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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] . For more tips on how to write and submit your story, go to www.mycivilrightsstory.net .