remember how rewarding the work was watching people and families heal. So I recently got certified as Peer Mentor, and here I am.

I think Imani is special because we are a culturally specific program and we understand our clients’ many struggles as it relates to being misunderstood for so long. A recent client told me, “I’ve never seen a program like this. This is what we needed: someone to listen and to support us." Since the word has been out about Imani, we’ve been swamped with clients trying to get in. Imani means faith, and they sure have faith in us.

Richie: I feel fortunate and blessed with this opportunity to be a peer service specialist at the Imani Center and to serve people doing something that I love. We work together with a common goal and with our clients in mind.

I’m in the second term of my drug and alcohol addiction counseling certification cohort and will be starting my practicum soon. I’ve got my Certified Recovery Mentor certification and firsthand experience in the field. All that while also being in recovery myself gives me a unique perspective to support our clients’ needs and help them learn new tools for their own recovery.

I wanted to be a part of Imani because it has a great foundation in Central City Concern and the great work CCC does in the community. Between the clinicians and the peer service specialists, and with [Director of African American Services] Linda Hudson leading us, Imani has extraordinary staff with great credentials. I feel confident Imani will be provide successful outpatient services.