A dedicated Pan Africanist group in Portland is reviving a classic community service project from the days of the Black Panther Party – the free children’s breakfast program.
It starts on Monday, April 27, running from 7 to 8 a.m. every Monday and Friday at the Columbia International Cup Coffee Shop and Café at 9022 North Newman Ave., in New Columbia.
The All African People’s Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) Oregon Chapter has been working for months to hammer out the project. The group says any child can participate, but families should register in advance so the cooks know how much food is going to be needed on each day.
Part of the point is to work within the international structure of the A-APRP to create local solutions to key problems facing the Black community, says organizer Ahjamu Umi.
“It’s based on a strategy that we’re employing worldwide to create liberated zones,” Umi said this week. “Our definition of that is to create communities where people can come together and solve their own problems – we don’t believe the state is committed or even designed to do that.”
Umi says the kids who come for breakfast will also be treated to African story-telling, African history lessons, cultural inspiration, and positive encouragement.
“The breakfast is the first of several things we hope to roll out,” Umi says.
“A Saturday school, some resources around counseling -- including domestic violence counseling -- so that people can learn to solve problems and not call the police.”
The group says they chose New Columbia after their research showed it has the highest concentration of African and African American families in the entire state of Oregon; Umi adds that residents of the surrounding neighborhoods represent more different African nations than the rest of the state as well.
“We just don’t believe that having mass police presence in these communities is doing anything better to for anybody,” Umi says.
The effort is reminiscent of the Black Panther Party’s work around the nation during the 1960-70s to fill specific voids in local communities with food programs, medical clinics, and sickle cell anemia education and testing.
The Panthers had been known for armed self defense, but in announcing their dedication to creating community resources in early 1968, the organization shifted to “self determination.”
In fact the first free breakfast program started by Black Panthers in Oakland, California, became a national model that spread to dozens of local communities, including Portland.
The A-APRP Oregon Chapter is built around a core group of about two dozen activist-scholars who meet every other week to talk about historical and social research they share – including some 70 pages of reading twice monthly.
“Thought without action is blind,” Umi says. “Once you complain about a problem you have a responsibility to get your life in order and address the problem.”
Members supported Northeast Portland Gulf War veteran Alicia Jackson, whose home was foreclosed after a long standoff with Water Bureau officials over predatory lending charges in her contested home mortgage.
The group, which has met for a year and a half, has also held an annual July 4 event at Peninsula Park called “the Fourth of the Lie.”
Umi says what sets A-APRP apart from most other groups are the agreements participants must make to participate.
“You agree to participate in a work study process that’s designed to give you a sense of what’s happening all around the world,” he says.
“You have to agree to challenge yourself to be a better person.”
If that doesn’t sound like you, there are other ways to help.
“People can support by bringing their children to participate, and by spreading the word,” Umi says.
“If people are licensed therapists – these are the types of services we want to start making available to people; when people have these problems we want to be able to say, you can go here for help,” he says.
“If people have access to those types of resources that would be great.”
Parents interested in learning more and registering children, should check www.aaprporegon.org or call 360-980-1409.