Six months ago, 10 Black organizers in Portland came together to forge a radical political movement out of our collective trauma. We organized an eight-hour protest and released our first list of demands on June 5, calling ourselves Black Lives Matter Portland. They later renamed to Black POWER, an acronym for Black Portland Organizers Working to End Racism.
The published demands include; Defund the police and invest in community resources like affordable housing; Disband the Maine Information and Analysis Center; Close Long Creek Youth Development Center; Retroactively decriminalize all drug- and sex work-related offenses; Remove the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office from One City Center and establish Portland as a sanctuary city; Ban the use of lethal force against protesters; Environmental justice; Fund community health; Access to affordable education.
In just six months, we have succeeded in spurring the school board to remove police from all Portland schools. We have persuaded the City Council to ban the use of facial recognition technology by city officials. These policies will make Portland more livable for Black and Indigenous people and other people of color. The past echoes in the present. Then as now, Portland’s staid institutions partner to squelch transfers of power from bosses to workers, landlords to tenants, and police to ordinary people. In this time of flourishing anti-racism, perhaps these holdovers from a xenophobic Gilded Age should atone and find new principles.
In their work, they take our cues from the national Movement for Black Lives and from the wisdom of our Indigenous siblings in struggle. In “Sacred Instructions,” Sherri Mitchell, a Penobscot sage and lawyer, shared these simple truths: “If someone is hungry, we feed them; if they are sick, we heal them; if they need shelter, we provide it; if someone is destroying the Earth, we stop them; if someone is harming another, we intervene.” Too many, disproportionately Black, Brown, Asian and Indigenous, are hungry, sick, unsheltered and harmed in Portland. “We are done hoping and waiting. We have organized to finally take a stand against these brutal injustices and demand liberation for all.”