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Intisar Abioto Creator of the Black Portlanders
Published: 16 July 2013

If you didn't know, this is a love story. 

If you couldn't tell already, The Black Portlanders is a love story. 

Saturday, I met Eartis at the Mississippi Street Fair. He was sitting at table on Mississippi by himself and I thought to approach him. I came with the common schpeel... Hi, my name is Intisar. I'm a photographer. I'm working on a photo essay about Black Portlanders... Can I take your photograph? ..

He agreed to the photo. We didn't talk very much. He had on a Trayvon Martin button. I got his contact info and I went my way up Mississippi.. to photograph, meet, and greet others. Later on that night, I heard the news on Trayvon Martin.. and was struck .. just like so many others.

This is a love story.
There is something about black bodies. There is something about brown bodies. There is something about bodies. There is something about us being here on this earth, in this time, as in all times.. that is so important. 
We are necessary. We are needed... and it must be now.

What does The Black Portlanders have to do with Trayvon? Why go about wandering the streets of Portland saying hello to Black people I see?
Why photograph them one by one.. or in groups? Why talk to strangers? Why be accepted and sometimes rejected? 
Why love your image? Why with each each look, each composition, each approach.. celebrate your face, your presence, your body, your breath, your existence.. here, your style, your look, your cool.. the question and reality of you? Why seek you out, try to find you .. out here on these streets of Portland.. this city, land, earth, sky? reality, existence? 
you are needed, no, wanted. There is a difference between need and want. This is a love story.
Y/our presence, y/our existence, is important, integral, ecstatic, vital to this world. This world would not exist without you.

Back to the image.
To take a photo. An image, one man, of many men... sitting at a table.. a Black body, a Brown body, one human body, of many bodies,
one presence, one soul.
Sitting, naturally.. himself, a black man. 
Himself, and not another.
With one button, of a brown boy,  another black man becoming... holding the space for him then, remembering him then, when others would soon forget .. erase him from existence, desaturate his presence from our memory.
..That black man calling that black man, boy, child him.. into existence, rememorying him.. to us.
THIS is important. For me to post that man's image, sitting in this state of Oregon, this country, this world.. no, this universe ..THAT man, this photo, right now... 
So that you and others can see him, can see them, remember him, them..
Can you see it yet?
.. Telling.. about this boy... and that man .. and that woman.. and that child..
That is the story. That is important.

It's the fact of our existence.. our beeeeiing here.. 
that's in question.. that is the question... here.. in Portland, Oregon.. and too, the world

..just as it was/is for Trayvon.. in Florida.. 
that's being fought over, thought over..

It's our right and purpose to be... to live.. to be real. 
Anywhere and anytime.. on this earth. That is the story.

The importance of us claiming our existence for ourselves. Saying to ourselves... we ARE here. 
We h̶a̶v̶e BEEN here. We will ALWAYS be here. We will continue to be here.. in this world. And it is not up for debate. We are not a figment of someone's imagination. We are not some one else's creation.. to dispose of or create or call.. at will. We are not under or through or by .. anyone, or anything.. country, man, land, law, legality, state, or story.
We create reality.. we are not someone's creation.
We.. continuing to tell and LIVE and create our stories.. right here..upwards and into time. It's a matter of our existence that's continually being been called into question.. and supposedly ..redrafted, renewed, sanctioned.. 

People, this country, some curious element .. call it what you whilst.. racism, prejudice, colonialism, capitalism, plain ole nastiness, fear .. 
have been trying to unexist us for years now.
Yes, I am making up a word.. unexist us for a long time now.

Portlanders know about this, intimately. Thus, the question.. Where are the Black Portlanders? 
Where are the Brown Portlanders?

Trayvon was killed walking down a street.
You guys weren't even allowed to walk, live, exist
... in the whole state of Oregon ... 
and it's yet happening in many different ways... The culture that breeds, tries to tell us, barter with us.. for the story of our un/existence.. 

It's our existence...
See, honey.. I don't want to be given right of way, sanctioned, told I can be anywhere.
I'm an explorer. You are too. 
I'm not asking anyone. I'm not even staying in one spot. I'm not asking to be allowed or even tolerated.
Honey, I am already here. You are too.
It's the thrill.. to survive, to thrive .. to seek, to quest, to adventure.. to go looking for life, to create/make, to have the freedom  be curious, to go down the trail looking for what calls you, to be obsessed.
I'm not asking to be able to walk down the street.. I'm creating the street. 
..that's what I'm after. 
I don't want basic rights. I want it all.

