02-19-2017  8:06 pm      •     

Two upcoming projects are highlighting local experiences by heading out into communities to find personal stories of change and struggle.

This Saturday, Jan. 29, Our United Villages hosts a panel of local residents sketching out the history of Northeast Portland.

And in a separate effort, Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry Director Brad Avakian is inviting anyone who has lived or worked in the state to submit personal anecdotes about their experiences in Oregon's Civil Rights Movement to MyCivilRightsStory.net, a website where testimony will be published and some stories selected for an upcoming book project. The deadline is Feb. 14.

"We think of the Civil Rights movements of our country in terms of great events," Avakian told The Skanner News. "The 1960s marches for freedom, the 'I Have a Dream' speech, the Emancipation Proclamation -- and these were all significant of course.

"But none of these things occur without the swell of experience that individuals have that lead to those huge events," he says. "To really understand the progress of Civil Rights in Oregon, I think you have to hear it from the families who lived it themselves."

Avakian said some contributors so far have tracked their families' experiences to the present day.

"We've already had a lot of stories come in," Avakian told The Skanner News. "We're getting some stories just about discriminatory things that have happened to individuals, but we're also getting wonderful stories about how families emigrated to Oregon and what their experience was when they got here -- sometimes 100 years ago."

He said one notable story explores the history of a Japanese family that immigrated to Oregon, opened a business, and then ended up in the World War II internment camps -- and the struggles they had surviving with their business once they got out and tried to reestablish it.

"There are many stories that have been collected through the years, but there's not a good compilation of those stories anywhere," Avakian said.

Saturday's Our United Villages event, at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 5431 NE 20th Ave., is from noon – 3 p.m. It features: Minnie Bell Johnson, trustee emeritus and member of Bethel AME for the past 67 years; and Paul Knauls, "mayor" of Northeast Portland and resident since 1963; Bernadette Scott on the history of Coast Janitorial Service; O.B. Hill on the history of the Knott St. Community Center; James E. O'Connor on the history of the Oregon Park site; Polo Catalani speaking on the history of North and Northeast Portland refugee resettlement; and Michael Roth of the Rose City Park History Project.

There will also be an open forum for anyone to share their artifacts, photographs, or stories of Northeast Portland history.

The event is free and a light lunch is provided. Call ahead to reserve a seat at 503-546-7499 or write to outreach@ourunitedvillages.org. For more info, visit www.ouvcommunityoutreach.org .

Submissions to the My Civil Rights Story Project can be mailed through the U.S. Postal Service to My Civil Rights Story, 17915 NW Lonerock Drive, Portland, OR 97229. Or they can be emailed to brad@mycivilrightsstory.net . For more tips on how to write and submit your story, go to www.mycivilrightsstory.net .

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At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. 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Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. 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