By Karen Lotts | CNA Media Team
Neighbors in the Alberta Arts District have come together to honor pillars of the African American community. They hope this will continue the discussion about gentrification and displacement in the changing neighborhood.
Five informative public art structures called the Alberta Street Black Heritage Markers will tell the stories of nine significant African Americans who helped build, and who strive to maintain the livability and economic viability of the neighborhood.
“These are stories about struggle and accomplishment,” said Ann Griffin, Alberta Main Street (AMS) executive director. The nonprofit is leading the project.
“It’s important to maintain positive relationships with the storytellers as well as the remaining black-owned businesses on Alberta.”
The seven-foot tall, triangular-shaped markers will stand at the corners of 11th, 14th, 17th, 18th and 24th avenues. They will showcase the individuals’ stories through words, pictures and artistic elements.
Discussions began within AMS in 2015. A leadership team was assembled to review submissions from different artists and make the decision about which community members to honor.
The individuals chosen hold community positions that range from basketball coach to small business owners and investors to a union advocate. (See below for names of the storytellers and artists.)
To make the project more interactive, an app will show viewers where to find additional information about the featured individuals. It was designed by Diversa, a company that combines storytelling and technology.
Diversa plans to donate earnings from the app to Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon, a nonprofit that assists small businesses facing the challenges of gentrification.
AMS hosted a neighborhood reception to promote the project at the Cruz Room Annex May 19 and is planning an eventful celebration for the markers’ mid-July installation.
Renee Mitchell, an op-ed writer for The Oregonian, will host the summertime event and DJs from XRAY.FM will provide the musical entertainment. AMS has invited students from St. Andrew Nativity School to introduce the storytellers, read poetry or speak about what the neighborhood means to them.
The project is intended to be forwardlooking, according to Ann. The hope is for the markers to foster a dialogue about inclusivity for those previously displaced from the neighborhood.
The markers are part of the broader goal to support the community’s African American and low-income neighbors, and to inspire the next generation.
And most important, Ann pointed out, the project is about encouraging those displaced to return to the neighborhood churches, parks and community events, and to feel welcome again.
Alberta marker participants
Storytellers whose words are due on five Alberta Street Black Heritage Markers are: Sam Brooks, Angelette Hamilton, Donna Hammond, Rosalyn Hill, Mitchell S. Jackson, Paul Knauls Sr., Marnella Mosley, Benita Presley and Pat Strickland.
The local artists chosen for the task to capture those stories visually are Kayin Talton Davis and Cleo Davis. Fabricating the markers is Jesse Pierson, owner of SOLID and a Pacific Northwest Sculptors board member.
Karen Lotts is a local freelance writer who helps local small businesses and nonprofits connect with their audiences through copywriting. She can be reached at KarenLotts.com.