October has been a very busy month for me – between my birthday, helping plan the Wordstock literary festival relaunch and interviewing authors, I’ve been behind in keeping this place updated.
Of the many things I’ve been writing about, Portland’s ongoing rental crisis is at the forefront of my work this fall. City Council recently passed some modest provisions for renters – including an extension to 90-days for no-cause evictions are rent hikes over 5%. I know it’s not enough. I am no stranger to the cruelty of the renters market, and am in a unique position to have seen quite the breadth of it here. Not so long ago, I was a resident of Portland’s illustrious Indigo 12 West apartments in the heart of Uptown. One of the first increasingly-common glass blue highrises I’d seen, my neighbors belonged to celebrity artists and financiers alike – Blazers, actresses, that guy from Portlandia, doctors, pilots, and many, like my husband, software developers and other tech new money. The software developer’s young wife, I was not sure how to navigate the situation, and soon forgot the sorrow of long-ago displacement, that old life of working two jobs for a small one-bedroom in outer southeast.
I watched the rent prices climb – and one day, the man I was married to urged me to find my own place, because I would no longer be welcome with him at the Indigo or among the blue glassy dream of downtown Portland.
I had no idea how bad it would be out there again.
Portland’s summer of evictions crashed around me, with black single women I knew leaving the city faster than any other time I’d seen in my history here. I watched one of my best friends grow heavy with pregnancy alone – asking if anyone had a bed or couch where she could lay her head down. Only a year ago I could have given her my couch in the Indigo – now I was helpless next to her, unsure where I too would go each month or how I would make rent.
Portland rent has driven out so many artists that this week, after a reading an article over at the Willamette Week by Carye Bye on the creative class fleeing the city, I decided to start my own patreon account to hopefully support myself staying here.
While I am still here though, I’m working on two wonderful interviews I had with Reneé Watson and Sandra Cisneros, both of whom are women and authors of color who are reading and headlining this year’s Wordstock literary festival.
Another wonderful story I recently got to work on was the story of Thomas Amanuel, an Eritrean refugee who is stuck in detention limbo. His mother Elsa Mengis has worked tirelessly to bring attention to his plight and hopefully keep him here.
The Center for Intercultural Organizing has done outstanding work advocating for Amanuel and his family, and I think his story is part of the larger narrative going on here: people of color are being pushed out of Portland, whether it’s through rising rents, no cause evictions, predatory lending and bad mortgages, deportation and laws that unfairly target dark-skinned and foreign people – there is something brewing here that needs to be addressed.
I hope I can continue to write for Portland and create content that’s accessible to people of all means and backgrounds, and I hope every update I provide, every story I share, gets to your hands and informs and enlightens you.
And as if that weren’t enough, I’ll sign off with a link to this week’s Notable Portland, my literary events calendar for the local area. I’m most excited to hear North Korean refugee and human rights activist Yeonmi Park at Powell’s on Tuesday night. I hope to see some of you there, or at Basic Rights Oregon’s halloween gala, Ignite! this Friday, where I’ll be volunteering as a social media intern and catching the city’s best costumes and quotes.