How It Slips Away/We Still Here: A Blues Geography of Black Portland

Colloquium | April 6 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 170 Wurster Hall

 Lisa K. Bates, Associate Professor, Director, Center for Urban Studies, Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University

 Carolina Reid, Assistant Professor, City and Regional Planning, UC Berkeley

 Center for Research on Social Change, Institute of Urban and Regional Development, Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, Department of City and Regional Planning

Black Portland is often portrayed through metrics of disparity and deficiency, without reference to particular regional structures of opportunity and disenfranchisement, and without hearing the voices of Black Portlanders themselves. Professor Bates uses Clyde Woods’ framework of blues epistemology as Black ways of knowing geography in order to elucidate the place history and justice claims of Black Portland. Black Portlanders’ experience is at once highly particular and universal in its blues narrative of enclosure, displacement, and the desecration of sacred spaces, expressed through stories of what artist Sharita Towne calls “joyful hardships.” Professor Bates considers how an emancipatory planning process, the Portland People’s Plan, can shift from recognition--the blues story of what might have been but for racial oppression-- to reclamation. By asking Black Portlanders to imagine what it would look like if their city loved Black people, the planning creates a space for both a counter-narrative of community history and a collectively developed pathway towards a more just future.

 crsc@berkeley.edu, 510-642-0813