I took this photo in June 2015, while attending our first Portland Pride event. This is an iPhone photo, with no filter. My company had a float in the parade, so I went to meet some of my co-workers while everyone was getting set up. This beauty was stretched out in front of the old US Customs House on Park Avenue in Old Chinatown, waiting to lead the procession through the neighborhood, along Burnside Avenue to the riverfront where we would all join the festival, culminating a weekend of celebrations. Without such a large LGBTQ community, Portland has little diversity to speak of. It is literally the “whitest” city in the US.
We had moved to the city a few months earlier, for a new opportunity which also afforded us the chance to escape the steaming injustice of the South, where I had also spent the 3-years prior advocating for the expansion of the Human Rights Ordinance in Jacksonville (it finally passed in 2017, without the mayor’s signature…ain’t that some shit?!). Although no LGBTQ person is truly ever safe in America, it was refreshing to see friends, families, companies and churches come together to revel in the distinctiveness of each of us, after bearing witness to the painful, bitter battle to get Jacksonville’s HRO through City Council.
For all its rainbow flags, however, Portland lacks a rainbow of skin color. As the city tries to overcome a history tainted with racism, the current wave of gentrification has pushed black and brown people even farther out of a city that claims to be open and welcome to all. Welcome as long as you have enough money to pay the escalating rents and mortgages in a booming real estate market. While the city has written provisions for income controlled housing into law, those units can’t be built fast enough.
For as much as we loved Portland, it became unaffordable for us as well. With a bitter taste in our mouth, we moved back to Jacksonville. It is nice to be in a city that is truly diverse in color and orientation, but the bigotry here is so much more pronounced, and the challenges to create equity living in a red state are harder to overcome.
Is there anywhere we can meet in the middle?