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Lisa Loving of The Skanner News
Published: 27 September 2012

Displaced residents Bernice Marshall and Thelma Glover

As part of the ongoing commemoration of its 100th year in operation, Legacy Emanuel Medical Center has launched a reconciliation project aimed at rebuilding its ties to the inner North and Northeast African American community, scattered through urban renewal development decades ago. 

The project was kicked off last week at a Black leadership breakfast event where local consultant and businesswoman Jeana Woolley presented the results of a yearlong research effort she conducted on the history of the Emanuel Hospital expansion in the 1960s and 1970s. 

The results, along with additional research done about the history of the Eliot neighborhood, will be turned into a permanent exhibit to be unveiled at the Emanuel Medical Center 100th Anniversary Party and Community Celebration, Saturday, Oct. 6, from 1-4 p.m. at the facility's Atrium (The Skanner News has contributed historic photos to this effort, see more details below).

"As we start our next century of service, Legacy Emanuel would like to strengthen our relationship with the local community, its leaders, institutions and organizations," Dr. Lori Morgan, Chief Administrative Officer of Legacy Emanuel, said in its invitation to the event sent to local leaders.  "It's our desire to build a stronger, healthier and more collaborative alliance moving forward."

 Legacy Emanuel Celebrates 100 Years

Go over to the hospital on Saturday, Oct. 6 for Legacy Emanuel Medical Center's 100th Anniversary Community Celebration in and around the atrium from 1 to 4 p.m.
The program will include remarks from Oregon's Governor Kitzhaber and a short video presentation about the last 100 years at Legacy Emanuel.
Also on tap are Emergency Vehicle Tours including the Life Flight helicopter, AMR and Metro West ambulances, as well as Portland Fire & Rescue fire engine.
Also, there will be hands on demonstrations including the virtual reality pain management system used in the Legacy Oregon Burn Center, and the da Vinci surgical robotic system used in the operating room.
Free cupcakes and entertainment will be going on, and a discount bike/skate helmet sale. There will be a Red Cross Blood Drive and Bone Marrow Donor Registry Drive. 
For more information go to www.legacyhealth.org/emanuel100

(For the best recounting of how the Black community has been displaced from inner North and Northeast Portland, as well as the dynamics of gentrification in general, read PSU Assistant Professor Karen J. Gibson's "Bleeding Albina: A History of Community Disinvestment 1940-2000" )

Facilitator Joan Brown-Kline invites questions from the gathering

Woolley's detailed historical research was complimented by the testimony and participation of a panel of displaced former residents, now quite elderly, who were also invited to the breakfast and repeatedly honored.

The discussion about "next steps" after Woolley's presentation was quite frank, with several community leaders taking Emanuel to task for not offering some substantive remuneration or "restitution" to the survivors of displaced families.

Dr. George Brown, Legacy Health's President and Chief Executive Officer, closed out the discussion with an impromptu presentation of his own.

Citing a recent trip to Cuba as well as his recent reading of Isabel Wilkerson's book, "The Warmth of Other Suns," he spoke about the Black diaspora that has seen African descendents forced out of the home continent, and away from deeply-rooted communities in the United States.

He also mentioned what Legacy Emanuel currently does to bolster its surrounding neighborhood as well as communities of color and minority-run institutions – including providing more charity care to local residents than any other hospital in the state.

"Yes, we do have to atone for our sins," Dr. Brown said. "We're not perfect but we do have an enduring commitment and part of that commitment is to communicate with you in the community to see what it is we can do together to make a better community -- and to try to make this community again the epicenter of African American culture."

PSU Assistant Professor Karen J. Gibson and Rev. Le Roy Haynes, Allen Temple CME Church

Woolley commented in her presentation that the historical memory of the Emanuel relocation displacing families without compensating them for their property – is not entirely accurate, and that the details of how that collective memory has formed are important for policymakers and local families alike.

In an interview Monday afternoon, Woolley said that her research, conducted in the City of Portland Archives, showed that the City of Portland and the Portland Development Commission essentially offered Emanuel an opportunity to expand their campus with the use of urban renewal, and that Emanuel saw this offer as a way to grow their institution in its existing location for the future.  

When it was instituted in the late 1960s, the federal Model Cities Program – run by former City Commissioner Charles Jordan, his reason for moving to Portland in the first place – helped provide local groups with a voice in the process, because community involvement was required by federal law for all activities in a Model Cities area.

Each homeowner was paid a fixed price for their property by the Portland Development Commission -- but because federal law required them to be relocated into a replacement home comparable to what they lost, each homeowner also received a supplemental payment, called a Replacement Housing Payment, to make up the difference needed to pay for their new home.

 Historian and consultant Jeana Woolley and Ray Leary

"Every homeowner who owned their property was made whole financially – not necessarily emotionally or spiritually – because many became the only Black homeowners in white neighborhoods," she said Monday.

"So they generally lost the safety, convenience and comfort of their old neighborhood."

Woolley located the individual relocation files in the City archives, listing each family by name, their old home address, the total compensation they were paid for their relocation, and their new address. 

"There is so much confusion about what happened because so much of the information people got was through rumors or hearsay—it wasn't from anything official they got in their hands," Woolley said this week.

Local residents have passed decades feeling rage against Emanuel as the driver of the gentrification process.

"But you really have to bring the City and the PDC to the table as co-partners in this event – they shouldn't be out of the picture and never mentioned when you talk about this history," Woolley says. "It isn't fair to Emanuel when in fact this was an event that the other partners really drove."

(For the whole story, which plays out after the homeowners were displaced, click on the link to "Bleeding Albina," above)

Charlotte Rutherford and displaced resident Harvey Rice

The Reconciliation Project itself is more than just this report, or even the permanent historical display being installed at Emanuel, Woolley says.

Finding living residents who were displaced at the time, bringing them in to meet with the Legacy and Emanuel officials today and talking with them about the long-term damage they suffered has been a key piece of the process.

"It's not just the history – the facts – but it's bringing people to the table that were impacted by this event," she says.

"Although some of the people may have been made whole financially, they lost something just as important: They lost the sense of safety and security of belonging to a cohesive community, a community that had a shared identity and values.

"This was a certain time in the history of the city, and the community was just a disposable pawn in the whole scheme of things – a victim in the process," she said. "Today I think that all these public entities genuinely try harder to involve the public in a more meaningful way in community redevelopment efforts."

"But in the case of the Emanuel relocation they didn't have any intent to involve the community; they simply forced people out of the area and took what they wanted for their redevelopment plans."

To find out more about what was lost in the "urban renewal" era of the 50s-70s, look at The Skanner News' Gentrification Maps (click on a pin in the map and pull down the menu for "street view"):
Jumptown, 1956
The Williams Avenue That Was -- 1956

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