Trayvon's living.. his existence, presence.. was cut short. Let's raise the stakes..
his adventure, his thrilling quest.
.... was questioned, policed, denied, refuted..
And later.. that questioning validated by the culture of this country.. 
This is science fiction, y'all. Black people are literally science-fiction... They/we don't want to believe in us.

You want to talk about some Portlandia..? You want to talk about some oddities? You want to talk about some alt culture?
We are the original alt culture. 
Being black, being brown, has always been alt. We have always been the edge and the center. We have always been that new new.
And yet, we are continuously left out of the story of existence... of adventure.

But I ain't waiting on it. I said ain't,
One can never wait on anyone to validate. You'll die waiting.
We can never wait on anyone to "accept" us. We can never wait on anyone or anything to hearken us, pat us on the back, or tell you your time is now.. that you are real and deserve to be so.
 .. and Trayvon is is a stark reminder of that fact... if in the passing years some of us have forgotten...They, whoever your  personal "they" is, did not grant us our freedoms.. or our lives.
We create our adventure, right now. Don't you forget it.

And if we think for a second that, you are sounding your own death knoll. We must be ourselves fully. We can't hold back. There is literally no time. 
As Audre Lorde says, "Your silence will not protect you." 
Diminishing your power and who you are for any reason..
will not serve you in this life or in your death.

We must come out shining.. hard and fast and true.
In all of our representations, colors, aspects.. whoever questions you, be they .. white people, black people, brown people, those of a different "class" or way.. mother, sister, father, brother.
We cannot stopper ourselves down for any reason... for fear of censure, or judgement, or being "too black".. or whatever your "too" is.
There is just no time for that in this life. We have much too much to create.
Bring your talents. If you are shy, no matter. Come anyway.
Bring your visions, secret dreams, your work, your true self, your highest self, your culture, your expressions, in all of their contrasts.

There is this feeling that if we act right, make enough money, work hard enough, aren't too black, too brown, or too" other".... we might not be one of the ones who.. But the truth is .. we are all one of the ones. 
And by changing any aspect of who we really are .. to "make it" in this culture.. you are already "one of the ones.".. 
You are already a victim of a hate crime against your person.. 
that permeates our culture, erasing "others" and thus "everyone" from existence.
We all lose in a world.. where people cannot be themselves and s̶u̶r̶v̶i̶v̶e̶  thrive. And we are all pretending.. if we let it be.

This may not be one of my most eloquent writings. There are things I have to do today, you have to do today.. and time is precious.
But the time we have is now - however eloquent we are or are not.

If I say anything of value to you.. 
Come out. Come out. Wherever, whoever you are. Believe in the power of your dreams and your existence.
You need you.. here now. We create the culture. If you hide any aspect of yourself, the culture, the reality, will remain the same..
If you hide any aspect of yourself... you will never give yourself your freedom.

Bring your stories, gifts, challenges, inventions, thoughts, discoveries, questions, fears, failures, and triumphs. Bring your power to the table. 
You are here for a reason and no one can deny your existence.. in death or in life. There is nothing to be afraid of in the grand scheme. 
We are only delaying our greatness if we hide. There is more to be afraid of living in the dark.. kowtowing to ways of life that are not your own to become anything that is not yourself. 

We cannot hold back who we are and ... make it out, no, into our lives..alive
Trayvon's right of existence -walking down a street- being called into question.. is a story of Black people everywhere..  
Here in Portland, in Oregon.. and elsewhere.
It is also the story of any "other". And everyone is an "other" in some fashion.Oregonians, I don't have to tell you why. You know the history of this place. If you don't know the history of Oregon, look it up. 

... Ending with some Kafka, some Martha Graham, and some Muriel Rukeyser..

Most sincerely,
Intisar Abioto.. of The Black Portlanders

"Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly."
—Franz Kafka

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open." - Martha Graham

"Believe that your presences are strong,
O be convinced without formula or rhyme
or any dogma ; use yourselves : be : fly.
Believe that we bloom upon this stalk of time."
- Muriel Rukeyser

© 2013 Intisar Abioto


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