Portland's recent spate of street violence and gang shootings has prompted Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith to schedule a May 11 Community Forum for African-American males, from 6 pm to 8 pm, Wednesday, May 11 in the ground-floor board room of the county building, 501 SE Hawthorne.
In addition to the forum, participants will be offered immediate access to officials who can help connect them to career development workshops, rent assistance and summer jobs.
Smith's Chief of Staff Chris Warner said the event grew from her involvement with a group called Black Women for Peace, and tomorrow's forum represents the start of a new dialogue.
"It's imperative that we use precious county resources in the most effective way to help our community's young people," Smith said in a statement. "I want to provide a voice to this group on what is and is not working in our community."
Her goal, she said, is specifically to invite testimony from youths to help guide the budget and policy priorities for the county budget, which is the subject of public hearings starting this week.
Warner encouraged more people to call, write, email or post suggestions on budget priorities on Smith's Facebook page. More forums may be held for other underrepresented groups.
Participating Wednesday night are County Chair Jeff Cogen; Dr. Harold Briggs, Portland State University professor at the Graduate School of Social Work; and Andrae Brown, PhD, assistant professor at the Lewis and Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling. Roy Washington, foster father of Shiloh Hampton, who was fatally shot at Holladay Park near Lloyd Center, will be there as well.
Smith, who represents most of north and northeast Portland and is only the second African-American elected to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, has seen how the recent gang related activity has affected Portland neighborhoods.
"I want to know what issues are affecting these young men, identify their needs and bring the community together to help them succeed," the commissioner says.
"As a single parent raising a son in northeast Portland, I had my family, my church and many after-school programs to assist me. I want to make sure that a community support system exists for today's young people."
Contact Smith's office at 503-988-5219, email [email protected] , or go to http://web.multco.us/district2.