By Joel Dippold | CNA Media Team
Perfectly timed for Black History Month, February brings multiple screenings of the new film “Priced Out: 15 Years of Gentrification in Portland, Oregon.”
The documentary is part time capsule, part breaking news. It offers glimpses of street scenes that have either been demolished or remodeled beyond recognition, and might leave you wondering what parts of the neighborhood will be the next to go.
Director Cornelius Swart touches on urban planning and macroeconomics, but his focus is on the very personal toll gentrification has taken on members of the African-American community.
The story is told through the personal history of Nikki Williams, who lived what seems like several lifetimes in the Albina area. That historical designation includes Concordia.
Like many African-Americans her age, she had a happy childhood in a vibrant community, but saw that community eviscerated by years of governmental neglect and later by drugs and gangs.
Then, as crime diminished and the neighborhood began to turn around economically, Nikki and her friends and family were priced out of their homes.
They became internally displaced persons, living with the pain of losing the only home they’d known and being displaced by a more affluent white population that seemed not even to care.
The concept of community was central to the film’s production. The director, a professional journalist who also launched and ran community newspaper The Portland Sentinel and managed content for GoLocalPDX.com, assembled an all-volunteer team to document the social and economic upheaval of gentrification.
The team’s first product was the 2002 documentary “Northeast Passage: The Inner City and the American Dream.” In it, viewers meet young Nikki in her new Habitat for Humanity home. In “Priced Out” you see her make the difficult decision to sell and start a new life in another city. (Spoiler alert: it’s Dallas, and she loves it.)
There are several screenings this month. Visit PricedOutMovie.com/new-events. The two closest are: Thursday, Feb. 1, 6:30 p.m., Portsmouth Union Church, 4775 N. Lombard St., and Friday, Feb. 16, 6 p.m., Self-Enhancement Inc., 3920 N. Kerby Ave.
People who have already seen the film recommend staying for the community discussion afterward. To schedule a screening visit PricedOutMovie.com.
You can watch a 2017 remastering of “Northeast Passage” on YouTube. Another documentary the director recommends is “Losing Alberta: Gentrification in Northeast Portland,” put together by a team of Grant High School students, also available on YouTube. Visit ConcordiaPDX.org/cnews-updates for links to these two videos.
Joel is a freelance writer and editor who has lived in Concordia since 2000.