Panel Presentation: Housing Justice in Portland


Tonight Reed College hosted a panel on housing justice in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It was recorded and the link should be posted to the Reed College Office for Inclusive Community site.

It opened with music and poetry, and transitioned to a panel discussion with one moderator and three other panelists (descriptions courtesy of the Multicultural Resource Center and repeated here in case of link deprecation):
Moderator: Dr. Reiko Hillyer is an Assistant Professor of History at Lewis & Clark College. She is a a social and cultural historian of the U.S. in the 19th and 20th centuries, with specialties that include the American South, African American history, and the history of public memory. A methodological commitment that runs throughout her work is the history of the built environment, which means looking at physical space—from factories to theme parks—as a way of understanding historical processes. She piloted an inside-out prison exchange course on the history of crime and punishment in the United States, offered in a prison to an integrated group of undergraduates and incarcerated students. Her first book, Designing Dixie: Tourism, Memory, and Urban Space in the New South, is forthcoming from the University of Virginia Press in 2015. She has her B.A. from Yale University and her Ph.D from Columbia University.

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Panelist: Dr. Karen J. Gibson is an Associate Professor in the Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University. She teaches courses on community economic development, urban housing, urban poverty, and Black urban history. Her scholarship is concerned primarily with racial economic inequality in the urban setting, and her publications have appeared in Cities, Feminist Economics, Transforming Anthropology, the Journal of Planning Education and Research, and Oregon Historical Quarterly. In Portland, research topics include urban redevelopment policy, public housing, and the political economy of neighborhood change in the Albina District (1940-present). She has an M.S. in Public Management and Policy from Carnegie Mellon University and a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of California at Berkeley.

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Panelist: Walidah Imarisha is a writer, educator, public scholar and poet. She has toured the state of Oregon for the past five years facilitating programs on Oregon Black history, alternatives to incarceration and the history of hip hop through the Oregon Humanities’ Conversation Project. She is co-editor of the upcoming anthology Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements, as well as the author of the poetry collection Scars/Stars and the soon-to-be-released nonfiction book on prisons, Angels with Dirty Faces. She currently teaches in Portland State University’s Black Studies Department.

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Panelist: Ahjamu Umi has been an organizer within the All African People’s Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) since 1984. He has engaged in work for the A-APRP in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and throughout the U.S. He has a Masters Degree in Economics and he is the author of the social justice novels Find the Flower that Blossoms and The Courage Equation.

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I walked away feeling more informed and more capable, in part because the content was so dense and in part because everyone involved was so knowledgeable they could at once provide history, context, and individual but complementary perspectives on why Portland housing (as with housing everywhere) is an issue its residents should consider deeply embedded in injustice in the United States. Being that it was a panel in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, his having been sanitized came up more than once. More than one panelist referenced that in his later years he was increasingly radical and also fought specifically against racism and access to housing.

The question of what people in Portland can do came up and, while there wasn’t quite enough time to dig deeper, one recommendation was to lean on Portland officials to enact inclusionary zoning, i.e. to “require a given share of new construction to be affordable by people with low to moderate incomes.” I’ve yet to research its history in Portland, but it arose in the talk that it’s no longer legal in Oregon to mandate inclusionary zoning. One attendee mentioned that Portland further doesn’t verify with developers that such zoning when imposed is then followed.

I’ll keep my writing brief, though: part of the reason for this entry is to link to some resources that came up in the talk, jokingly assigned to the students present:


Video: Oregon Black History Timeline by Walidah Imarisha

Article: “Bleeding Albina” by Dr. Karen J. Gibson

Book: Family Properties by Beryl Satter

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