The Urban League of Portland is one of Oregon’s oldest civil rights and social service organizations, empowering African Americans and others to achieve equality in education, employment, health, economic security, and quality of life. We do this by investing in stable housing; workforce development; community health; education and well-being; for our youth, adults, and seniors. Our culturally specific programs and services, combined with our powerful advocacy and civic engagement, empowers Black communities to thrive across Oregon and SW Washington.
In 2022, we started a series of Urban League for All of Us Community Conversations throughout the state that allow us to develop important relationships and identify pressing issues and concerns facing our communities. We continued this series in the summer of 2023 with the focus on community staying at the forefront of our conversations. These Community Conversations continue to inform our work and provide the opportunity to make connections between communities across the state. Below are brief summaries of the Community Conversation held in two different cities/regions we visited, the theme of the event, and the Community Champions we honored. Comprised of community organizations and members, our honored Community Champions continually do dynamic work within their respective communities, while embodying the core values of the Urban League of Portland.
We are excited to share that we are continuing our Community Conversation series in 2024. Please subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on our events.
Urban League for All of Us Community Conversation – Lincoln City
In August, we kicked off our Community Conversation series in person in Lincoln City at the Chinook Winds Hotel Resort. Before our main event, we had two site visits. First, we met with local community members at Olalla’s Arcoíris Cultural Center where community members shared their concerns regarding housing, child care, food insecurity, and much more. For the second site visit, we engaged with the core partners supporting the Coastal Phoenix Rising Project. We met with Reconnections Counseling Executive Director Lalori Lager M.A. CADC II, Northwest Coastal Housing Executive Director Sheila Stiley, and Lincoln City Mayor Susan Wahlke. During the Urban League for All of Us Community Conversation – Lincoln City event, our President and CEO, Nkenge Harmon Johnson was joined by panelists Claire Hall, Lincoln County Commissioner, Sheila Stiley, Northwest Coastal Housing Executive Director, and Andrea Bell, Executive Director for Oregon Housing and Community Services Department to discuss Housing Access and Mental Health: exploring the realities of homelessness on the coast. Moderating this event was the Urban League of Portland Vice President Julia Delgado. During this Community Conversation, we were able to honor three community organizations, Coastal Phoenix Rising, Olalla Center, and the Samaritan House.
Please visit our platforms to watch our Urban League for All of Us Community Conversation-Lincoln City:
Coastal Phoenix Rising - Northwest Coastal Housing (NWCH formerly known as the Community Development Corporation of Lincoln County) converted a 38-unit motel into the Coastal Phoenix Rising-Project to provide shelter and case management, for those in crisis or experiencing trauma. The community champions behind Coastal Phoenix Rising Project made it possible to shift services from offering a rotation shelter model to a static shelter model. This was only possible due to communal efforts. Learn how you can support Coastal Phoenix Rising by visiting their website!
Olalla Center – The Olalla Center was formed in 1978 with a commitment to providing community driven, community-based services that support the holistic health of an individual, which in turn supports the community. Olalla Center accomplishes its mission through mental health services, community programing, and providing spaces where underserved community members can celebrate their unique heritage. The Olalla Center is a member of Juntos en Colaboracion, a group of individuals who work together with members of the Hispanic, Latino American, and Indigenous communities to build a stronger community, increase access to programs and services, and promote resilience. Learn how you can support Olalla Center by visiting their website!
Samaritan House – Samaritan House is a Newport nonprofit shelter providing education and resources for homeless families with children. The Samaritan House has several programs such as the residency program, resident education programming, free parenting education, and advocacy and community leadership program. Learn how you can support Samaritan House by visiting their website!
Urban League for All of Us Community Conversation - Pendleton
We held our last Community Conversation for 2023 in September in Pendleton for the Pendleton Round-Up festivities. This year, we arrived in Pendleton over forty strong, the largest group the Urban League of Portland has ever brought to the Round-Up. We hosted youth, families, seniors, staff, young professionals, community members, and program participants we serve. While much of the group had never been to Round-Up or even a rodeo in general, Urban League President and CEO Nkenge Harmon Johnson said, “She started bringing the organization out to Pendleton as a way of “placemaking,” creating a space for Black Oregonians who otherwise might not feel comfortable at an event where most of the participants are white.”
We aimed to give our members the full Round-Up experience: a day at the rodeo with seats in the general stands and in the 1910 Tent, a wagon in the non-mechanized Westward Ho! Parade, front row seats to watch the parade, and take the time to connect with the people of Pendleton. We also hosted our 7th Urban League for All of Us Community Conversation at the Pendleton Center for the Arts with food catered by Ann's Best Creole & Soul Food. Moderating this event was the Urban League of Portland Vice President Julia Delgado. The theme of our Community Conversation was Black history and culture in Eastern Oregon, which included Black Cowboys, Black loggers in Maxville, the history of the Triple Nickles- 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion told to us by Pendleton Air Museum’s Debbie Rasmussen, Leonardo Drew - contemporary artist, Hermiston City Councilor Jackie Linton, and locals. We met Leonardo Drew and he spoke about the contemporary art that he makes out of paper. Folks got to get hands-on and make paper like the way Leonardo Drew does that they took home with them.
During our main program, we had presenters share information related to the theme and we honored local community champions, Nixyáawii Community Financial Services, Neighbor 2 Neighbor Pendleton, and Hermiston City Councilor Jackie Linton. These local community champions are doing dynamic work to advance our values, which advance our movement forward.
Please read this article to learn more about our “placemaking” mission at the Pendleton Round-Up:
Please visit our platforms to watch our Urban League for All of Us Community Conversation-Pendleton:
Hermiston City Councilor Jackie Linton – Hermiston City Council’s first Black member. Jackie Linton was born and raised in Hermiston, Oregon. She decided it was time to run for city councilor when property tax breaks for some of the new Amazon data centers were decided. She is hoping to make an impact the next time there is a vote on any similar issue. She started in January as the first Black City Council member in Hermiston. She hopes that she can add her experience to the already diverse experience on the council. Jackie is also a member of the Hermiston Cultural Awareness Coalition (HCAC). The Hermiston Cultural Awareness Coalition is a small community coalition focusing on promoting the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and supporting diversity and equality in the greater Hermiston Oregon community. Learn how you can get involved in the City of Hermiston City Council by visiting their website!
Neighbor 2 Neighbor Pendleton – Neighbor 2 Neighbor Pendleton is comprised of people from all walks of life concerned about the disadvantaged in our community. Particularly, those who do not have a home of their own and find themselves living on the street. Neighbor 2 Neighbor Pendleton are all volunteers and come from diverse backgrounds and beliefs. Neighbor 2 Neighbor Pendleton supports our homeless in their efforts to end their homelessness. Neighbor 2 Neighbor Pendleton provides services, essential care, shelter, and meals to folks experiencing homelessness via their day center, warming station, and Veda’s Café. Learn how you can support Neighbor 2 Neighbor Pendleton by visiting their website!
Nixyáawii Community Financial Services (NCFS)- Nixyaawii Community Financial Services (NCFS) is dedicated to improving the financial well-being of individuals and families through safe and affordable loans, credit, and helping to build personal assets and wealth. Nixyaawii Community Financial Services (NCFS) provides loans, homeownership assistance, business development services, youth, and adult financial education to members of the Umatilla Confederated Tribes, Reservation residents, and Tribal employees. Learn how you can support Nixyáawii Community Financial Services by visiting their website!